Updated: Jul 11, 2022
We tend to find ourselves repeating the same patterns in relationships. The person changes, but how it plays out is the same. I have woman in my network, Annabel* who had recently fallen in love with a man who went on to drug her, and we think sexually abuse her.
She has found that she tends to go from one toxic relationship to another. She asked if we could work together around this and I suggested she get a few sessions under her belt first with a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner (SEP), in relation to the trauma of her last relationship before we started looking at her dating patterns.
Although I have gone through workshops in my training pertaining to trauma, I am ‘trauma-informed’ and not a therapist. Ensuring she had someone to support her initially, would be important as being coached could potentially bring lots up for her and having a trained therapist to go to is essential in these types of situations.
On the date of her first session with the SEP, I sent Annabel a message of support and that I would be thinking about her. Below is our exchange of messages. I have permission to share this, both myself and Annabel think that this information is important to share. We hope that it will create an ‘aha’ moment for other women (and men!) who are going through and have been through similar patterns.
Me: How are you doing?
Annabel: Up and down
Me: I think up and down is totally normal after everything you’ve been through emotionally and physically
Annabel: I feel silly for still thinking about him. It makes me sad.
Me: In what way do you think about him? Do you feel sadness or shame?
Annabel: I’m not sure. I’m just letting myself allow the thoughts. They’re not bad or good, they’re just memories, sometimes I just wonder why I’m thinking of him. Sometimes I just want to see him. But not in a want to be with him way. It’s weird, can’t explain it. And don’t really want to talk to anyone about it. Because I get told he’s a bad person.
Me: what emotions come up for you when you experience the thoughts?
Annabel: I’m just sad. Nothing else.
Me: Do you feel a sense of safety in those memories?
Annabel: No, but not yes either. I think it’s because he spoke about Christmas a lot, like a kid all the stuff he wanted to do over Christmas. Weird feelings. But then I get stuff about him texting and meeting up with his girlfriend come up. It’s a cocktail of emotions, mixing together. But they’re not strong - sided emotions. It’s just what it is.
Me: A sense of loss? Of what could have been?
Annabel: I thought maybe I miss him. But I don’t. A loss of sharing doing things with someone yes. It felt easy.
Me: So it’s the connection and intimacy of a relationship itself rather than specifically him, it just happens that he’s in those daydreams?
Annabel: Maybe it’s the ease of being in the relationship with him was what I miss. But… when I think of that… was it, because he’d want to do things, meet up when I didn’t. Maybe it’s some of the aspects of the relationship that I had with him I want in someone. Maybe it’s just my mind figuring out stuff.
Me: These things tend to be somatic (body) related, then our limbic (emotions) is making sense of what’s happening somatically and puts emotions to it. It’s our Neo-cortex (rational brain) that puts stories and ideas to it. I’d say what you are experiencing is totally normal for what has happened and for the ‘pattern’ of relationship you find yourself in. Your body is repeating what it’s learnt because it’s familiar. The familiar we know what to expect and it gives us a feeling of safety.
Annabel: But I know, I want to break my pattern.
Annabel shares a picture of a piece of paper written on it “I am certain I will be in a fun, loving, exciting relationship by summer.”
Annabel: I wrote this at the beginning of the year… I got that… maybe I need to know my specifics. And I’m figuring it out to hone into something specific.
Me: This is interesting that you chose those words.
Me: Somatically, it sounds like you equate love to excitement. So if there is fun and excitement then there’s love. This is the pattern.
Annabel: Interesting. Reading it now I’d change the words in that statement. But it’s interesting that you’ve pointed out the excitement and love.
Me: Your body experiences love in a way that is ‘exciting’ strong heartbeat, adrenaline rush…which is sympathetic fight/flight. So when you meet a guy that your body equates to danger (sympathetic response), your limbic and Neo-cortex go “Ah yes! This is love!’
Annabel: OMG, that’s no good. And that’s why I get bored in relationships.
Me: Yes. So it’s breaking that pattern and learning that safety = love.
Annabel: That’s interesting again, but I don’t relate safety and love together.
Me: And that’s where the rewiring comes in.
Annabel: You sure you don’t want to help me through this? I trust you.
Me: I do want to help you. I just want you to have some sessions under your belt with a therapist first.
Annabel: OK, I’m on my way to go see her. Will let you know how I get on.
I would like to thank Annabel for allowing me to write some of her story. Hoping it gives others the opportunity to understand where they may also be feeling stuck and in groundhog day. It’s a vulnerable share, even anonymously. So I would like to invite people to consider that and be mindful when commenting as Annabel maybe reading them. Please do share this post so that other men and women can be inspired to look at where their patterns are showing up in their love life.
Carla Crivaro is a trauma-informed and certified Sex, Love & Relationship Coach, she works with men and women internationally to reach their goals in delicious sex, profound love and authentic relationships. Carla helps men and women understand themselves and each other, sexually and relationally, in and out of the bedroom. You can reach her at email@example.com.
If you have experienced trauma and need support then you can find a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner in this directory. https://directory.traumahealing.org
*Name changed to protect the identity of the woman involved.