Why Is It So Hard To Change Our Love Lives?

Why is it so hard to change our love lives? I’ve known so many people who have made the same mistakes over and over again in their love relationships, as if they were committed to doing what will (and does) inevitably ruin their love lives.

Whatever we believe about love relationships, do in a love relationship or feel about love relationships, can be unhealthy because the source is what we have unconsciously learned about love relationships in our lives (since infancy by the way). If you’ve learned something unhealthy about love relationships, it’s important to know what it is and how you can correct it. In this post I’ll give you a few ideas about what complicates getting this vital information.

First and foremost, it’s important to realize how “addictive” the familiar is. The root of this word is “family” and it tells us that what we learn in the family of origin is going to be familiar and therefore repeated in the course of our lives. Look, if what you’ve learned about love relationships in the course of your life was healthy, great, no need to keep reading this post. You’ll recreate what you’ve learned in your love life and have healthy love relationships.

If what you’ve learned was unhealthy, chances are you’ll recreate something unhealthy and disappointing  in your love life and you’ll not even know you’re doing so. This requires that you first become aware of what you’ve learned and then unlearn what’s unhealthy. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, the problem is getting access to this familiar information in order to make some changes. We human beings tend to keep this kind of familiar learning a bit out of our own reach.

One reason is obvious, it was learned in the good ole family of origin. That wonderful intensive classroom of life we were all in from the very beginning of life. Many of us act like what was learned in the family of origin was sacred or something. A gift never to be analyzed, understood or corrected if what we’ve learned is not working for us in adulthood.

As you’ve probably already figured out, I don’t feel that way. I can love my family of origin and at the same time become aware of and correct anything I’ve learned in those early relationships. To me it falls in the category of self-development. Not everything we learn in life works. Sometimes you have to make revisions so that you don’t get stuck making the same mistakes over and over again.

Let’s go a bit deeper. Are there other reasons why access to what we’ve learned about love relationships is difficult? Yes. One is, instead of working on our love lives, we adults tend to get defensive in matters of the heart. Defensiveness is an ancient way of protecting ourselves from unwanted vulnerability and expected additional hurt. You see, when a person has had some pretty hurtful love life experiences, again from the very beginning of life (remember the relationships you have with family members are technically “love relationships”) and they put us in a self-protective mode, chances are we’ll get defensive when dealing with anything related to our love lives. By the way, there are a million plus ways to get defensive. I’ll name some general categories: by avoiding love in general, by keeping a safe distance in a love relationship, or always generating conflict in love relationships so we don’t have to be vulnerable. Point is, all of this defensiveness is going to make it harder to be open to finding out what you’ve learned about love relationships.

Another interference that many of us practice is the impossible task of trying to change our love partner (instead of trying to change ourselves). Impossible because it can’t be done. Nobody changes because you want them to change. People change because they want to change. Period. If you are practicing this destined to fail effort the only result you can expect is R & R, nope, not rest and relaxation, I’m talking about resistance and resentment. Better to figure out if you can accept the person you love, as is, or find someone else who has what you need.

Lastly, positive love life changes can be blocked by a person’s commitment to finding the perfect partner. This usually involves substituting one love partner for another usually at the first sign of something unwanted. Problem is, there is always something unwanted in any partner chosen. Because people are all unique individuals, there will always be something different or unwanted, some trait or opinion, maybe a belief or disagreement that highlights the fact that in love there are two unique individuals in the relationship. Getting good at living with and negotiating differences is an extremely important relationship skill.

Remember, becoming aware of and getting beyond these barriers will make answering the following question easier: What did I learn about love relationships in my life that is not working in my love life? 

For additional information and guidance about how to find out what you’ve learned and how to change it, read Learn to Love: Guide to Healing Your Disappointing Love Life or contact Dr. Jordan for a Love Life Consultation at drtomjordan@lovelifelearningcenter.com.

All comments welcome. Tell me your love life story.

Dr. Thomas Jordan, Clinical Psychologist/Psychoanalyst, author of Learn to Love: Guide to Healing Your Disappointing Love Life

Dr. Jordan

Dr. Thomas Jordan is a clinical psychologist, certified interpersonal psychoanalyst, author, professor, and love life researcher.