Gail is a fifty-something, divorced woman with enhanced blonde hair and a bold, stylish presence. This perfectly dressed banker came to see me to understand and eliminate her self-defeating patterns.

“I can’t seem to attract anything but ‘players’ and I’m sick of it. Sometimes I just feel like giving up. Help me understand why I keep making the same mistakes.”

“You’re attracted to these men who just want to have fun, and they are attracted to you?”

“I guess so,” she said, smiling. “They like ‘arm-candy’ but don’t want anything serious. They’re fun. They’re exciting. And they seem attracted to me – at least at first. But things always end up going sour – they want to move on.”

“Leaving you wondering what happened?”

“Yes,” she said, sadly.

“Mistakes are easy to make, especially if we don’t know why, or even how, we are making them. You know what they say, though – ‘you’re only a victim the first time.’ Have you given much thought to your dating patterns?”

“No. I suppose not. I can handle my accounts at the bank easily enough, but I can’t seem to handle men.”

I asked Gail to tell me more about her history. She had recently ended a one-year relationship with a real estate developer. She had hoped the relationship would end at the altar. Instead, it ended with him telling her, in no uncertain terms, that he was never going to get married again. He was sure she’d understand.

“Why would I understand that?” Gail said sarcastically. “Like he thinks I’m going to throw my morals out the window and move in with him. I’ll admit I’ve been a fool in the past, and compromised my values, but not now.”

“Did his announcement take you by surprise?” 

“Well, yes and no. He’d hinted at his position before, but I guess I didn’t want to hear it. I have been hinting at marriage for months, and he got squeamish every time I brought it up. Deep in my heart I knew it wasn’t going to work. I just hoped that somehow I could change his mind. Crazy, huh?”

“No, not crazy at all. We pay attention to one part of the picture and ignore the part that creates anxiety for us. Some things we’re not ready to face – called denial.”

Gail took a deep breath and sighed loudly.

“You’re tired of these patterns, aren’t you?” I said.

She began to cry.

“I am just tired of being alone. My divorce six years ago hurt really bad. Every time I think I’ve found someone to share my life with, things fall apart. I’m angry with myself and with the men who treat me this way.”

“The good news is this – anything that we can predict, we can prevent. If we can understand the patterns and see how we keep repeating them, we stand a good chance of changing them. Let’s look more closely at your history and recent patterns.”

I worked with Gail for several months. She made great progress. She came to understand how hurt she had been when her twenty-five year marriage ended and how lonely and incomplete she felt afterwards. She wanted desperately to fill the void and discovered that the attention she received for her attractive appearance from “players” eased her pain. She hadn’t seen that she was trying to treat an inner wound with attention from men or that the kinds of men that would lavish this attention on her were often least likely to be interested in a lasting commitment.

Gail had healing work to do. Not only did she have to “withdraw” from the lure of the “players’” attention, she also had to deal with rejection wounds from her divorce that gave rise to her excessive desire for their attention. It was not an easy adjustment, but a necessary one.