Women get into bad relationships over and over because they don’t learn from their mistakes. The wonderful thing about dating is that we attract what we need to work on in ourselves. A woman who needs to learn to love herself is a magnet for men who for a variety of reasons are unable or unwilling to give. When a woman recognizes what the wrong man is highlighting for her – perhaps that she needs to take better care of herself, set better limits, be more assertive, or become better able to entertain herself – she can end the relationship and get to work on growing and developing in ways that will make her happier with herself and thus less susceptible to repeating her dating mistakes.
You Think You Can “Make Him a Better Man”
However you picture yourself in this partnership–romantic heroine, artistic muse, a savior of lost souls–you’re entering into such a relationship based on the belief that there’s something wrong or lacking in your lover. Your plan is to fix him, reform him, or shape him into the man he’s truly meant to be. (In this “reverse-Pygmalion” scenario, you’ve cast yourself as Professor Higgins, and your lover as Eliza Doolittle.) But unless your man is onboard from the get-go with your makeover scheme, you’re setting yourself and the relationship up for failure.
It’s true, some men do turn to a lover with hopes of self-improvement, but for the most part, guys don’t want to be thought of merely as malleable lumps of clay for a woman to mold to her whims. And it’s hard to blame them. Having the need to make a better man of him implies the belief that you’re better than him to begin with. If the shoe were on the other foot, wouldn’t you resent someone who thought you “needed fixing?”
What Can You Do?
Helping someone realize his or her true potential may be an admirable aspiration, but if you really want to guide someone along this path, you might want to take it out of the context of your personal relationships and apply those talents and instincts elsewhere. Volunteer your time at an adult education center. Become a tutor. Find a way to channel your instinct to do good where it will be truly needed. Start looking for a man you can think of as a partner, rather than a project, and you’re much more likely to find long-term happiness.
You’re Repeating History With An Aim to Change It
Did you grow up in an atmosphere of abuse or neglect? Was your father cold or overly critical? Did your parents divorce, only you were certain they could have and should have worked things out? Was your mother constantly trying to please, but always falling short, not through lack of effort on her part, but because the man she was married to had unrealistic expectations?
Growing up with these kinds of role models often instills in women a need to recreate the disappointing environments in which they grew up in order to make things right.
But unfortunately, by attempting to heal a hurt that happened in the past, these women only recreate it in the present. Re-living a set of circumstances is no guarantee that you will be any better equipped to achieve success than your parents, especially in what is often a no-win situation. Cold, neglectful, abusive men are not going to become warm, forthcoming, and kind. It’s not in their nature.
What Can You Do?
Acknowledge your past. Understand where you came from and how you came to be the person you are. Then forgive and let it go. Yes, it’s easier said than done, but rather than trying to fix something broken that you had absolutely no control over, try to focus instead on building something strong and healthy, in which both partners have an equal say.
You Secretly Believe You Don’t Deserve to Be Happy
Everywhere you look you see other women who are living productive lives. They’re married to wonderful men, they have the kids they always wanted, and they’re living their dreams. You, on the other hand, are either stuck in a dead-end relationship, or are alone…again.
But your lack of a fulfilling love life isn’t something that surprises you, because you believe that any man who would really make a decent husband or boyfriend can do better than you. When you do date, it’s usually men that others might consider losers, but that’s because you either think it’s the best you can do, or that you’ve done something in your past that you think makes you undesirable or unworthy of true love.
What Can You Do?
The short answer is to get some counseling to discover the source of your lack of self-esteem, and begin to heal it. Loving and being loved isn’t an automatic given in anyone’s life, but thinking of yourself as undeserving is something that, with help, you can likely overcome, and loving yourself is the first step in being able to love and be loved by someone wonderful.
You’re “Getting Even” With Someone
Dating on the rebound can land you in all kinds of complications, and your romantic radar can take a major hit, especially if you’re the one that’s been dumped. All too often, in an effort to show an ex what they’re missing out on, women plunge into unhealthy relationships that are much easier to get into than get out of. However, “I’ll show him!” is not a healthy rationale for starting any subsequent relationship.
What Can You Do?
When a relationship ends, in many ways, it’s like a death. Give yourself time to mourn the loss. Give yourself space. If someone dumped you, you can either waste your time plotting to either get revenge or get him back, or you can try to learn from your experience. By forgiving your ex, forgiving yourself, and letting go, you’re actually making yourself a better candidate for the next love that comes along.
You’re In Denial
What do you mean my husband/boyfriend/lover isn’t good enough for me? Okay, so he’s cheated on me a few times, and he can’t hold down a job. Maybe he drinks a little too much, and he’s hit me once or twice, but he’s under so much stress, he really couldn’t help it… Really, he’s such a good man!
Are your friends, family and co-workers constantly concerned over your well-being, and either hint that something in your relationship is not as it should be, or just come straight out and tell you that your partner is bad news? You might rationalize that they’re just jealous of you, or that they simply don’t understand your situation, but if you find yourself repeatedly having to explain his bad behavior, it’s likely that there’s at least some truth to what they’re saying. Men who cheat, beat, or otherwise abuse a woman are not good men at all, and no amount of wishful thinking on your part is going to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.
What Can You Do?
In all honesty, this is a tough one. If one person tells you your man isn’t up to par, you should certainly reserve judgment, but if there’s a resounding chorus of concern from everyone who loves and cares for you, it’s time to wake up and smell the coffee. Perhaps in addition to denial, you’re stuck in one of the other scenarios above: You’re trying to heal an old hurt, or just don’t think you’re worthy of a wonderful man. Whatever the case, you must learn to put your emotional and physical health and safety first. Once you admit the truth, if you’re not able to get clear of an abusive relationship, you will in a much better frame of mind to ask for the help you need to extricate yourself.
If any of these situations sound like your current relationship, it’s probably time to get out. Don’t settle for a bad relationship with the wrong person–know that you’re worth more, and that only by getting yourself out of your current situation can you open yourself up to all of life’s possibilities.