Finding Mr. Wrong, Again and Again
- 2006 26 Apr
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.
Are you one of those women who rails against “players” – men who are perfectly willing to use you for their own selfish desires, with little regard for your well-being? Have you considered that without partners, there would be no players?
Best-selling author John Gray, suggests the following five questions to consider in your quest for love.
- Are you serially dating? Gray says many people constantly date someone new. They believe there is always a bigger, better deal. Serial daters are people who are open to dating someone until the big ‘C’ is mentioned.
- Do you take emotional risks? Gray suggests that it is important to be open and vulnerable with the person you are dating and to expect that in return.
- When the option is doing something new or doing the same thing you have done before, which do you choose? Gray suggests that you may need to be open to changing for a new love relationship, rather than settling into your well-worn routine.
- How well do you listen to your partner? It is very important to be a good listener in your relationships. Instead of giving what you would like to receive in your relationship, it is important to listen to your partner to determine what he truly wants.
- How do you want to continue, now that you are aware of your actions? Gray emphasizes that with new understanding about yourself you are prepared to change.
So many women choose Mr. Wrong, over and over again. While on the surface this may seem easy to remedy, it is not necessarily so. We find a familiar way of relating and then cling to it for dear life.
What are some reasons for self-sabotaging behaviors?
- Low Self-Esteem: Gail had low self-esteem and felt that she is not good enough to attract someone who was truly available and thus more difficult to attract.
- Fear of being alone: Gail felt that being with someone, even if only for a short season, was better than taking the time necessary to find a quality man.
- Fear of Closeness: Just like men who will not let themselves get too close to a woman, women who play out destructive, self-sabotaging behaviors again and again usually have their own fears of closeness.
- Fear of Commitment: Yes, women have fears of commitment as well as men. While often reluctant to label them as such, many women say that they want to be close, but then avoid men who might be commitment material.
- Fear of Change: While we may espouse change, we resist it. While we rant and rave about our conditions, we often do little to really change them.
Perhaps this is a pattern for you. Perhaps you find yourself seeking the same kind of man over and over again because you find safety in the familiar. It was only as Gail became willing to carefully examine her self-defeating patterns and change them that she was able to avoid unhealthy men, and date men with integrity, honor and respect for women. Isn’t it time that you risked, and demanded that for yourself?
Click here to read the first article in this series.
David Hawkins, PhD., has worked with couples and families to improve the quality of their lives by resolving personal issues for the last 30 years.
He is the author of over 18 books, including "Love Lost: Living Beyond a Broken Marriage," "Saying It So He'll Listen," and "When Pleasing Others Is Hurting You." His newest book is titled "When the Man in Your Life Can’t Commit." Dr. Hawkins grew up in the beautiful Pacific Northwest and lives with his wife on Puget Sound, where he enjoys sailing, biking, and skiing. He has active practices in two Washington cities.