Examining the root causes of unhealthy relationship patterns
Attraction is a complex phenomenon that is influenced by many factors, both conscious and unconscious. For some people, a pattern emerges where they find themselves repeatedly drawn to romantic partners who turn out to be unreliable, unsupportive, or emotionally unavailable – in other words, “losers.”
Understanding the role of childhood and upbringing
Often, this pattern originates in childhood. If someone grows up lacking emotional support and validation from caregivers, they may develop an unconscious drive to finally “earn” the love they desired as a child. This can lead them to repeatedly pursue partners that withhold affection or treat them poorly, in an attempt to “win them over” and gain the love and validation they have always craved.
The roots could also relate to modeling an unhealthy dynamic they witnessed between their own parents or caregivers. Children internalize the relationship habits they observe at home, even toxic or abusive ones. If dysfunction was modeled as “normal,” it often gets subconsciously replicated later in life.
The role of low self-esteem and poor boundaries
People who chronically pursue “losers” typically struggle with poor self-esteem and weak personal boundaries. When you lack confidence and don’t know your worth, you are unlikely to demand the respect and care you deserve from a partner.
Weak boundaries also make it difficult to recognize red flags, or to halt the relationship at the first sign of mistreatment. The gradual erosion of boundaries can easily snowball into accepting things no one should tolerate, like infidelity, criticism, controlling behavior, volatility, and more.
When the emotionally unavailable seems “safe”
There is also often an element of fear of true emotional intimacy at play for the person drawn to unavailable partners.
Commitment or vulnerability with an openly caring, attentive partner may feel threatening. The emotionally aloof and indifferent can seem “safe” – keeping the chaser anxiously pursuing crumbs of affection, without requiring them to overcome their trust issues or confront deeper insecurities that real intimacy would bring up.
Breaking the cycle
The good news is that this self-sabotaging pattern can be broken with insight, determination, and support. Key steps include:
- Getting therapy to understand your attraction triggers, build self-esteem, and set healthy boundaries
- Being rigorously honest with yourself about why you accept unacceptable treatment
- Believing you deserve more – and taking concrete actions to manifest it
- Learning to be alone – resisting the urge to jump into another unhealthy relationship
- Surrounding yourself with people who model healthy relationships and treat you well
With commitment and courage, it is possible to finally pursue nourishing relationships where you are respected, supported, and valued for who you truly are. The first step is acknowledging the need for change. From there, it simply requires the willingness to do the inner work – and the patience to wait for someone who genuinely cares. You have the power to break free of old patterns and create the loving connection you seek.
When to seek professional help
While self-reflection can uncover some of the roots of unhealthy attraction, working with a licensed therapist or counselor is often necessary to fully heal from childhood wounds, overcome ingrained relationship habits, and build self-esteem and personal boundaries from the ground up.
If you have repeatedly pursued unavailable, incompatible, or abusive partners, and feel unable to break this pattern on your own, seek professional support. With guided expertise from a compassionate, insightful counselor over time, developing new relationship skills and instincts is absolutely possible.