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I repeatedly get into relationships with men who are abusive - I'm so confused. What am I doing wrong?

heart to heart The questioner's philosophy
I live day to day I want to believe in a higher power but some of the things I go through, I just don't know.
The questioner's hopes and aspirations
I hope that one day I can find the person that loves me as much as I love them and that I can be the best mother I can for my two children.
I just got out of a bad relationship with my ex-husband. He started doing drugs and stealing money - I was just going down hill fast with him. I met this guy at my dad's house. We started talking. It was love at first sight. Everything was great I had my house he had his we were so in love. Then about a month after we were together he told me that he loved me and that he wanted me to move in with him. I was hesitant at first but of course I moved in anyway. He gave me all the qualities I had seen in my husband when we were together.

After about two months of us living together I found out that he had cheated on me with some girl that lived with his mother. That raised up some flags and I wanted to leave then but of course something had to happen - I found out that I was 8 weeks pregnant. I told him and he was so excited he was going to have a baby with the one he wanted to spend the rest of his life with. At least that's what he said at the time.

Our relationship was great again for about another 4 months. I was about 5 months pregnant then that's when it all went down hill again. He started to hit me so I guess it was worse than ever, but I didn't care - I was having his child, I have to make this work, is what I was thinking in my head. In September of last year I had our son. He is great, healthy and more than anything I can ask for. But his father has left me after everything that I have taken, all the hitting, fighting, everything, he leaves me for our babysitter. How could he just leave me like that? How can he let our love go like this? What did I do wrong?

He doesn't even come to see his son anymore. I want him back. I just don't know how to show him how much he means to me, because every time I talk to him he always says that we can be friends and he tells me that he still loves me. I'm just so confused - I don't know what to do or say to him anymore. I really love him and I don't want to lose him. I will do just about anything to have him back in our lives.

Wallace's reply
You haven't done anything wrong but you do have a misguided understanding of relationships. Counselors use a term to describe the types of relationships you are engaged in - it's called codependency. In a codependent relationship the partner attempts to find fulfillment by pleasing the other person and being reticent about asserting their own needs. They seek their sense of self worth through their relationship with the other person. This sets up a vicious circle in the relationship of pleasing the other at all times, not having your own needs met and being devastated when the, by now dysfunctional relationship, falls apart.

It is vitally important that you refrain from having any more romantic relationships and instead focus on raising your two children and healing yourself of your tendency to have these dysfunctional relationships. There will come a day when you can have a successful romantic relationship with a man, but I must tell you that that day is some way off and you have a lot of healing work to do on yourself first.

How can I be so confident you have a codependent relationship with this man? Look at the evidence in your question.

  1. You went from ending your dysfunctional relationship with your husband straight into another equally dysfunctional relationship. Why did you not take time out to reflect and learn from this unfortunate experience? Because you were desperate for another relationship - you felt your sense of self worth was depended on having a relationship with a man. You were weakened and emotionally vulnerable and this new man took advantage of your vulnerability and you felt (wrongly) that it was "love at first sight."

  2. You were hesitant about moving in with him after only a few months dating yet despite that you say, "but of course I moved in anyway." Why did you not listen to your hesitancy, it was coming from your Higher Self, your Spiritual Self that sends you inner guidance and knows how to protect you from harm. You say you don't know of a Higher Power because of some of the things you go through. Your Higher Power was, through your hesitancy, prompting you not to move in with this man and you ignored it because you were dependent on your relationship with this man for your self worth!

  3. This man says he loved you while at the same time he was hitting and abusing you. Is that love? Why did you put up with it? I know you had a child by him but do you think the child's interests would be served by being with a man who physically abuses his/her mother? Who would he hit next - probably the child. The reason you stayed with this man, even when he was beating you, is because you were dependent on your relationship with him for your self worth.

  4. Not only did you stay with him but when he left you, instead of rejoicing you say "I will do just about anything to have him back in our lives." Why would you want an abuser in your life? Because you are dependent on him for your sense of self worth.
We cannot find our sense of self worth in relationships with other people unless we have first found it within ourselves. To nurture personal self worth we must first establish and nurture a relationship with our Higher Self. Along with raising your two children, this is your task now. I strongly suggest you join a 12 step program for people prone to codependent relationships. You will probably find one near where you live. Look up local community notice boards, search on the web and ask around to find one nearby. Attending these meetings costs practically nothing and you will make friends and be able to receive support and inspiration from others who are further down the road of recovery. If there is no such group in your area then I strongly suggest you begin a program of counseling. You can often find these subsidized in some form and available locally as well.

By joining a 12 step program or receiving a program of counseling, you will begin a long slow healing journey that will prepare you for having a healthy romantic relationship with a wonderful man. When that happens you will be able to fulfill your dream of finding the person who loves you as much as you love them. But this will be some time in the future and cannot be an immediate prospect.

Further Help and Resources
To learn more about codependency I suggest you visit All About Counseling. This is a counseling website that describes codependency and helps you understand it.

If you want to learn how to nurture your relationship with your Higher Self and through that relationship find your sense of self worth and be protected from harm, I suggest you order my book, Unfold Your Wings and Watch Life Take Off.

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