Guest Post: Alicia Divico on Relationship Traps

Relationship Traps: by Licensed Therapist and Certified Addiction Professional, Alicia Divico (Owner and Therapist) at Personal Wellness Solutions in Tampa, Florida. 

I have watched a lot of people date (not to mention the dating I’ve done myself), and let me tell you, I have learned a lot. Everything about the way we operate as humans is complex and dating/romance is no exception. We have our childhood that plays a role, we have unconscious factors that draw us in, and we have experiences of pain and discomfort that create barriers. Usually, we are not good at seeing our own patterns nor are we good at getting out of our own way. This is where therapy can be very useful. Here are a few “traps” if you will that I see often:

  1. Aiming Too Low- There are many reasons why we “settle” or stay with someone we are unsure about, and ultimately it usually has to do with us thinking we can’t do better. That is absolutely untrue. There is literally someone for everyone, and there’s enough fish in the sea that someone else can have what you are not interested in. What I tell clients is that when we are looking for a partner, we want to pick someone we admire, someone who makes us nervous to talk to, someone that we might even say is “out of my league” (not in appearance necessarily). We want to aim high, because what you don’t realize when you’ve never been in a serious, long-term relationship is that the person you’re with becomes less appealing over time. That means you want to have the highest opinion of them in the beginning as possible. What we want to stay away from is a “project”, someone we think has “potential” or that we can “help”, “fix”, or “train”. That’s starting low, which means, it will end even lower. So raise the BAR people- aim higher!
  2. Trauma Bonds- One of the most upsetting is a person who has experienced a lot of trauma(s). Trauma bonds occur when you have a pattern of intermittent rewards and punishments, or to put in layman terms, HIGH highs and LOW lows, moments of ecstasy followed by severe depression. When you have experienced trauma bonding in the past, say with a parent or ex-lover, you will find a pattern of being attracted to the most chaotic person in the room. People will say things like, “I’ve never felt a connection like this” or “the attraction is so intense”, and they will believe that this means something important and continue to pursue the relationship, even when red flags have been identified. I am here to tell you that those initial “intense” feelings do not mean anything except that you have experienced trauma, and you are now unconsciously attracted to more chaos and psychological pain. This does not get talked about enough!!!! 
  3. Being Alone Too Long- We can’t control everything that happens in life, and sometimes we end up single longer than we wanted to be. Sometimes people are single so long they just give up. You are allowed to be single for however long you want to be, but the point here is that the longer we are single, the more difficult it becomes to be with someone. For one, we get very settled in our ways, and we are not open to others disturbing that. We no longer want our space interfered with, we don’t like our routines messed up, and we simply get more frustrated when things don’t go the way we want.  In addition, we sometimes become more idealistic about what relationships “should” be like, and our expectations get too high. There are no perfect relationships or people, and yes, that is part of the difficulty of life and relationships, but it’s also very eye opening for those with the capacity to be insightful and learn about themselves. Finally, sometimes people give up on companionship, which is very important for our mental health. Even the most introverted people benefit from some social interaction. There are various levels of companionship, it doesn’t have to be romantic, but when we cut ourselves off from people altogether, we carry that attitude with us, and we become less appealing to be around ourselves. Nothing is hopeless so all of this can be changed, it’s just more difficult.
  4. Thinking love will come to me- Now it is true that love can spark at the grocery store or in a very random place or time, BUT it is also true that the perfect person for you is unlikely to knock on your door and introduce himself/herself. A lot of my clients are opposed to online dating, and I can understand that. There is a lot weird stuff going on with apps and websites, and people really show just how "crazy" they can be when they aren’t in person. However, a person seeking a healthy relationship can still do things to help encourage a chance meeting. Here are a few examples: married people love to couple off their single friends, going out with friends or friends of friends increases the chances you’ll meet someone new, traveling also sometimes inspires confidence and appeal, participating in an activity of choice such as book club, run group, team sports, church group, etc., and finally, even going to places alone and paying attention to those around you to potentially start a conversation. We must be willing to put in some effort if we are going to meet someone.  
  5. Missing him/her- It seems to me that people think that because they miss someone, it means something. We can miss parts of a person. We can miss experiences we had with the person. We can, get this, miss things that aren’t even true. Hear me out on this. When we break up with someone our minds tend to fantasize. We come up with ideas of things that could have been or would have been, but then we believe it is reality and sometimes it goes so far that we forget why we broke up. If you’ve ever gotten back with an ex, you know that you get reminded REAL quick why you broke up. Turns out the FANTASY is NOT true, which means just because we miss someone, or certain things, does not mean we need to act on that and pursue that person.

Written by Alicia Divico, Therapist and Owner of Personal Wellness Solutions, in Tampa, Florida.  Alicia's practice treats issues, such as: Addiction, Anxiety, Depression, Trauma, Anger Management, Domestic Violence, Grief, Relationship Issues, and Sexual Abuse. Alicia obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, followed by a Master’s in Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling with a certificate in Behavioral Health, all from the University of South Florida.


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