You’re starting to feel cursed, huh? You keep getting your heart broken again and again. Each time it feels different. Each time you think you finally got it right. He’s so charming. He’s so different from all the others. Then a few months down the road, you find yourself head-over-heels in love with a guy who treats you like garbage, and you still can’t seem to let go of him.
“Why does this keep happening to me?” — You, after the next jerk breaks your heart
Before I go into the five reasons this might be happening to you, I want you to understand deeply that this is not about victim-blaming. None of this means that you deserved what you got, but if you’re beginning to feel like you’ve been a relationship punching bag, we’re going to focus on what may have made you an easy target for emotionally abusive D-bags and how to change it so you can break this cycle and find real love.
1. You have not learned to be your own source of happiness.
You long for love. You crave a relationship. You feel like your life is mostly together, but you’re waiting for that relationship that will drive away the clouds and bring the sunshine. When you find him, you’ll go out more, you’ll start going on trips, and you’ll have more fun.
The biggest lesson I learned being married and divorced was that if you’re not happy single, you’re not happy. Finding a partner that makes you happy, is not the same thing as being a happy person.
They say opposites attract, but in terms of what kind of partner you’ll attract, like attracts like, and two incomplete people do not come together and form two complete people. If you’re looking for a partner to complete you, you could be a magnet for manipulative people looking for someone they can control.
If a partner can put on their game-face just long enough to make you feel complete to the extent that you feel incomplete without them, there’s no telling how much abuse you’ll endure chasing that feeling of wholeness. Remember, a desperate person is far more likely to ignore the warning-signs.
2. You need to be rescued.
You got dumped and your heart is broken. Maybe your partner or your divorce left you scrambling for a place to live and you don’t know how you’ll get by. You’re emotionally and financially vulnerable, and oh, look—right on cue, here comes someone to save the day!
This is a time to be extremely cautious and maybe give yourself some tough love. Your life, to be frank, is kind of a mess right now. Why would someone who’s really got their life together want to get enmeshed with me right now? Why is he investing in taking on a charity case he just met? If he’s not looking for someone to take advantage of, at the very least he may exhibit poor judgment.
Not all generous people have ulterior motives, but there are plenty of people out there who prey on vulnerable people. Why? If you are dependent upon them, you won’t leave. They get to be both your savior and your captor. You don’t have to turn down anybody’s kindness but be really clear-eyed about it.
Sometimes we’re in too deep to turn down any act of generosity, but it is always disempowering to be rescued. When you’ve been vulnerable, few things will bring you joy like learning to stand on your own two feet.
3. You have low self-esteem.
Charming manipulators love seeking targets with low self-esteem. You’re all-too-susceptible to flattery. They swoop in and compliment you nonstop. They send you a drink at the bar. They decide to drop some major coin on dinner, and before you know it, you’re getting a couples massage at a 5-star resort in Maui.
You’ve never felt so seen. Nobody else sees what’s special about you, but he does. If you’re old, he makes you feel young again. If you’re young, he sees your maturity and all your talents waiting to be recognized by the rest of the world. What did you even DO to deserve someone who treats you like this?
All this high-octane romance is pounding your brain with dopamine, causing you to ignore the fact that you’re not really getting to know each other on a deeply personal level. You may be ignoring red flags, like how he was kind of a dick to the waitstaff. You may be having a really good time, but are you actually compatible?
Once he’s got you hooked, expect him to turn down the gas immensely. He may even turn cold suddenly, but not until after your low self-regard has you putting him way up high on a pedestal, exactly where he needs to be.
With your self-esteem in the dumps, you’ll all but worship him, and he can easily convince you that every little problem you face as a couple is your fault. Why wouldn’t you agree with him if your inner-voice is always telling you you’re not good enough for him? Your insecurities will become his weapons.
4. You don’t have a life of your own.
If you’ve made it this far, you may be prone to codependent behavior, making you eager to sacrifice your own needs and desires in favor of his. You’re a loving, conscientious person, so in the beginning, it feels amazing to make him happy, even if it means losing yourself a bit.
But months or years down the road, you may find yourself feeling completely lost. At best, you may have thoughts like, “I don’t even know what kind of music I like anymore or what my favorite restaurant is.” At worst, you’ve lost touch with your own friends and family and all you have are shallow relationships with his friends that you know, intuitively, will abandon you the same day he does.
It’s a vicious cycle. He’s got you living only for him, which is exactly what he wants. You’re always in his corner, ready to provide, praise, affirm, validate, and worship to his ego, but now that he’s got you where he wants you, cue the boredom. You’re giving him exactly what he wants, but it’s not exciting to him anymore. It’s not enticing. It’s time for him to find a younger, hotter you to help him get that validation he craves.
You must learn how to be in a relationship with another without losing yourself.
5. You haven’t healed the wounds of past relationships.
This is the biggest. The biggest most surefire way to attract an emotionally abusive D-bag is to enter into a relationship while your wounds from the last one are still raw.
In love, you get what you’re a match to. You’re not going to attract a partner who’s whole, happy, and complete if you’re still a financial and emotional wreck.
When we try to move on too soon, we tend to tell the manipulators exactly how to manipulate us. All they have to do is listen to us drone on about how our ex mistreated us and they can do the exact opposite.
Your ex never took you on dates? You’ve got a reservation at Nobu. Your ex made you feel ugly or unappreciated? They’ll leave notes about how beautiful you are and send you flowers. They’ll be on their best behavior, as long as it serves them to keep up the act.
I understand if this is all sounding pessimistic, but I want you to know what to look out for. Real, lasting love is usually low-octane. It may even seem boring sometimes. We all want to make love under a waterfall, but how do you feel about each other when you’re watching Drag Race eating TV dinners or folding laundry?
It’s not a bunch of woo-woo yoga babble to think about the difference in the kind of partner or relationship little heartbroken, downtrodden you is going to attract vs. the partner you’ll attract once you’re living your best life. Imagine entering a relationship from a place of self-love and personal power. Nothing to change, nothing to do, nothing to fix.
My wish for anyone reading this is that you will love yourself enough to say “no” to relationships you’re not ready for, no matter how badly you may want one. Work on yourself. Make sure you’re living your own life now. Don’t wait for someone to come along and give you a life to live. Find what brings you joy and do more of it. Figure out who you are and be more of it.
Learn how to say “no” and have boundaries. Don’t let any lover cause you to sacrifice your dignity, morals, values, or self-esteem.
Put at least as much energy into your friendships and family relationships as you would a romantic relationship. When your friendships are flourishing, you don’t need a partner as badly, and when you don’t need a partner, you’re finally ready for one.