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Why do some women keep picking bad men?

(49 Posts)
MissJayTea Mon 24-Sep-12 10:00:55

My 2nd marriage has jyst ended because of H's abusive behaviour towards me. My first marriage also ended because of abuse.

Every single relationship I have had since the age of 15 has been abusive.

I have been punched, strangled, emotionally abused and sexually assaulted.

I plan to stay away from relationships from now on because I just can't trust my own judgement.

What is wrong with me?

AnastasiaSteele Mon 24-Sep-12 10:05:16

It's nothing wrong with YOU. It's the fact that something has happened to you in the past to destroy your self esteem etc and make you vulnerable to abusive twunts. Said twunts seize the opportunity to take advantage of it.

I've had healthy relationships, I've had abusive ones.

I'm really sorry you've had such an awful time of it. There are good people out there.

From what I've read on here, taking some time out from relationships, having counselling etc are good to reset your hardwiring.

Well done on getting out of abusive relationships - that shows you are really strong, it's so hard to do <voice of bitter experience>

CogitoErgoSometimes Mon 24-Sep-12 10:07:16

Nothing is 'wrong' with you except that you clearly find the same traits attractive in men. I'm sure, when you met all of these people, they were not punching and strangling. I'm sure they were on best behaviour to start with. Ask yourself what positive qualities drew you in at the beginning and see if there's anything in common. In my own experience, when I was attracted to a bit of a git (not violent) I realised later that it was his recklessness & arrogance that first appealed. I've since learned to avoid reckless, arrogant types!

Good idea to stay away from relationships for a while. Make friends with lots of different types of men rather than thinking of them as partners. Put yourself first for a good long time and then you'll be less willing to give up your independence.

MissJayTea Mon 24-Sep-12 10:08:33

My GP has referred me for counselling which I do think will be beneficial.

You're right about my self esteem. It's about as low as it can get.
I know I'm doing the right thing by just taking time to concentrate on my dc and myself but it's really hard. My head is absolutely battered.

HotDAMNlifeisgood Mon 24-Sep-12 10:11:01

Use your relationship hiatus to do some examining of your own fears and needs (with a therapist, ideally).

Doing the Freedom Programme would also be useful (free, for women who have been ina pattern of abusive relationships: helps you recognise the signs and avoid the same mistakes).

Short answer of why you are in this pattern is, in most cases: low self-esteem, and family dysfunction of some kind during your childhood that you imprinted and are repeating in your own adult relationships.

It doesn't have to remain this way, but some soul-searching first will be required.

MissJayTea Mon 24-Sep-12 10:11:03

For the first 5 years of my 2nd marriage I thought my h was the perfect man. So did all my family and friends. Yet several times at night I woke to find him sexually assaulting me. How could I not see how bad that was? It's like I just denied it happened in my head.

HotDAMNlifeisgood Mon 24-Sep-12 10:12:03

x-post. Great that you have been referred.

Doing the Freedom Programme while you wait for your counselling to start could really be a usefuland concrete first step.

MissJayTea Mon 24-Sep-12 10:12:36

HotDamn you are spot on.

My mother was very emotionally abusive to me. I actually cut ties with her several months ago.

MissJayTea Mon 24-Sep-12 10:14:11

I will look into the freedom programme.

This might sound strange but I feel like I need to say out loud that my h raped me. I need to properl acknowledge it.

HotDAMNlifeisgood Mon 24-Sep-12 10:15:30

Yes, that was denial. Denial is a protective mechanism, where we don't accept how bad things are because we can't cope with the implications of it yet.

It's a common reaction, don't beat yourself up about it.

Just take the time to ask yourself why, at that point in your life you would have found it possible (and preferable) to deny that abuse was happening, rather than to admit to yourself that you were being abused.

EdMcDunnough Mon 24-Sep-12 10:15:37

I don't know the answer but I have been through this too. I seem to think someone is great and then find out that they are actually a total git.

often they are good at pretending, but the clues are there, and I always seem to think, oh how sweet, he's never learnt any better - he's harmless even if he tells lies/drinks and gets stupid/doesn't understand me.

And then I find out that it does matter, a lot, if he does these things, and by then sometimes it's too late.

Also I found the longer I held out against people who reminded me of past mistakes, (which is good - I'm learning something) the more desperate I became so if someone then turned up who wasn't obviously bad in the same way, I'd be a right sucker for them.

I do tend to leave as soon as I notice the signs, but I don't always notice them soon enough.

Lottapianos Mon 24-Sep-12 10:16:27

Counselling OP. Counselling and time away from romantic relationships, but putting much more emphasis on other relationships in your life - friendships and family, as appropriate for you. I relate to your feelings of poor judgement and low self-esteem. I have been seeing a psychotherapist for a long time and I have come to realise that I experienced a lot of emotional abuse in my childhood, and used to seek out the same sort of treatment in adult relationships. It has been very painful but a revelation and has helped me feel much more in control of my life.

I haven't done the Freedom program myself but have heard great things about it. A lot of these men do have traits in common and there are definite 'red flags' at the start of relationships which should make you run for the hills, but without this information it's easy to just drift along with all the good stuff at the start.

Well done on getting out of your previous relationships - it takes guts. This is time to concentrate on you and what makes you happy. Good luck.

CogitoErgoSometimes Mon 24-Sep-12 10:17:09

You are doing the right thing. When you have a 'battered head' and low self-esteem it's difficult to treat yourself kindly but that's really all you have to do from now on. Value yourself higher than anyone else you come into contact with and put yourself top priority in your own life. When you are selfish about your needs and refuse to compromise it makes it that bit more difficult for anyone else to have power over you. You may have to develop a thicker skin and a harder heart in order to do it but it'll be worth it in the long-run. Good luck

HotDAMNlifeisgood Mon 24-Sep-12 10:17:25

You are clearly doing very well: acknowledging the rapes, acknowledging your mother's abusiveness, and taking action to remove that from your life (by cutting contact) AND heal yourself (by asking for a referral for therapy).

You can be proud of yourself.

AnastasiaSteele Mon 24-Sep-12 10:17:45

MissJayTea - I also have an EA mother and identified this as a root cause of my ishoos and have cut contact.

The therapy will be good for you, it can be hard work at first but once you get through the upset, it is really good to understand yourself. A few other friendships have had to be let go too though because I realised some so called friends were also capitalising on my nature.

Freedom Programme sounds good - I've read the book and it was really useful.

Lottapianos Mon 24-Sep-12 10:18:50

'Value yourself higher than anyone else you come into contact with and put yourself top priority in your own life'

Absolutely. This should be your main goal. I used to struggle to even tolerate the idea of putting myself first but with practice it gets easier and it feels so much better than being everybody's doormat.

LizLemon007 Mon 24-Sep-12 10:25:54

I stayed away from men for a long time after the breakdown of last relationship. I found it felt incredibly intrusive or something, confused to be treated well. I found it so unsettling. I almost panicked and ended it with a man who rang when he said he would, always made the effort to see things from my pov, was kind, thoughtful, good humoured...... it's very hard to explain but I just felt like he was trying to get right into my emotions, like read me like I was a book or something. I think it's so much more RAW to have somebody be so nice to you than to have somebody be awful to you.

I wonder is there a proper term for this? I can't be the only one to have felt like this. Only that I had some psychotherapy under my belt I managed to ride out the panic and get used to somebody being nice to me and respecting me!! I am used to it now OP, so don't lose faith.

wrt judgement, i think i knew deep down when i met my awful x that he was not a great guy but sadly i seemed to just stumble forward on autopilot because on one level it felt confused 'right'.

good luck

MissJayTea Mon 24-Sep-12 10:26:32

I think I was in denial about the abuse because at the time I was very depressed and felt like I couldn't cope without him so him my head he was still the perfect man who just slipped up from time to time. I really thought he couldn't help the way he was. I made so many excuses for him and it's only now I see that he alone is responsible for his actions.

Putting myself first seems like such an alien concept. I feel that my only purpose is to take care of my children. That is all I am. The rest if me died long ago.

akaemmafrost Mon 24-Sep-12 10:28:59

I was the same as you. I think it was what I saw and experienced growing up. Stay on MN seriously, it's saved me £1000's in counselling fees!

Now I am happy to be single, I tried again earlier this year and definitely felt myself going down the same path again so am resolute to stay single for longer. Need to reset your internal compass.

Lottapianos Mon 24-Sep-12 10:31:39

'Putting myself first seems like such an alien concept'

It really did for me too, I was quite horrified by it. Think of it this way - if you are not happy, contented, satisfied with your life, if you're not having your own emotional needs met, how can you take care of anyone else? You are a person as well as a mother and you really do need to take care of yourself - you're not a robot, you do have needs of your own and that is ok. It really is ok to need things for yourself and to expect to get them.

Personally speaking, there is no way I could have found the courage to change my thoughts the way I have done by myself, I would never have managed it without my therapist's support. You're having to undo decades worth of conditioning and it's very painful and takes a long time and having someone who is outside of your life support you with that is invaluable. I can't recommend counselling enough.

How very sad that so many of us on this thread have experienced emotional abuse at the hands of our own mothers sad

akaemmafrost Mon 24-Sep-12 10:37:21

I remember saying to my ex "I am as important as anyone else in this family" he was practically foaming with rage hissing at me "no you're not! No you are f*cking not! You are a Mum now, you come last, put your kids first". Of course what he really meant was "I come first, then the kids, then the dog, then YOU, Emma".

I remember feeling so empowered by that sentence "I am as important as anyone else in this family". But it took me till my late thirties to say it and believe it was actually true both in my family and other areas in life.

My boundaries were totally screwed, my Mum was hitting and beating me till I was 19. You can't develop healthy boundaries when someone is crossing them in such an extreme way throughout your childhood.

CogitoErgoSometimes Mon 24-Sep-12 10:39:46

"I feel that my only purpose is to take care of my children. That is all I am"

It's part of what you are but it's not the whole of you. I suppose if you've been in bad relationships since age 15 you've never really got to know what kind of person you are as an adult. Doesn't mean that person is dead... far from it.... more a case of arrested development. What - besides your children -makes you happy? What do you do in your spare time? What qualities in other people do you admire and how could you replicate those? What are you passionate about?

If you struggle to answer any of those questions, now is the perfect time to find out. Maybe not immediately if you're feeling delicate but how about asking others what they like about you and what they think your strengths are? Sometimes others see the bits of ourselves that we've spent too long ignoring.

LizLemon007 Mon 24-Sep-12 10:40:57

Aka, emmafrost, I didn't have the exact conversation with my x, but I remember asking (over and over again_) why every single sacrifice for parenthood had to be mine ??? he seemed to see this as the correct equilibrium. Proper order in fact. iT Made him angry that I challenged it.

I wish I had said those words to my x "i am just as important as you". But I guess I felt I wasn't, because he had the money and the power and the bigger fist.

akaemmafrost Mon 24-Sep-12 10:48:27

It took me a LONG time to say it or even feel it Liz it was a lightbulb moment and it came directly from MN. I posted about him and had hundreds of women (and a few men grin) utterly outraged on my behalf. That opened my eyes I can tell you. I had actually minimised his behaviour in the thread too because I kind of thought it was MY fault. I had a MNetter who told her dh who was a solicitor and he offered to meet with me and give me legal advice, that's how bad they thought things were, just from one thread.

akaemmafrost Mon 24-Sep-12 10:50:18

As for why did every sacrifice have to be yours? I asked my ex the same and he said "only one of our lives had to change when we had a baby and it's not going to be mine!" sad.

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