For those unfamiliar with the term, someone with Broken Picker Syndrome repeatedly chooses inappropriate people to date (or even marry). For whatever reason, this person has fallen into a habit of attempting to connect with people who can never offer them what they want, which is an authentic, healthy, long-term partnership. Often others will say this individual doesn’t believe they deserve better.


However, what I see is people who think they won’t find anything better, which is actually a different beast altogether. One suggests problems with self-esteem and lack of appreciation for your own personhood, while the other reflects the exhaustion and disappointment that can come from the dating experience. Sometimes, when we feel hopeless about finding a true partner, we accept less than what we want and need. So, in the tradition of the comedian Jeff Foxworthy, you might have broken picker syndrome if:


  • You continue to date the same person over and over. In this case, we’re not talking about the actual same person.  It’s more that you have a ‘type’—a person who fits the same description. While the faces change, the person underneath is the same. It could be someone who is superficially charming—says all the right things, has a well-kept appearance, but does not deliver when you actually need them to.  Or it could be someone high-maintenance, who seems to have an endless list of needs, leaving little space for you or what you want in the relationship.  Most difficult of all, it could be someone who cycles between seeming to treat you well and being abusive, such as putting you down or not ‘allowing’ you to see friends or family members.  Whatever the case may be, if you look back at your list of loves and notice the same pattern of behaviors, it’s time to take a step back and figure out how you can prevent yourself from choosing the same type of person the next time around.


  • You literally date the same person again and again. Unlike the trait above, you literally keep coming back to the exact same person.  You may date other people in between, but you return to one person repeatedly, despite the relationship not having worked the past one or two (three, four) times. Unless an individual has made significant and obvious changes, there is no reason to date the same person again.  Promising to change does not count as actually making a change.  The only couples I have seen that have successfully made a relationship work on a second go-round are ones in which one or both people made real changes, typically while they had been separated from each other for several years or more.  If you both are walking into the relationship the same people that you were the first time, it is unlikely to be any different this time around.


  • You continue to date persons who can’t or won’t make a commitment to you. There is often talk of people who willfully mislead us in the dating environment, who “play games,” or pretend to be something that they’re not. However, in my experience, people often tell us the truth about themselves; the problem is that we refuse to listen.  For instance, if someone tells you that they’re “not looking for anything serious,” or they’re “too busy to be in a committed relationship at the moment.”  Believe them.  This is not an invitation for you to try to overcome the boundary that they have set.  Respect it.  Unless you genuinely share this person’s sentiment, it’s time to call it off.


The tragic thing about Broken Picker Syndrome is that it keeps you stuck with persons who can never truly fulfill your needs. For whatever reason, perhaps through no fault of their own, this person is not a long term match. You probably have real feelings for this person, who, no doubt, has some positive qualities (or you would not have been attracted to them).  However, while it can be difficult to let go of the person in front of you, moving on is the only way to achieve real commitment and connection.

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