Harmful Relational Pattern: The Puddle Jumper

When I first started dating I was shocked at the number of men I came across that were currently in a relationship and also currently looking. I’m not speaking about non-traditional relationships or coupling--- I’m speaking about broken but conventional relationships. This behavior is a red flag about this person’s ability for honesty and trustworthiness, and in truth, about their honesty with themselves.

I call these people “Puddle Jumpers.” The Puddle Jumper is the person who secures themselves in another relationship prior to letting go of their current relationship. They dip their toe into one puddle while holding footing in the other, just until they are able to gain a secure stance in the new relationship. Puddle Jumpers are comforted by the presence of a partner always being there for them--- if not in one puddle (relationship), than in the other. Puddle Jumping comes in other forms as well: those who often have  “back ups” in case their current love interest doesn't work out are acting from the same seed of fear.  

A UCLA study has found that people who are in love, in comparison to singles, actually pay less attention to others they would normally consider attractive in an effort to not have other options. Puddle Jumpers belong in their own category, as they are always looking for another puddle to jump into, just in case. As a result, Puddle Jumpers never fully commit.

Of course, there is no perfect formula for when to enter into a relationship, and there is really nothing wrong with occasionally puddle jumping. Many of us have been there at one point or another. However, when it becomes the norm, the patterns of deception and the need for a repeated quick fix from being alone are often a sign of deeper issues.

Why someone would puddle jump?

Fear: Like so many harmful relational patterns, puddle jumping is driven by fear. The array of types are many, such as: the fear of being alone, the fear of not being good enough, the fear of what others would say, the fear of abandonment, and more. Our fears are natural defense mechanisms that can manifest in blame or finger pointing, making in-the moment recognition difficult. Sometimes, this leads to Projecting, another harmful relationship patterns. Regardless, acting out of fear takes away our ability to be fully present in our relationship.

Early Relational Patterns: One of the less obvious reasons to puddle jump goes a bit deeper into a person’s view of self, stemming from their young relational wounds. Relational patterns link our early childhood relationships with our adult romantic relationships. We repeat both healthy and unhealthy relational patterns, and the thread within these patterns informs our core beliefs and how we relate to the world around us. Puddle jumping can be an indication of the need for validation or value within a relationship, stemming from our childhood. This insecurity is toxic in a relationship, as it puts value of self in another’s power.

Avoidance: A big reason that someone might puddle jump is avoidance. They strive to avoid fear, awareness about patterns, dependance on others, and pain of past relationships. This avoidance becomes a pattern. Ignorance is bliss--right?!? Maybe at first, but not for long. It can be easy to avoid the ick in the present moment, however, it can lead to continual problems such as compound grief. When a relationship is lost we must go through the grief process in order to heal. If we don't allow ourselves to go through this process, we end up creating compound grief. Our grief from multiple relationship losses get jammed up. We ignore our grief, because it is much easier to jump into another relationship than dealing with the past. Unfortunately, every time we experience loss, that grief gets harder and harder to process--and usually it solidifies a person’s unhealthy avoidance cycle.

The need for companionship and feelings of loneliness are both natural feelings that can be uncomfortable, especially if we are uncomfortable or insecure with self. Although the start and end of a relationship and the time in between does not have an exact formula, leaving the door open for other possibilities can be a sign of fear, past relational wounds, insecurity, or the need to grieve loss.

Sources: http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/comm/haselton/papers/downloads/Gonzaga_Haselton_et_al_2008_EHB.pdf