“It feels so comfortable”

A gal pal described her relationship with her new beau with this common phrase. We interpret this as it feels right. If it weren’t right, it wouldn’t feel comfortable, right?

There are many reasons why being with him could feel comfortable. Perhaps he’s easy going. Maybe he possesses characteristics you find appealing. Possibly he’s got the same quick smile and sense of humor as your ex. Heck, maybe he even physically resembles your ex.

Or maybe he has some strong attributes that are similar to one of your parents or childhood care givers.

Getting the Love You WantYou know the old adage that women choose men who are like their fathers (and men choose mother surrogates). I’ve always rejected this theory because I have a toxic father and my ex was gentle, nurturing and noncombative. But after reading Getting the Love You Want by Harville Hendrix, Ph.D., I reexamined my ex’s characteristics and saw more similarities than I’d cared to admit when we were married, although he wasn’t toxic. Divorce helped me detach and see he was more like my father than I would have thought.

Hendrix, a marriage therapist, explains his observations from working with hundreds (thousands?) of couples. “[When looking for a mate, we’re] looking for someone who has the predominant character traits of the people who raised us…. The ultimate reason you fell in love with your mate…is because your brain had your partner confused with your parents!”

Why would we choose someone with similar parental characteristics, especially if they were unpleasant ones? Hendrix says it’s to work through childhood emotional and psychological wounds. Even if you grew up in a positive, safe, healthy, nurturing environment, “you still bear invisible scars from childhood.” In other words, as adults, you are looking for a mate who can either emotionally comfort and nurture you, or will trigger some past hurts so you have an opportunity to deal with them now as an adult.

My experience is that it takes a lot of awareness to deal with those triggers differently than you did as a child. Most of us immediately go into hurt and defensiveness unless we have the guidance of a counselor to walk us through the experience. Which makes me wonder what part of our brain thinks we are innately capable of dealing with the triggers a parent substitute provides.

Does all this mean it is a bad thing to feel comfortable with your beau? Not at all. My point is to examine the feeling of comfort before assuming it is a good thing. If you are used to being with an abusive person and the guy you’re dating has those tendencies, it will feel comfortable. This is not good. So look closely at what it is that is comfortable for you and see if there are any parallels to past relationships. Then determine if these behaviors are in your current best interest or not.

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