My client *Annie has been seeing someone for about six months. If you’re imagining a hot romance, think again. The person she sees once a week is a warm, loving therapist. *Lisa is helping Annie get over an abusive ex-boyfriend.
Well, boyfriend is a bit of a stretch. Annie may have been in love with *Joe, but Mr. Hot and Cold was not in love with her. He sent her sexy texts and slept with her when she came to his place, but hardly ever made the 40-minute trek to see her. He bought himself $600 suits, but refused to pay for coffee or a movie. And Annie kept coming back for more.
They dated on and off for over a year. To complicate matters, they were co-workers. What began as a flirtation on an online dating site ended up causing Annie considerable emotional damage. Two years later, she’s still ruminating about why he broke her heart. She spends her evenings stalking his online dating profile. Her anxiety has led to a dependency on sleep medications.
How much is your relationship costing you?
When a person needs to heal from trauma from their past or any form of psychological dysfunction such as addiction, I recommend that they see a therapist, often while continuing to coach with me. Annie’s obsession with her ex is a form of addiction. That, combined with the negative experiences she’s had with most men in her life (including her father), are holding her back from opening her heart to a healthy loving man, someone who will treat her with the respect she deserves.
In our last coaching session, we were discussing how much this guy has cost her – emotionally, physically, and literally – specifically in regard to the high price of therapy and medication for her anxiety, depression, and insomnia.
“If he only knew how much you’ve spent on him!” I said. “All he did was take you to dinner. On second thought, he didn’t even pay for your dinner! He asked you to split the bill! And now you’re “taking him” to therapy every week. Think about it; isn’t he in the room with us right now? How much more time and money do you want to spend on this toxic man?”
I understand Annie’s addiction to bad boys. I’ve been where she is now. In my past, I attracted a number of men into my life who treated me poorly, men with whom I felt insecure and unsure of where I stood in the relationship.
*Don came into my life when I was very numb, when my marriage was nearing its end. We played guitar together, went for long walks, and shared our deepest thoughts. I felt seen and heard for the first time in decades. I was convinced he was my soul mate. I believed all his sad stories about how he didn’t love his wife, but could never have the heart to leave her. She didn’t understand him like I did. Yada yada yada.
Luckily, I came to my senses and stopped the relationship before it became an affair. With therapy and journaling, I slowly worked through my addiction to Don. The turning point for me came when a good friend interrupted my obsessive chatter about Don. “Enough already!” she said. “You need to stop!” While it stung in the moment, I now thank her for that wake up call. He was not my soul mate. He was a narcissist who took advantage of a vulnerable woman who was craving attention and connection she lacked in her marriage.
Warning signs that you’re dating a selfish emotionally abusive man
If you’re dating a charmer like Annie and I did, ask yourself:
- How is he treating me? (Does he call me often? Does he ask about me when he calls or just talk about himself?)
- Do I feel secure and safe in this relationship? (Are his actions consistent with his words? Do I trust him?)
- Do I feel valued when I’m with him? (Does he respect me? Does he treat me with kindness?)
If you’re feeling unclear about where you stand and how much your man values you, he is not your boyfriend. He’s a player, and your life is better off without him. No matter how great the chemistry is, no matter how mind-blowing the sex is, even if you’re in love with him, the bottom line is this man is toxic. You have one good choice to make: leave him and find someone who values you more.
Start with knowing your own value. Because men will only treat you badly if you allow it. If you stop tolerating abuse (from anyone – a coworker, your boss, your kids, your ex), you’ll begin to attract better men into your life.
Next time you’re in a relationship, think about the price you might be paying to stay. Sure, he may be treating you to dinners now, but do you want to pay the high price of working out your boyfriend issues in therapy later? Will you leave now to make room for someone who values you? Do you want to be with a man who makes you feel loved, or do you want to keep guessing, worrying, and feeling insecure?
You might not be as lucky as I was and have a friend courageous enough to tell you the truth. As your dating coach, I can be that voice of tough love. I can be the one who says, “Enough already!” And I can teach you the skills you need to choose the man you deserve.
*All names have been changed for privacy.
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