I have a great fear of being attracted to men who are like my ex-husband. I have been separated now almost three years and hope to be divorced very soon. There will never be a reconciliation. He is a man who plays mind games and is obsessed with hunting, drinking and pornography—not to mention many affairs—and verbal and physical abuse. I know what I want, but at the same time, I’m very afraid of never finding it. I need someone who above all I can respect. I am searching for someone who is professional and well respected-someone who respects himself as well as others. I sincerely hope that you will be able to give me some help. I would truly like to know what you think.
With Aloha · Eve Hogan
I empathize with your fear and appreciate your desire to create a different, healthier relationship.
The catch here is that you are looking outside of yourself for the solution (the kind of man you date), which is only a half, of the problem, if that. As long as you are looking at the kind of men as the problem and the solution, you stand a good chance of creating another situation in which you feel powerless and like a victim.
People only treat us the way we let them. The real challenge that you face is empowering yourself to the extent that you will not, under any circumstances, allow that kind of treatment in your life again. This requires building your self-esteem and self-respect to the point that you realize that you are powerful and deserving of a healthy relationship. As you build your self-esteem, you will discover that there is no space for an abusive man in your life or heart. When you shift, the kind of men you attract will shift... not vice versa.
Issues such as you describe in your past relationship are symptoms of the ego’s need for approval or control. I would like to invite you to consider that you have a need for approval, and thus you are constantly attracting men with a need for control. (Control freaks!) As you transcend your ego’s need for approval (your weak, insecure self), and rather, align with your strong, centered self, you will stop attracting—and keeping—controllers.
All of us tend to operate from either a primary need for control, or a primary need for approval. We then tend to attract the opposite of whichever need we have. This is a dysfunctional situation, but excruciatingly common. Our power does not lie in trying to change the way other people are, but rather in changing the way we are. When we change ourselves, others change in relationship to us. If we no longer accept abuse, they either have to stop being abusive or the relationship has to end.
Thus, the transition to choosing healthy partners begins with being a healthy, esteemed person. I know this isn’t the easy answer you were likely hoping for, but it is a powerful reality.
With that said, paying attention as we are choosing the partners is also important. Watch for the “little red flags.” When we look back on our relationships we can usually see what the signs were right in front of us from the beginning. What we need to do is get adept at recognizing those signs up front. Pay attention!
Then, when you see the signs (of control, abuse, disrespect) in someone else, first stop and ask yourself what you need to shift in yourself so that you don’t encounter or evoke that behavior anymore. It may be that you need to establish your boundaries and clearly communicate your needs more effectively. It may be that you need to be more respectful of yourself or him, or it may be that you have to get out of the relationship.
People don’t generally change when we ask them to, but they do change in response to us. When we change the way we respond to them, they change the way they respond to us.
I wish you the best!
Intellectual Foreplay Question of the Week:
How do you let others treat you?
Love Tip of the Week:
Relationships require a lot of negotiating and compromise, however the one area that should never be compromised is self-respect.