We are inundated with ideas about how to choose your romantic partner! Well-meaning messages can flood us with ideas about what to look for in a healthy relationship. However, words of wisdom can only get us so far when we have a factor far more influential in how we navigate romantic relationships: our past. Our past can dictate our decisions in our present especially as it relates to romantic relationships. The unique part about this realization is that it is rooted in our subconscious. Our subconscious is, as the name implies, a part of our brain to keep us safe, to develop instinct, and to detect prior life patterns. The role of our subconscious can become dysfunctional if we do not work to understand it in a way that empowers us not to repeat unhealthy cycles.
The life events we experience since we are born are all stored in our brain and bodies, even if we do not consciously remember them. I share this not to bore you with neuroscience but to encourage you with the truth embedded in the intention of God’s creation. The Bible informs us that the heart, above all, is deceitful and desperately sick (Jeremiah 17:9). Asking God to search your heart and reveal your known and unknown wounds is an incredibly powerful and transformative prayer. In this blog post, I will share three ways our subconscious shows up in choosing your partner.
1. Our subconscious seeks familiarity. A romantic relationship acts as the biggest mirror to our unhealed wounds from our past. A mirror does not add or subtract from our appearance but merely reveals what we cannot see on our own. You might find yourself realizing that you continuously find yourself in emotionally unhealthy relationships, such as codependency, and wonder why. For example, if you were the oldest in your family, you might subconsciously seek out someone who was the youngest in their family because you both have similar roles to fill (the oldest as the responsible caregiver and the youngest as the one who is used to being cared for). Now, you are probably not consciously saying that you want to date someone who reminds you of your upbringing, but that is why it is important to realize the influence of the subconscious. Our subconscious is not rooted in our cognitive awareness but in our wounds, roles, and patterns from our past.
2. Our subconscious seeks a way out. Our brain seeks to take the path of least resistance, so if someone is creating emotional distance from you and you had a caregiver or parent, who also was emotionally distant, then your brain will recognize this as a similar relationship pattern. Your subconscious will not resist the pain because it knows that you can replicate the role you took in your early family experience even though it was hurtful. Our subconscious realizes there can be function in dysfunction. Familiarity can be disguised as chemistry or a “spark” that we describe in those early stages of a relationship. Be cautious that you are not confusing chemistry with compatibility.
3. Our subconscious seeks corrective experiences. Have you ever had the thought, “Why do I keep falling for the same type of person?” Understanding your non-negotiables and preferences will not stop your wounded subconscious from seeking a corrective emotional experience. As an example, you might be drawn to someone who allows you to seek healing by finding a relationship pattern where you can “fix” the wounds from childhood. We can seek to subconsciously fill our wounds by finding familiar patterns in our childhood and taking a different or corrective role, which we weren’t able to have during our upbringing. Dating to fix your past is not the way to heal your past.
Some practical steps to take to heal our subconscious wounds are first, to be honest with oneself and realize that we all have subconscious wounding. You might have heard the phrase, “Acceptance is the first step,” but we also can’t heal what we choose to conceal. Additionally, seeking a professional Counselor can help you identify, uncover, and process those wounds so, that your subconscious gets removed from the driver’s seat of your life. As always, lean on the Creator and Sustainer of life, relationships, and truth, as Proverbs 4:23 tells us, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.”
It can be overwhelming to find a therapist, who recognizes the role of faith while also acknowledging the unique nuances of mental health. Bri is proud to be able to integrate a faith perspective with research-based mental health practices. She offers a tailor-made approach to each of her clients. She graduated from a nationally-ranked, top ten graduate counseling program focusing on Marriage, Couple, and Family Therapy with a certification in Mental Health Counseling. She is Level 1 Gottman Method Couples Therapy trained. Bri has led counseling groups on topics of grief, anxiety, trauma, creative arts, and healthy relationships at a college counseling center. She is an Associate Certified Coach, certified by the International Coaching Federation and works as an Adult ADHD Executive Functioning Coach in addition to her role as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor. She has taken seminary courses on biblical and theological foundations. She is also enrolled in a two-year professional development course on psychodynamic psychoanalytic theory. Her primary ministry role focuses on pastoral care and mental health in the church. She offers a non-judgmental, insightful, and engaging approach to her sessions and looks forward to supporting you on your healing journey!