Why do we feel attached to the wrong people?

Are you asking yourself why you get attached to the wrong people or get attached too easily? It could also be that you feel too attached to someone.

If warning bells are going off alerting you to the fact that:

You tend to get attached to the wrong people You get attached too easily or quickly You get too attached—possibly to the point where you obsess about the person you feel an attachment to

 - 15 Min Read
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Why do we feel attached to the wrong people?
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Are you asking yourself why you get attached to the wrong people or get attached too easily? It could also be that you feel too attached to someone.

If warning bells are going off alerting you to the fact that:

  • You tend to get attached to the wrong people
  • You get emotionally attached too easily or quickly
  • You get too easily attached to a guy or a girl—possibly to the point where you obsess about the person you feel an attachment to

Then it’s time to slow down to have a look at what's really going on. And maybe ask yourself how to stop being emotionally attached to someone who isn’t right for you.

Different kinds of attraction and why it can be fatal

Why do we get attached so easily? One of the reasons we end up in relationships with the wrong people is that we are massively attracted to one part of them.

One can argue that there are five forms of attraction:

  • Emotional, fulfilling each other’s emotional needs
  • Physical, being attracted to their body/physical appearance at large
  • Sexual, what you enjoy in bed
  • Intellectual, being on the same wavelength intellectually; both in terms of intelligence and beliefs, as well as overall lifestyle choices
  • Spiritual, commonalities in faith

You may meet someone whom you are a perfect match with physically and emotionally, but don't match that well with intellectually and sexually. They may even turn out not to be particularly nice!

However, when we first meet someone and are swept away by a hormonal happy fest, we tend to disregard any signs we aren't a match. Falling in love is similar to getting high—it acts like an addiction.

To counteract the high, you can do other things that fulfil you and are known to give your "happy chemicals" a boost. This includes spending time with friends, exercising, achieving goals, and eating well. Getting that runner's high (caused by endorphins your body releases after doing cardio), might very well prevent you from getting swept away by amorous feelings too soon.

By ensuring you keep your focus on your own life and spend the most time building your life, not your new relationship, you can also balance things out. If you have just started dating someone, or become friends with someone for that matter, ask yourself if they are more important than your:

  • Work
  • Family
  • Existing friends
  • Wellbeing
  • Social life at large

Are they more important than all these things? The answer is no. So, don't make them more important.

A good way of ensuring you don't get swept away by your new love? Fill your diary with different things, and keep track of your overall goals.

Lastly, bear in mind that you want to savour the experience of falling in love. Take your time with it! Enjoy it step-by-step instead of rushing in.

Fulfilling your emotional needs at first, and then not at all

We all have different needs within a relationship.

One of our needs is to be loved.

Gary Chapman discovered that people need different things to feel loved. These five so-called love languages are:

  • Receiving gifts
  • Quality time with their partner (or whoever they have a close relationship with, such as a friend, or family member)
  • Acts of service (such as fixing the car, or doing the laundry)
  • Physical touch (ranging from a pat on the back or a hug to sex depending on the relationship)
  • Words of praise

If at the beginning of the relationship, your partner naturally speaks your love language, you will feel loved. As they stop buying you gifts or do whatever it is that makes you feel loved when the "courting phase" is over, you no longer feel fulfilled. And you might very well be completely unaware as to why.

You're unhappy, but you're now emotionally attached—possibly to a beautiful person at that!

Sandy Gerber has put forth the idea that we all have four primary emotional needs—Experience, Value, Achievement and Safety. Some people are mainly driven by experience, others by Value and so forth.

Again, if your partner (or friend) appealed to one of your emotional needs at the beginning of your relationship, you enjoyed spending time with them. You felt happy because they seemed to understand you. But if the adventurous date nights (Experience) come to an end, and they want to create a life driven by routine (Safety), you may no longer feel happy. Not because you don't love them, but because they don't fulfil your emotional needs.

With either one of these scenarios, you will end up attached to a person that doesn't fulfil you, even if the relationship otherwise is a good one. The good news? If you like them, you can definitively "save the relationship." You just have to learn to speak each other's love languages and appeal to each other's emotional needs.

We are all drawn to familiarity—good or bad

If you grew up with certain foods, you tend to gravitate to them. Likewise, if you grew up with certain people, you tend to gravitate to people who behave as they did, even if they are entirely different in all other ways.

For example, if your parents were investment bankers, you might end up dating a rock singer. On the outside, they're entirely different from your family. However, they can still treat you in ways that make you feel the way your family did, or you can unwittingly provoke them into doing so. The man or woman that's never cheated before suddenly does, because they are so upset from the distrust you show them. They know you already think they are cheating, so what difference does it make?

The point is that you can end up dating someone who you are at first happy with and therefore become emotionally attached to. But as the relationship progresses, they start acting in ways that don’t benefit you. And one day you wake up to discover you're emotionally attached to someone who isn't right for you.

This attraction to old emotional patterns tends to happen on a subconscious level until you become aware of the patterns in your life and start forming new ones.

To build a happy relationship, you need to work on your emotional patterns by establishing new ones. There are plenty of books on this topic, and there are many coaches and therapists you can approach as well.

Spiritual life coach and trainer Anne-Marie Mayers told Age Times: "Many of us during our life have at some time been attracted to the wrong person. However, when it impacts your mental health and well-being, and you find yourself sinking further into a toxic or dysfunctional relationship, then it’s a clear indication that unhealthy emotional attachments are involved, something called transference.

"Transference describes a phenomenon in which an individual redirects emotions and feelings, often unconsciously, from one person to another. This process can occur in many types of relationships. The patterns seen in transference will often be representative of a relationship from childhood such as a parent, caregiver, sibling, teacher, or authority figure. It is helpful to understand and identify when transference may be taking place.

"Journaling is a useful technique, not just in transference but in many other aspects of life (and I’m a huge fan). It can allow us to identify possible patterns in both our thoughts and behaviour. If you feel you’re in this kind of relationship, then you need to take action and talking to a therapist or relationship expert will help you to navigate a route through your feelings and emotional turmoil."

Becoming attached to a narcissist

Narcissists have an idealised idea of who their partner is when they first start going out with them. This idea fits perfectly with the idea of what they are looking for in a relationship. As the relationship progresses, they cannot accept the fact that the person they are with isn't a perfect replica of their dream.

As a result, narcissists will try to shape you into who they want you to be. And when you are not behaving as they wish, they will blame you for it. If you wear a dress or suit they don't like, they take it personally. They think you are doing it to hurt them, as opposed to you just being yourself.

As they can't stand the idea of someone going against their wishes, they start manipulating you. This can be done through threats, arguments you can't win, or emotional blackmail in one form or another.

As a result, your confidence gets worn down.

If your confidence is worn down, you come to rely on your partner for everything. It is their opinion that matters the most. They may even have you believe you're useless without them.

You become attached to them as their opinion has become your world.

This kind of inferior/superior relationship is the basis for most abusive relationships. And whether you're the abuser or the abused, it's an unhealthy and emotionally dependent relationship.

Note that being bossy, or being insensitive to other people's emotions is not the same thing as being a narcissist. There are men and women out there not the least clued into others' feelings and will act like a bull in a china shop. Even if they aren't narcissists, if you let them control your emotions, it turns into an unhealthy relationship. You need to be able to tell them when they do something that upsets you. If you don’t stand up for yourself, it’s an unhealthy need for their acceptance, or an unwillingness to upset them.

Fulfilling a need of yours, but just the one

Sometimes you can become attached to the one aspect of a relationship. This is similar to the way you can be attracted to one part of someone's personality.

You don't want to be lonely, so you get a friend, even if you don't particularly like them.

You don't want to be the only one without a partner among your friends, so you stay married, even though you are no longer happy within the marriage.

You're having great sex with someone, so you don't want to break up with them even if you're no longer happy with having them in your life.

Your partner is so perfect in one way you fear you'll never meet anyone who will ever be as perfect as them in that one area. For example, maybe they understand you. They are your best friend. Or perhaps they have all the same hobbies you do. Or they want to live life the way you do. If you break up with them, you fear you’ll never find anyone who is so perfectly matched in that one area.

It could be some other need your friendship, or relationship fulfils—it doesn’t matter what it is. The bottom line is that a relationship of any kind needs to be overall satisfactory if we are to stay in it. We can't remain just to fulfil the one need.

Attachment to acknowledgement

You cannot imagine your life without this person, because without them you wouldn't feel loved, beautiful, appreciated, etc. In short, you need their praise to feel good about yourself.

When you come to depend on someone else to feel good about yourself, it's dangerous. You end up staying in a bad relationship because you need the other person to feel good. They have become your confidence.

Attachment to what could be or what has been

Ironically, most people are attached to the memory of the beginning of the relationship when things were great. Or they are attached to the idea that the relationship could be great if only a, b, c happened. This is as opposed to the facts at hand.

Signs of harmful attachments

A harmful attachment when you are attached to a relationship which is not good for you or are connected to a relationship you think you can't exist without. Different signs can allude to the fact that you have a harmful attachment to someone:

  • You think you can't live without them
  • You cannot see yourself being happy if you lose them
  • You keep checking where they are when they are not with you
  • You need them to acknowledge you, compliment you and so forth, all the time for you to feel happy
  • You are paranoid you will lose them and cannot get the thought out of your mind
  • You cannot handle them getting attention from anyone else, or giving praise to anyone else. You either feel worthless if they do, or you seek to control them, or both.

These are all signs you are attached to someone in an unhealthy manner. Examples in previous sections, on the other hand, include some relationships that can be pretty healthy, but there's something that's missing. And you might be too afraid to let go (i.e. too emotionally attached), or not sure what to do to fix it. You may even be too scared to try to fix it, as you fear losing your partner in the process.

What you can do to turn your life around

There are several things you can do to lessen a harmful attachment or remove the fear of losing someone. While there may be different reasons for you having such a strong attachment to someone, the root cause tends to be the same: a lack of confidence.

When you are happy with yourself and the life you lead, you no longer need someone to fulfil you in any way. You know that no matter what, you'll be OK on your own. That you can rebuild your life if you lose your friend or partner, and that your life at large is fulfilling.

To remove the need for your partner to fulfil you emotionally, and boost your confidence, consider seeking therapy. Also, read every personal development book you can get your paws on that has received good reviews. If it's good, reread it, so the information sinks in!

Don't have much time? Get audiobooks and listen to them while cleaning, driving, walking, exercising and so forth.

To ensure you're happy with the life you lead, have a look at how an ideal life or even a week would look. Are you looking after your body and mind by exercising, relaxing, and eating well? If you're working, are you doing what you can to be satisfied with your work-life? Are you spending enough time with friends and family, as well as attending events where you meet new people? Are you partaking in activities that make you happy, be it dance classes, gardening, country walks, or personal development workshops?

When your life becomes balanced and fulfilling, and you work on your self-confidence, you will start to feel less attached to the one person. You know you can stand on your own two feet. This, in turn, will help you form healthy attachments to people.

In closing

People tend to get emotionally attached to others because they fulfil one of their emotional needs, or there's an attraction on one level or another. Problems arise when they realise that not all their needs are met, but they have become emotionally attached.

These relationships can still be reasonably healthy, just not fulfilling. Sometimes they can be fixed if both partners are willing to work to satisfy each other's needs. If not, it’s time to go separate paths. Yet, people are often scared to let go as they fear losing the person they are with or fear not finding someone better.

People also have emotional patterns and tend to be attracted to people who treat them the way they are used to be treated—be it good or bad. Again, an emotional attachment may form before they realise that there's an emotionally unhealthy pattern at play.

Harmful dependency occurs when someone has lost track of their own life to the point where they feel dependent on their partner to be happy. This can lead to obsessive behaviours, such as intense bouts of jealousy and the need to control their partner.

The best way to see whether or not you want to stay in a relationship, and, also, let go of harmful attachments, is to work on your self-confidence, while also focusing on building a happy life in general.

Why do we feel attached to the wrong people? Your questions answered

How do I stop being attached to the wrong people?

It's vital you understand why you find yourself drawn to the wrong people in the first place. Often, the reason you find yourself attached to the wrong people is because you have failed to set boundaries, be that with a friend, family member, or romantic partner. By being clear with yourself and others what behaviours you are willing to accept, and which you deem unacceptable, you will avoid finding yourself attached to the wrong people because you will distance yourself before any deeper relationship can develop.

Why do we feel attached to someone?

Simply having a feeling of being close to someone can start to make us feel attached to them, particularly if we have shared experience or other things in common over which we've bonded. Being attached to someone can help you feel safe, comfortable, and happy, but it is vital you recognise if your attachment starts to create negative situations or emotions.

Is being too attached to someone a bad thing?

Even in healthy relationships, it is generally a bad thing to be too attached and dependent on someone. If you recognise that you have an unhealthy relationship with a friend, family member, or romantic partner, then being too attached to them can be even more harmful for your wellbeing.

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