Different kinds of bad relationships

by Annie Kaszina on September 14, 2010

Wouldn’t
it be nice if we only had to experience being ill-treated by one man, and we
learned from it never to make certain mistakes again?

For
most of us, the reality is slightly different.  We learn that a certain kind of man
treated us badly, in a certain
kind of way
, and we resolve never to make that mistake again. 

Sadly,
we don’t think that we could be vulnerable to different, but equally
calamitous, mistakes.  That
is precisely why we repeat them.

Last
week I was talking with a dear friend, someone I've known for 13+
years.  When I first knew
her, she was in a relationship with a self-important womanizer, who thought the
world revolved around him.  He
took it as his due that someone as nice as my friend should put her life on
hold to service him.  And he
treated her like the proverbial doormat.

Eventually,
she broke free.  In time she
found another partner who, unlike his predecessor, talked about his feelings,
fell head over heels in love from the get go, and whisked her off on a
transatlantic flight, to his castle in a foreign land.

And
there the fairy tale took a sharp nose dive. 

Not
that it had been perfect from Day 1.  Anything
but.  There had been red
flags from the very first encounter with Prince Nauseatingly Charming.  But she had not paid sufficient attention to
them.

Why
had she overlooked those red flags – which she had registered?

Because
she was focused on a different kind of bad:
 the kind of bad she already knew. The kind of bad she
had already experienced.

When
I first met my friend, we were both training in an alternative therapy.  On most alternative therapy trainings
– in the UK, at least – most of the students are women.  But, on this one, there was a man in
his twenties who affected cynicism and world-weariness. (Underneath that
façade, he was a very sweet, and vulnerable, guy.)  Guy (not his real name) had a
favourite saying that he used to describe life’s little – or not so little –
reverses. Shrugging his shoulders, he would say:

“Same
old sh*t, different wrapper!”

How
many of us have focused on the wrapper, rather than on what it holds?

Judging
by the number of abused women I have spoken to, who have settled, next time
around, for a different kind of bad, far too many of us have done just
that. 

When
I look back on my own relationship choices, my first semi-serious relationship
was with someone I instinctively sensed had the capacity to grow
into an accomplished abuser, given
the right opportunity.  
I
danced away before that opportunity presented itself.

I
spent the next couple of years going on a load of dates, without becoming
remotely serious about anyone.

In
that time, I didn’t learn much about myself, relationships, or how to choose a
good partner.
  You see, I didn’t even know that there
were things that I needed to learn in order to safeguard myself.

And
so, the inevitable happened.  Someone
came along brandishing a few fine red flags, but he wooed me quickly… And I focused my
wariness on the wrapper – which was quite different: different profession,
different nationality, different way of presenting, but…

As
you’ve doubtless guessed:

Same
old… flavour:

Abusive
man.  And this time, instead
of dancing away, I danced right into his clutches, where I learned a great deal
of what I now know about the way abusive men behave.

So,
how do you ensure that you don’t fall for the same old sh*t, different
wrapper, ever again?

You learn
how to recognise an abusive man, and you 
react appropriately, before he propels your life, at top
speed, up a blind alley.
  You
can do this on your own, if you are still prepared to learn the hard way; or
else you could get the targeted help you need to protect you from future nasty
surprises.

If you're still struggling to decide whether or not your partner – or ex-partner
– was abusive, these words from “How Not To Marry The Wrong Guy” may
help.  If someone were to
ask you what you love about your partner, could
you answer like this:

“My… [partner] is honest, genuine, considerate, selfless,
humble, and a great partner. These qualities benefit our marriage
tremendously.  In creating a
good nurturing relationship, these qualities are essential.  I value the person he is, and I try to
be the best I can be in return.”

How
Not To Marry The Wrong Guy
”, by Anne Milford and Jennifer Gauvain, is an
invaluable guide to how to spot and avoid the wrong guy; and recognize the
right one.  This is the book
that every abused woman, including me, wishes they had had as a much thumbed
reference work, before they let themselves be railroaded up that blind alley.

 

  

 

 

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