Do you have a hole in your heart?
Have you had different romantic partners, but the basic dynamic between you remains the same? The dynamic, in short, is this—you don’t get what you want. Somehow you keep making the same mistake, either choosing the wrong person or looking for the wrong thing from the person you choose.
There is a solution—it involves choosing a different kind of person to be your partner and then having different expectations about being in partnership.
And if you already have a partner—one you just don’t want to trade in—but you’re not getting what you want, everything in this article pertains to you as well. In your case, you don’t give up on the other person; you apply the solution (below) within your existing relationship.
What I often see in my private practice are adults who are trying to fill some hole in their hearts that is left over from their childhood. Typically the hole is the result of feeling unsatisfied—or worse (possibly abused)—in one of their early life primary relationships—with mom, dad, or some special care-giver.
There was something that wasn’t right in that relationship and as children we couldn’t make it right. For one thing, we were just kids. For another, the other person had some deficits.
So we grow up with a hole in our hearts. And it’s a hole that we try to fill, often for the rest of our lives. If when we were young the other person didn’t know how to love well, when we grow up we want to find someone who can love well. If the other person was abusive, we want to find someone to be kind. If the other person didn’t give us sufficient attention, we want to find someone highly attentive.
However, the twist in this story is that we are drawn toward people who remind us of the person with whom our dynamic originated. If I wasn’t loved well as a child, when I grow up I’m drawn toward those who don’t love well, and I’ll try to get them to love me well. It might make more sense to look for someone who is really good at loving, but that doesn’t fit with my original experience. I can’t correct my history unless I repeat my original dynamic and create a different outcome. That’s what I strive to do.
Why I attract the wrong people
That’s why I attract the wrong people; I’m drawn toward people who can’t give me what I really need. I’m drawn to someone abusive who I will try to get to be kind. I’m drawn to someone inattentive who I will try to get to be attentive.
You can see that my task is impossible. I will not succeed. Just look at the structure of this. I must find someone who is incapable of doing what I want them to do and then try to get them to do what they can’t do. I will fail.
This is one of the three major reasons why romantic relationships fail. I keep picking people to fulfill a childhood need, but they are people incapable of fulfilling that need. The second major reason why romantic relationships fail is because I tolerate my own—and my partner’s—immaturity . . . but that’s for another article. However, if you want to learn to behave maturely, as well as learn how to attract the right partner, invest three hours going through our Dating Relating Mating course. And for those who are curious, the third major reason I fail in romantic relationships is that I lose myself when I get involved with a partner . . . also for another article.
The solution . . .
The solution to attracting the wrong people is simple, but not easy. It is to give up. Give up expecting anyone, ever, to fill the hole in my heart.
Learning to live with my hole is the first step. The second step is learning to satisfy the need I have—for love or kindness or attention—as best I can, for myself.
I was just suggesting to a client that he needs to take a break from women—not go right away from one woman to another—and during the break he needs to learn to care for himself. He said, “Oh, I’ve already done that. I’ve spent years alone when I was between partners and it didn’t solve the problem. I would just make the same mistake again when I found my next partner.”
I explained, “What I’m talking about is different than what you did. Because when you took a break in the past you felt like a victim. You felt angry and resentful or hurt and wounded. Or maybe you kept busy by distracting yourself. Or maybe you punished yourself by atoning for your mistakes. None of these are what I’m talking about when I suggest that you be alone for a while and care for yourself.”
He asked, “Well, what’s the difference?”
What do you need to do to care for yourself?
I encouraged him to ask one simple question, “What do I need to do to care for myself?” I said, “Ask that question and then do it, learn to care for yourself. The point isn’t to crawl up inside the hole in your heart; the point is to learn to live a rich and nourishing life with the hole in your heart. I’m not suggesting you be alone and miserable. The point is to learn how to have fun and enjoy yourself—comfort yourself. You can learn that all the feelings that come up within you are temporary. Allow them to come, allow them to go.
“Once you experience caring for yourself—emotionally nurturing yourself—you will stop desperately seeking someone to fill the hole. Then you will attract different people into your life—healthier people.”
Our session was coming to an end and I offered my client a date to meet again in a month. He said, “Actually, could we meet again in two weeks?” I said, “Absolutely we can meet in two weeks and asking to do so is a perfect example of taking care of yourself.”
Yes, it’s okay to ask other people for help as you learn to live with the hole in your heart. The only rule is that you can’t ask the people—I call them the “hole fillers”—you can’t ask them for help. Because if you do you’re buying back into the myth that someone can fill that hole. Not only can’t they fill it, but the people who want that job are the people to avoid.
You don’t need to be fixed. You’re not broken. You simply have a hole in your heart from a parent or caregiver who didn’t know how to give you what you needed as a child. That’s okay. Learn to live with that hole and you will be better able to emotionally self-regulate—care for yourself—which is a sign of maturity. Then, you will attract different people into your life, not people who want to fix you or people you want to fix, but rather people with whom to share your joy and celebrate your lives together.
My client said, “I understand that I need to stop looking for someone to mend my heart. But what about my need to love someone? For me, this isn’t just about having someone love me… What do I do with that? I was robbed of someone to love when I was a child.”
I said, “You can love two birds with one stone. Accept the hole in your heart and then love yourself.”