The following case study is an example of the types of journeys my clients go through in Relationship Counselling. All the case histories on this site are a composite picture of a range of different issues and situations bought to Counselling to ensure confidentiality and protect the identity of previous and current clients.Why do I keep choosing the wrong partner?
Clare came to individual counselling feeling frustrated and hopeless with yet another relationship having come to an end. Despite being the one leaving the partnership she was left feeling despairing of the fact a number of her relationships had been short lived and lacking in real emotional connection. Now in her early 40s she was fearful of never being able to find happiness with another person in a loving secure relationship. Clare had always been proactive about meeting new people using online dating sites and speed dating to try to find a suitable partner but was experiencing a sense of dread and anxiety about starting this process again.Looking at her present relationships
Clare described some of the patterns her and previous partner had fallen into which included him taking charge of where they went and what they did whilst she deferred to him putting his needs ahead of her own. She noticed that this was often the case with her girlfriends as well as she found it difficult to say no to people and assert her own desires. Clare realised that she was always worrying about what other people may think of her if she let them down or didn't agree with what they wanted to do; it was easier for her to go along with their plans and put hers in second place. She prised herself as being a good friend and partner and yet at times felt resentful when others took advantage of her good will.
Putting everyone else's needs before her own often meant she blamed herself if her partner or friends were not happy thinking that she must try harder to ensure they are o.k. With her partner she would become teary and a bit clingy in a bid to develop and deepen the connection between them. His response was to pull away from her saying he wanted more space in the relationship; this left Clare feeling increasingly angry and hurt fueling a feeling that she was worthless and that no-one could possible love her. She finished the relationship as the pain and hurt was too much to bear, self-sabotaging the relationship out of a fear that nothing would change and she was best to leave now before her partner ended it.
Healing past hurts
Working with Clare revealed that her childhood was not easy as her Mum and Dad divorced when she was 7 and she did not see much of her father after the separation. At this point Clare was an only child and living with her mother who was struggling emotionally and financially with the aftershocks of the divorce. Clare did her level best to care for and look after her mum trying to be a good girl to win her mother's affection and favour. She would wash and tidy up keeping their small flat neat and tidy and when her mum was feeling down she would try to cheer her up. As a child Clare had taken on a huge responsibility to look out for and care for her mother often wondering if she were to blame for her parent's divorce.
Through the Counselling Clare realised that her overcompensating towards people in her adult relationships in terms of putting others first and feeling that she is to blame when things go wrong, stemmed from her childhood and the fear that if she wasn't 'good' then others will leave. She was putting total responsibility for the success of relationships at her own door like she used to look out for her mum when growing up and feel sad when she couldn't make things better. Clare was also aware that she became clingy and possessive at times if she thought her partner wasn't there for her replaying her childhood fears of being abandoned. Her means of coping with these painful feelings was to sabotage the relationship rather than experience the humiliation and rejection of being left once again.
Removing emotional blocks
Clare started to look at her situation with a new pair of eyes seeing that her behaviour towards other people was not all of her own making. She understood that children can internalise problems and difficulties their parents experience and assume responsibility for them. This can then colour and influence their adult emotional template making it hard to connect with others in a deep and meaningful way. Clare also began to see herself in a new light and became much more forgiving and less blaming of herself as she allowed the little 7 year old girl in her to heal. She started to take responsibility for herself and not other people, finding out what her needs were and how she could go about getting them met. Feelings of worthlessness subsided as she learnt to be kind towards and care for herself, giving to herself what she had always sort to give away to others.
Clare realised that her needs are important and that caring for herself and regulating how much she gives to others is the way forward for her at this moment in time. There is no fairy tale ending; in fact Clare decided to have a break from relationships for a while as she wanted time to heal and get to know the one person who could really help her meet the right guy - herself!