I asked myself this question over and over again when I was dating and trying desperately to find a man to marry. For years I was a magnet for men who weren’t good for me, men who were not the marrying kind. I couldn’t stop myself from dating them and getting involved in unfulfilling and unhealthy relationships. I felt like a victim, a walking target for men who were narcissistic, self-centered and cruel.
Then one day I had a wake-up call. I got involved with a particularly cold and aloof man. He acted charming when we were out socially, but when we alone he would become another person. I didn’t know there was this other side to him until it was too late. At first he acted like a gentlemen, he was very attentive to my needs and concerned about making me happy. But within a few months his real personality started to emerge, but by this time I was already “hooked in.” I didn’t realize that his treatment of me had changed the way I thought about myself. I got used to feeling unhappy and worthless around him.
He was sullen and uncommunicative, making it seem like his unhappiness was somehow my fault. I often got the silent treatment, and could not coax him out of his darkness. I was at a loss as I got sucked deeper and deeper into his dark world. A part of me knew that being in love is supposed to feel good, so I kept trying to make our relationship “work.” But I couldn’t do it by myself, it takes two, so I’d end up being dragged into his bad moods and negativity and I’d lose myself.
Fortunately, I had a good woman friend who finally took me out to dinner and challenged me to look at my life. She pointed out how much I had changed over the past months, so much so that I had to admit it was true. This is what she observed about me:
• I stopped being social
• I had no time for my friends
• I was always tense
• I seemed perpetually distracted
• I seemed sad
She reminded me that life was too short to be stuck in a miserable relationship with a cold and heartless man. This woke me up and after going through a lot of angst and self-doubt, I broke up with him. It was hard for me, but he didn’t seem to care that much -- more validation that I was doing the right thing.
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