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Hear Me Out!
with Sam Garanzini, LMFT & Alapaki Yee, LMFT

Dating the Wrong People — Identify Your Shadow Trait and Break the Cycle

Do you find yourself drawn to unsuitable partners like a moth to a flame?

Perhaps you always seem to wind up dating people whose personality or life goals are directly opposed to your own.

Meet Alyssa and Melanie, a couple who recently took our Communication Style Quiz.

Alyssa is larger than life.  She’s …

Fun           ✔
Carefree   ✔
Outgoing  ✔

Melanie is a hopeless romantic looking for her soulmate.

She’s looking for “the one”, someone chill, ready to settle down and be “domestic.”

For many reasons, Melanie’s last several partners have all been completely wrong for her — something she freely admits in hindsight.

Conversely, Alyssa wants to have fun, see the world, and experience everything life has to offer before she settles down.

As you can see, it’s all just a little bit of history repeating for Melanie.

Her and Alyssa have a disconnect — juxtaposing life goals.

Does this kind of incompatibility usher in a lifetime of hurt?

If so, how can you avoid getting hurt, yet still have fun?

More importantly, why do you find ourselves dating the wrong people?

So, why is it that we stay with partners we know are wrong for us?
Why do we risk the often-inevitable pain and trauma that comes with the breakdown of a long-term relationship, when we could’ve just walked away at the first sign of danger?

Emotional investment.

Melanie’s emotional investment in Alyssa and their life together makes it hard to let go.

In her heart of hearts, she knows Alyssa is here for a good time, not a long time, but she keeps holding on in the hope that the situation might turn itself around.

If you often find yourself stuck in a pattern of dating the wrong people, you need to start thinking introspectively.

What attracts you to these people?

Why do you keep dating the same characters, even though you swore off people like that for the rest of your life?

Emotional investment is perfectly normal — wonderful, in fact — but not when it causes you to lose your grip on reality.

Now, here’s the million-dollar question.

Are you choosing certain partners to fill a void you see in yourself?

In some cases, people who feel they’re missing a specific personality trait are consistently drawn to prospective partners who possess that trait.

The result?

You’ll feel like all your relationships are reading from the same soap-opera script.

Some people might call this kind of behavior “self-sabotage.”

The common denominator in all your previous dramatic relationships?


Fortunately, you are capable of acknowledging these patterns — and making a change.

Have you endured a tragic procession of relationships where everything is perfect, except for that one thing?

Maybe your partner isn’t ready to settle down.

Perhaps one of you wants children and the other doesn’t.

It’s just that one thing.

Something’s got to give.

You need to recognize the pattern, start doing things differently and break the cycle.

So, how do you do that?

Identify your “Shadow Trait.”
Isolating the trait that draws you to potential partners reveals your shadow trait.

For instance, Alyssa is fun and outgoing.

Melanie would love to be as care-free and extroverted as Alyssa.

But is not.

That’s her shadow trait.

Break The Cycle
If you find yourself consistently attracted to partners who share a common trait, it could be one you secretly share with them that you aren’t ready to let out.

Once you acknowledge the person you truly want to be, you’ll be able to let loose and have fun with your relationship and view it simply as a stepping stone to the next, if it doesn’t work out.

Ultimately, evaluating past relationships and identifying why they didn’t work out makes it easier to spot red flags in future relationships.

Figuring out your shadow trait also allows you to set healthy boundaries so you can enjoy your relationships for what they are — not what you need them to be.

Would you like to learn how you can relax and enjoy your relationship without putting pressure on yourself and your partner to achieve a specific outcome?

It all starts with understanding more about yourselves, which is why we created this
Communication Style quiz.

Are you a Connector, Sensualist, Guardian, or Referee?

Once you know your style, you’ll be in a much better position to be able to identify your shadow trait.

Here’s the link to the quiz.

Sam Garanzini and Alapaki Yee are Certified Gottman Method Couples Therapists and the co-founders of the Gay Couples Institute – the world’s only gay and lesbian couples counseling clinic. The Gay Couples Institute has locations in Northern California and Manhattan, as well as online counseling services available.

For more information about how the Gay Couples Institute can help you, please visit:

Dating the Wrong People — Identify Your Shadow Trait and Break the Cycle

Sam Garanzini, LMFT

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APA Reference
Garanzini, S. (2019). Dating the Wrong People — Identify Your Shadow Trait and Break the Cycle. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 22, 2020, from


Last updated: 24 Apr 2019
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