Vicious Cycle: You Don't Choose The Person You Date, Your Past Does

by Zara Barrie

What is the ever-toxic draw, the undeniably apparent, seemingly magnetic attraction we have toward people whom we intellectually understand are inherently BAD for our mental health?

Why do we find ourselves paralyzed, stagnant and stuck in the same tired, old story over and over and over again?

It’s akin to watching the same mid-90s after-school special starring the same self-destructive, post-teenage/pre-adult actress on repeat and expecting a vastly different ending with each new viewing.

The ending is always the same: Girl ends up alone, contemplating her doomed fate whilst stewing in her broken thoughts on the lonely front stoop with her head pressed in her hands, pondering how she let herself get lost in the thick smoke of a damaged relationship, yet again.

Sound painfully familiar? Do you ever wonder how such an intelligent girl like yourself finds herself stuck in the same old venomous relationship rhythms?

We dominate at work. We fearlessly lead the wolf pack. Yet -- we feel so powerless at the hand of love.

After every breakup, we swear to the great goddess up above we'll never again allow ourselves to be lured into the toxic lifestyle of negative relationships.

Yet the pattern repeats itself.

So what’s it all about, Alfie? Why do we keep mindlessly marching toward an unhappy romantic fate when happiness is the ultimate goal?

We don't choose the people we date, our past does

We all know that girl. So many of us are (or have been) that girl.

You know, the girl who grew up with emotionally vacant parents who put everything and anything before their daughter?

She grows up with shaky confidence, always feeling widely invisible, regardless of the massive amount of attention she receives from her peers by the incessant flaunting of her sexuality and beauty. She's hungry for validation and will do just about anything to be seen and noticed (and loved) by the masses.

As she emerges into adulthood, she finds herself in relationships that directly mirror the dynamic she had with her parents. She winds up with a slew of romantic partners who never, ever put her first.

The entire world adores her and provides her with all the compliments a girl could ever dream of attaining. But until she can garner the attention of the one who oh so loudly ignores her -- she will never feel satisfied.

The sad truth is we can’t force a person to love us because love is organic. So as long as she is searching for love in the one who is loveless, she will forever feel like the hyper-ignored, invisible girl.

So why oh why do we girls chase after the things that only trigger the demons from our past? We have zero choice in who our parents are, but we have complete and utter free will in choosing our romantic partners.

So why are we actively choosing to be in relationships that echo the discordant sounds of our dysfunctional childhoods?

It’s the only way we know how to receive love

We are genetically inclined to undyingly LOVE our parents without question or doubt. The unconditional love we feel toward those who provided us with a heartbeat is a force far greater than our intellect.

It’s the first love we ever experience. So what do we do when our first example of love was marred with the bruises of pain?

Has it somehow seeped into our subconscious that the image of love is the vision of destruction? Why is it so hard to shake this deep-seated sensation that love is pain, even though, as educated, intelligent adults, we know it’s not true?

We're trying to heal by "fixing" what happened in the past

How many times have we been attracted to the boy or girl we're teeming with desire to “fix”? Life presents us with a damaged, broken person battling the curse of addiction -- and rather than choosing to run away from what we know will be a toxic, unbalanced relationship, we swoop in and try to rescue him or her.

We want to be the girl in shining armor. The one who risks her own life to save another.

The real question is: Do we really want to fix these people? Or are we simply attempting catharsis by reenacting traumas from the past and trying to "fix" the broken parts of our adult relationships?

Is trying to save the drug addict boyfriend our way of trying to save our drug addict parents?

What about the girl who grows up with two addicted parents? Her entire childhood is a chaotic and disjointed mess. Her youth neglected to attain a morsel of consistency, and she never knew what lay ahead of her when the school bell rang, and it was time to take the dreaded yellow school bus home.

Knowing the ugly, twisted truth of addiction, she shied away from every mind-altering substance that entered her orbit. She worked harder than anyone at school, securing the straightest of As and landed herself a scholarship to a prestigious Ivy League institution.

She did everything she could to avoid falling into the intoxicated pitfalls of her parents, yet she keeps finding herself in romantic relationships with addicts. The wildly intelligent, out-of-this-world, beautiful girl pours all of herself into trying to fix the sad, addicted souls of her fallen partners.

The future would be much brighter if we could escape

What if we dated the people we actually wanted to date, rather than allowing the past to dictate our relationships? What if we went for people we admired and respected?

The deserving men and women who think we hung on the moon and support us through the good and the bad?

If we could let go of the past, change the way in which we frame relationships and look at them with a fresh set of eyes, could we actually have a shot at a romantic success?

Could we be with the one who empowers us, rather than the one who takes our power away?

You can actively break the cycle

I’m certainly no expert. I don’t have the definite answers on how exactly we can break out of these toxic cycles, but I am a girl who’s come out the other side.

I'm a girl who has worked through the deep insecurities bestowed upon me and, with utmost confidence, can claim I no longer feel powerless at the hand of what I assumed was “love.”

I have learned there is no cycle stronger than you. You can break free from anything. Your past doesn't have to doom you or define you.

Half of the battle is having the courage to look at your reflection in the mirror and ask yourself the hard questions. Denial won't work in your favor.

The other half of the battle is suspending your pride and getting help. Reaching out to professionals who can help you work through your sh*t in a safe environment.

There are support groups and a ton of therapists who take insurance or will work with you on a sliding scale. Open up to your friends, write it down, deal with it.

You can visit for professional support on how to end this self-destructive behavior.

Most importantly, invest in the relationship you have with yourself before blindly throwing yourself into the arms of anyone else.