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False Forms of Love: Unresolved Conflict Attraction Syndrome

“Lord have mercy I have done it again.  For the third time I’m in a relationship having the same problems I had with my parents.  I vowed to never let that happen again but here I am once more.  What in the world makes this keep happening to me.”  This type of lament and others like it are all too common in the world of romantic love.

What keeps going wrong unfortunately is a common form of false love which keeps getting in the way of people’s chances for developing a healthy, real love relationship.  Those who don’t know about this form of false love may be especially vulnerable to its influence.  Here it is called the Unresolved Conflict Attraction Syndrome.

One of the most problematic forms of false love is Unresolved Conflict Attraction.  In this syndrome a person is subconsciously attracted to having a false ‘fall in love’ experience with people who will come to present the same problems they had with one or more parents, or significant others, in their childhood.  This can happen in a wide variety of ways.  If they had a highly critical mother they are likely to date or marry someone who will become highly critical, just like her.  If they had an abusive father they may date or marry someone who is or becomes abusive in the same way.  A woman who had a very love-stingy father may keep falling in love with love-stingy men.  A man who had a suffocating mother may date or marry someone who in time becomes emotionally suffocating.  Those who had cold and distant parents may be attracted to cold, distant lovers or those who turn into ‘emotional icebergs’ later.  The children of raging alcoholics may date or marry people who turn out to be raging alcoholics.

These specific scenarios are endless in their variations but the underlying dynamic is the same.  You can be mysteriously and strongly attracted to the people who will present you the unresolved love problems of your youth.  Sadly for many people the never fixed, love destroying or love blocking difficulties of childhood and adolescence reappear in adulthood.  The good news is knowing about it can help protect you from it.

You may wonder, “Why does this happen”?  Here’s one way to explain or understand it.  Your subconscious may make you want to get a copy of your problematic parent so that finally you can win their love, get the love you never got, fix the unfixed love problem of childhood, and resolve the unresolved love disappointments of youth.  Another understanding is that subconsciously we are drawn to what we are familiar with at a deep subconscious level without ever knowing it consciously.

Even if consciously we want nothing to do with repeating our childhood disappointments, a computer-like program in our head pushes us toward repetition of the familiar.  Apparently it is as if something inside us says, “Here is someone unloving just like Mommy (or Daddy, or whoever) was, so maybe this time I can get her (or him) to love me if I just try the right way and hard enough.  So, I am in love with this person, and I have to have them for my own”.  Rarely does this work, but when it does work we then ‘fall out’ of false love with them because that relationship has no more purpose or attraction power.

An additional view of this phenomenon suggests that subconsciously we teach our spouse or lover to treat us in the less-loving ways we experienced in childhood or adolescence so we can have a chance to win the love we didn’t get earlier in life.  We do that by responding most strongly to our lover when they act the most like our most unloving parent.  That emotional intensity, in a strange way, rewards our love mate’s actions, and rewarded actions increase even when they are negative.

Theoretically people can be, and often are, subconsciously attracted to those who embody the unresolved conflicts of their own earlier life.  Psycho-dynamically such people may be compulsively driven to find and form relationships with those who can help them re-experience the love deprivation, conflicts and difficulties which robbed them of the love they unsuccessfully sought as children.  Consequently we unknowingly are attracted to those who can give us our unresolved conflicts all over again.  Thus, in this syndrome ‘adult love attempts’ mirror ‘childhood love attempts’ and usually get no better results than occurred in childhood.

A question you might want to ask is, “Can this attempt to fix the past by repeating it ever really work”?  The short answer is probably not.  There are several common outcomes of this syndrome.  One is for a person just to keep going from one unsuccessful, conflicted lover or marriage to another with lots of love related agony and with nothing ever getting fixed.  Another result occurs when a person just gives up on love relationships entirely.  They then may live love-malnourished the rest of their life.  A third outcome is when a person figures it out (often in therapy), grows sufficient self love and resolves the internal conflict, freeing themselves to go on to a healthy, real love that works. 

Thus, if you think you may suffer from an unresolved conflict attraction syndrome the best thing you probably can do is seek the help of a love-knowledgeable therapist or counselor.  You also can explore romantic relationships with people you are more consciously attracted to because of their obvious good characteristics, rather than operating from your subconscious impulses and what seems like intuitive desires.  Be very wary of anything that smacks of the ‘falling in love’ or obsessional, romantic fascination with near strangers phenomenon.

Taking lots of time to get to know someone and letting the relationship grow slowly also may be very important.  Just knowing that this syndrome exists has helped some people avoid it or its repetition.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question Can you identify an unresolved or unfixed love related problem you had with a significant family member when you were growing up?  If you can what you identified may represent your vulnerability to experiencing an Unresolved Conflict Attraction possibility.  Knowing that may help you work it out and prevent its destructiveness from occurring or reoccurring in your life.

False Forms of Love Series
False Forms of Love: Limerence and Its Alluring Lies
False Forms of Love: Meta Lust
False Forms of Love: Shadow Side Attachments
False Forms of Love: The Devastating IFD Syndrome
False Forms of Love: Unresolved Conflict Attraction Syndrome

Previous Comments:
  • Sanma
    June 1st, 2015 at 22:18 | #1
    My friend whom i became sensitive to an attraction..strange vibe..made me feel quite anxious..but developed a friendship of sorts..well ..with his charm etc..he has now developed an un wanted attraction to him..a younger girl..who told him of her attraction..invited her to stay..knowing this he made her comfortable as a boarder.. he keeps giving wrong signals..almost playing a nurturing game..so he can feel some sence of security and nurture himself.. I can understand this as he misses his family,,anyway..that seems to make it worse for him..i have told him of this type of fatal attraction and at one time joked about it being real..but now it had become very REaL..!! he is the victim..he is also married..with a long distance relationship at this time..but now the wife has moved home for two weeks..the boarder Fatale has moved out..and now the action has begun..and as a friend..he seems to see me as someone to avoid..yet i have good sense to see what is going on..and also to see my attraction to him..asm purely a healthy one to see him be his best..and be protected in this time..despite the false hope for what i thought was a genuine friendship ….but underneath it all, i feel the love and willingness to help him be free of this fatal attraction he has bought on to his life..what is the best advise i should give him..or should i stay well clear..he does not have the skills nor the faith to see the mess he is in..i have talked to him about his safety..he agrees..it is way out of hand now..but is feeling now some sort of responsibility for her..as she is younger..speeks little english…and appears helpless..but now wonder if he may have been fatally attracted to her also…or at least Meta Love..and this is what i may have been sensing..what is your suggestion..cheers
  • LaShawn
    March 30th, 2016 at 11:00 | #2
    Nice article..may I add a point please? From a spiritual perspective I would say that unresolved conflicts in relationships are related or equated to what is called a surrogate. I’ve had many surrogate relationships and they have served my internal development well. The soul must work through its issues even if the primary source of where the issue originated is unavailable. So surrogates make the internal maturation or evolutionary process possible. I have come to view the subject as a blessing from the universe. Peace and Light.
  • ScarredManStillStanding
    May 7th, 2016 at 11:18 | #3
    This is one of the most important articles I have ever read.
    I have a… Narcissistic mother (or insert similar mental condition here, she refuses to ever get any diagnosis or help as she definitely knows and is ashamed on some level).
    I have suffered immensely because of this (and my ridiculously-loving father, too, and my siblings..)
    I recently was in a short 6-month relationship with someone sharing many of the same traits. I have been using this (horrible, gut-wrenching, emasculating) experience to grow. Too slowly for my liking (I had been avoiding dating for a long time due to needing to grow). Yet, grow, I have. There is much abuse in my past, and I attracted more abuse with this recent relationship. However, I am hopeful that for the first time I am not completely lost and helpless. This is obviously just a tad important in life! Especially as I wish to never subject anyone to the same that has been done to me, and I am a strong enough man to make a difference, this is proven in my past in other ways… Time to apply it!
    Peace to you, Dr Cookerly. thank-you very much.

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