What do you know that isn’t so?

by Annie Kaszina on September 4, 2007

This week I was struck by something a young friend friend
F. said. She said: “I know that my life
will always be hard. I’ll always have
bad relationships with men.” F., poor
soul, is young enough to believe there is something deeply romantic about
troubled relationships that end in heartbreak.

So is she right that she will always have bad
relationships with men? 

F. has grown up with grim role models; her father is
physically and emotionally abusive towards his wife. In the interests of self-preservation, like many other delightful
women, her mother has become a doormat. Where F. is and her siblings are concerned, her father is totally
controlling. There is, undeniably, a
real risk of F. repeating her mother’s pattern.

Her boyfriend is demanding, judgmental, careless of her
feelings and insensitive. He is also a good enough judge of F.’s character, not
to even bother to mask his worst characteristics during the early stages of
their relationship. He knows her
expectations are so low that he doesn’t even have to pretend to be ‘Mr Nice
Guy’. 

F. will accept whatever he dishes out, without question,
because he’s there, because he has
chosen her

So is she right that she will always have bad
relationships with men? 

The answer has to be: “Yes, and no.” For as long as she continues to mouth this
self-fulfilling prophecy, the chances are that she will be right. She can change the boyfriend in on another
one as many times as she likes. But she will still end up with the same lousy
relationship. (Does this sound
familiar, I wonder?)

Human beings are programmed to repeat learned
patterns. F. is programmed to fall over
herself backwards to please hurtful, controlling men.

But why is she programmed to repeat learned patterns? Why do any of us do it?

Learned patterns exert huge power over us because we
confuse ‘the way things are’ with the way life has to be. The only problem is that we get it
wrong. We look through the lens of an
abusive relationship, see an abusive world and deduce that what we see is all
there is. 

Denial plays a key role in this vision. F. knows that she will always have bad
relationships in the future, but would never, ever admit to herself that her
relationship with her father stinks, through no fault of her own. Her father is a past master of destructive
relationships.

Mark Twain famously said: “It ain’t what
you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that
just ain’t so.” F. knows for sure that
she will always have bad relationships. 

F. will never be free of her self-fulfilling prophecy
until she admits to herself that this relationship, from which she wants and
needs so much, is toxic. Until she is
willing to admit to herself that the toxic relationship in which she finds
herself is not her fault. 

I speak to women every week who know that they will
always love their abusive ex-partner. (And so they will, until the day they finally dare to ask
themselves: “Did I love the way he made me feel worthless? Did I love the way he humiliated me? Did I love the way he made me feel unsafe
all the time? Did I love being grateful
for the increasingly rare occasions when he made me feel remotely
lovable?”) 

You ladies out there who still believe that you
will always love him, trust me on this, YOU WILL NOT. You are not Whitney Houston! You will not always love him, not least because you probably don’t
actually love him now. We both know
he’s not worth it. You can try as you
may to see the potential in him that might make him worth it, he’ll keep on
showing you the dark side that is not worth another minute of your precious
life. 

It’s just that the hurt and the pain and all the
emotional energy you invested in him make for a very powerful tie. And we tend to assume that all powerful ties
must be love. 

My mother and my ex-husband are both mines of
misinformation. Both are blessed with
strong opinions about all manner of things. It matters not in the slightest that they may know nothing about what they
are talking about. They have always, to
my knowledge, confidently proffered their opinion as gospel. And I, poor sap, believed them. 

After my marriage ended I spent years eradicating
the big, damaging beliefs about relationships and myself that I had learned
from them. But I still find I have to
winkle out their little ‘truths’ (about Life, the Universe and Everything) that
I knew for sure, that just aren’t so. 

My question to you is this: what do you know
about relationships that just ain’t so that is getting, or keeping, you in
emotional difficulties? 

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