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Years ago, when I was single, I decided to break out of my Introverted Bubble and do something outside my comfort zone: I went to an organized happy hour event filled with utter strangers, alone. While this was a professional happy hour for networking, it quickly became clear to me that it was really a way for singles to meet. Because that was more than I could handle, I decided to pretend I had a boyfriend, which allowed me to talk freely to anyone without the pressure of dating.

As such, I met a string of interesting men. Once they discovered I wrote dating and relationships books, knowing I wasn’t a dating prospect, they began sharing their dating frustrations with me. I recall one in particular, who asked me why women are so “self-entitled.” I asked for clarification, and he seemed to have a pattern of choosing women who demanded a lot from him in terms of what he provided financially, who seemed to feel that they deserved to be taken care of then and in the future.

I was taken aback by his complaint, which was stated with a lot of derision. The conversation with him and his friends took a different turn and he went off somewhere else. But I never forgot that conversation. It sounded like he had a pattern of dating demanding, narcissistic women. His comment made it sound like all women are that way. That’s what happens — when we have negative dating patterns, we begin to assume all men or all women are the same way, because that’s all we know. This guy must have dated a string of self-entitled women to lob such an accusation against all women, and I knew that.

We all have dating patterns. We all have a “type” we tend to like and attract. It’s a problem when the pattern is a destructive one. Maybe you always wind up with high-maintenance blondes, or guys who are emotionally unavailable, or people with mood swings. Your patterns are yours and they’re different from other people’s.

My question to this man is, “Why are you choosing these women?” What did he see in them early on, before he discovered how demanding they are? This guy was tall and good-looking and well-employed. He’s was kind of guy a lot of women find attractive. Not only that, but he knew it. He had an arrogance about him and he seemed shallow and uncaring. Of all the men I met that night, he left the worst impression.

If he was anything like how he came off that night, it makes some sense that he would attract self-entitled women. Self-entitled people can often appear attractive, successful, and confident, which can be very alluring. If you’re attracted only to this surface allure, you may find yourself in a relationships with someone who’s shallow and… self-entitled.

In other words, this guy was choosing these women for the very traits he hated in them, but without realizing it. Every negative trait has a positive side to it, and vice versa. Narcissistic people are confident and bold and good-looking, which is why people like them until they finally see the truth. The guy who seems really fun, carefree, and spontaneous at first can wind up being irresponsible and childish. The woman who’s exciting and stimulating can turn out to be a moody drama queen. The independent, strong and silent guy can turn out to be distant and commitmentphobic.

When we have negative dating patterns, we’re often attracted to the positive side of that negative trait. We just don’t see the negative side because we’re blind to it. In the case of this guy, he didn’t see the shallowness of these women at first because, on some level, he seemed a little shallow himself. He liked the external package these women came in and didn’t yet recognize the warning signs.

The reasons we get sucked into these negative patterns are complex, but the patterns are often due to some underlying or even unconscious desire to face some internal conflict we struggle with. People who pick narcissistic partners often struggle with self-worth and seek out those who they believe have it. Once they discover that narcissists have almost no self-worth at all, and they consider why their own self-worth isn’t what it ought to be, they can start making other choices.

Negative dating patterns exist for one reason — to be discovered and conquered. That’s why they keep repeating themselves over and over, hoping that this time you’ll see the light.

What patterns have you faced, and how did you break them?