Is it just a bad break that you have had one troubled relationship after another while your friend has had an amazing long-term marriage?
Is it just an astonishing coincidence that the difficulties you had with your mom you now have with your spouse?
Did you promise yourself that you’d never get involved with another alcoholic then find yourself marrying a workaholic?
What’s going on here? Do we have free will in determining our relationships? Or is our destiny scripted from birth, like a Greek tragedy?
The answer: a bit of both. If your romantic relationships follow a repetitive pattern that’s confusing to you, it’s time to acquaint yourself with the power of love scripts. Here are three examples of how love scripts get played out:
The Rescuer Script:
Onset: I met a wonderful man who’s going through a tough time. It makes me feel good to be able to be there to help him get back on his feet.
Mid-Course: Though I’d like to help him move ahead, it’s not as easy as I thought. He seems to have one problem after another.
Pinnacle: Am I helping him too much? Is he using me? Don’t I ever get to be taken care of? I want to be there for him, but it’s just so draining. I don’t know what to do.
Likely Outcome: Either she will hang in there feeling disappointed and angry or she’ll end the relationship and find someone new to rescue.
Positive Outcome: She needs to stop rescuing him and he needs to take responsibility for himself.
Fairy Tale Script:
Onset: I have met my soul-mate. She’s beautiful, caring, kind, my perfect partner.
Mid-Course: I’m discovering some things about her I don’t like. I try to ignore how disorganized and frivolous she is with taking responsibility for household tasks but it sure is annoying.
Pinnacle: I still love her but I’m disillusioned. Am I expecting too much from her? Was I so much in love, that I was blind to her faults? I’m so confused.
Likely Outcome: Either he’ll hang in there despite feeling disillusioned or he’ll begin to look elsewhere for his “perfect soul mate.”
Positive Outcome: Life is not a fairy tale. Both spouses need to develop the maturity to deal with adult issues, including managing money, working, maintaining a household, raising children.
Gender Role Script:
Onset: I’m looking for a strong, caring man who will take care of me. I like traditional gender roles. It worked for my parents; why shouldn’t it work for us?
Mid-Course: We seem to be growing apart. He’s so involved in his career and I’m totally absorbed by the kids and their activities.
Pinnacle: I feel trapped. I’m with the kids all day long and it’s driving me crazy. He gets home so late we don’t even have time to discuss the day.
Likely Outcome: If nothing changes, both spouses will continue to feel increasingly estranged from one another and look for intimacy elsewhere
Positive Outcome: Each spouse needs to devote time and energy to becoming more interested and involved in each other’s lives.
Is it possible to modify your love script, defying what seems to be your destiny? Absolutely. But to do so, you must become conscious of what your love script is and how it creates problems for you. Otherwise, the pattern will keep repeating itself – even if you change partners.
Linda Sapadin, Ph.D. is a psychologist and success coach in private practice who specializes in helping people enrich their lives, enhance their relationships and overcome self-defeating patterns of behavior.