Posts Tagged ‘unhealthy relationships’

How to Crazy-Proof Yourself After Breaking Up with an Abusive Woman

There’s a new article on that explains how to break the pattern of dating and/or becoming involved with crazy and abusive women by learning how to Crazy-Proof your romantic life in 10 steps.

Here’s the link:

How to Crazy-Proof Yourself After Breaking Up with or Divorcing an Abusive Girlfriend or Wife, Part 1

Shrink4Men Coaching and Consulting Services:

Dr Tara J. Palmatier provides confidential, fee-for-service, consultation/coaching services to help both men and women work through their relationship issues via telephone and/or Skype chat. Her practice combines practical advice, support, reality testing and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Shrink4Men Services page for professional inquiries.

Healthy Self-Love: The Foundation of Good Relationships

You can’t love anyone else until you love yourself. . .” Everyone knows this platitude. Self-help “gurus” and therapists regurgitate it as a mindless mantra ad nauseum.

I don’t know its exact origin, but whoever first uttered the phrase confused things terribly. Accepting and loving yourself is a precondition to being in a healthy, reciprocal relationship. However, the oft-recited advice has it backwards: Before you can LET YOURSELF BE LOVED by another, you must first accept and love yourself. If you’re not capable of receiving love, you will attract and be attracted to others who will give you anything but love.

There are men and women who have no trouble chasing after quarry; “loving” them without rhyme or reason, only to have their feelings rejected. These are usually the same people who run in the opposite direction when they’re offered real affection by another person. When they have a chance at a real relationship and love, they’re uninterested for a variety of reasons.

If you believe the cliché, “You can’t love anyone else until you love yourself,” then there should be no pursuit of a love interest until you learn to love yourself. If you’re attracted to others who can’t love you in return, you’ll begin a futile cycle of pursuit and distancing behaviors. Think of it as “mutually assured unhappiness.”

This pattern of behavior typically reinforces your inner and oftentimes unacknowledged feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy. In other words, you seek intimacy and love from others who either can’t tolerate or aren’t capable of intimacy and love, which confirms your faulty beliefs about being undeserving or having to work for love.

The end result: When you’re lucky enough to meet someone who sees your positive qualities (that you can’t or won’t see in yourself) and who offers you affection and acceptance; you push her or him away. You devise many reasons and excuses why the other person isn’t “the one.” Typical excuses include:

  • The other person is nice, funny and smart, but there’s some missing ephemeral quality you can’t quite articulate. (Like a proclivity to be rejecting and/or abusive, perhaps?)
  • You’re just not feeling “it.”
  • You only date a specific “type.” (e.g., abusive).
  • He or she is “too nice.” (Isn’t that what we all claim to be looking for?)
  • He or she is “boring.” (This is usually because the thrill of having a corrective emotional experience with an abusive personality who reminds you of mom, dad or some other early formative relationship is missing and you don’t have to work for or prove yourself worthy of love).
  • There’s no “chemistry.” (Mind you, the only “chemistry” you’re likely to feel is with someone who isn’t interested in you, has their own intimacy issues and keeps you at arm’s length and/or an abusive personality).

Buying into the above excuses are how many men and women end up in relationships with narcissists, borderlines and other abusive personality types. These excuses enable you to reject people who are capable of love and who would accept you as you are.

“Loving” someone else is easy enough, especially since people who languish in this position tend to idealize those whom they “love”—at first. If you’re caught in this pattern, you may tend to have an unrealistic, highly selective vision of the other person—until one of their flaws are exposed and then your “love” disappears as soon as you realize the other person isn’t “perfect.” Alternatively, if you’re attracted to abusive personalities, you probably minimize, rationalize or ignore their hurtful and abusive behaviors and tell yourself you need to “work harder” to win their love.

How do you begin to love and accept yourself?

First, you must acknowledge and wrestle with your inner daemons. Explore your faulty relationship beliefs, for example, the belief that you’re unworthy or undeserving of love. Figure out where these beliefs come from, challenge them, lay them to rest and adopt healthier beliefs.

Second, you must accept that you’re not perfect, will never be perfect, but that doesn’t make you unlovable and unworthy. “Perfection,” if there is such a thing, has nothing to do with peace and wholeness. If you can’t tolerate your own imperfections, you won’t be able to tolerate them in another person. Others will always fall short and you will reject them. Alternatively, you will accept hurtful behavior from others because you’re not “perfect” and on some level believe you deserve to be treated badly

Third, you must develop the ability to hold and sit with the discomfort and strangeness of the new and unfamiliar, such as being with a kind, loving person who accepts you warts and all. Being with a woman or man who is capable of returning love and values you—including your imperfect parts—will initially feel really strange and uncomfortable. At first, you might feel the urge to flee or push away. You need to ride out any feelings of discomfort until feeling good in a relationship feels normal and feeling bad feels strange and uncomfortable. It will be a big change from your previous relationships. Remember, if change felt the same as what you’re accustomed to, it wouldn’t be change. (Repeat the last sentence to yourself a few times.)

Fourth, you need to be able to tell the difference between forgivable imperfections and abuse in all its forms: covert, overt, emotional, physical, psychological and financial. For example, leaving the toilet seat up, talking too much or difficulty expressing emotions are forgivable “imperfections.” Abuse is unforgivable—at least while it’s active and ongoing. Loving yourself also means creating boundaries and not accepting bad, hurtful, crazy and abusive treatment from others.

The fear of being loved is related to the fear of being “discovered;” of having your vulnerabilities and those aspects you don’t like about yourself exposed to another. This is fundamentally silly because we all have things we wish were different or better about ourselves. It’s the fear that he or she won’t love you if they find out how “horrible” you think you are. At heart, this is what causes narcissists, borderlines, bullies and other abusive personalities to lash out and try to control others and it’s what causes you to be the target of these emotional predators.

Having a healthy and happy relationship begins with you loving, accepting and forgiving yourself. Once you cultivate love and acceptance of yourself and let go of old, counterproductive relationship beliefs, you’ll be surprised how good being in a relationship can be.

Shrink4Men Coaching and Consultation Services:

Dr Tara J. Palmatier provides confidential, fee-for-service, consultation/coaching services to help both men and women work through their relationship issues via telephone and/or Skype chat. Her practice combines practical advice, support, reality testing and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Shrink4Men Services page for professional inquiries.


If you find the information I provide free of charge helpful and valuable here on Shrink4Men, please consider making a donation via PayPal to help me maintain the site.

Photo credit:

Self-love by fernando’s_graphicos on flickr.

Are You Stuck in an Unhealthy Relationship Pattern? Part Three

clones_1This is part two of Are You Stuck in an Unhealthy Relationship Pattern? and Are You Stuck in an Unhealthy Relationship Pattern? Part Two. The last post examined how self-doubt and fears contribute to unhealthy relationship patterns, but that’s not all.

Preferred “problem-solving” techniques that you default to when things go awry in your relationships also contribute to a dissatisfying relationship pattern. You may not even be aware of how you typically respond when things go wrong. Oftentimes, these techniques worked in the past, but are  probably keeping you from having the kind of relationship you want now. More often than not, they’re a form of avoidance or digging in your heels and doing the same thing even harder that didn’t work the first time.

For example, do you:

  • Hang in there no matter bad it gets?
  • Focus on your partner’s positive qualities and try to remember only the good times as things get worse and worse?
  • Focus on how good the sex is and ignore the problems?
  • Ignore the problems until you’re forced to deal with them?
  • Try to work around the problems?
  • Keep giving it your all and remain hopeful despite all signs to the contrary?
  • Try to be patient and loving while you receive nothing in return?
  • Try to fix your partner’s problems?
  • Try to be forgiving and understanding despite your partner hurting you repeatedly?
  • Avoid confrontations?
  • Deny there are any problems?
  • Defend your partner’s behaviors to others?
  • Make excuses for your partner?
  • Give up on the relationship before trying to fix anything?

Some of these techniques may still be effective in specific situations from time to time; however, it’s better to use them judiciously because they’re probably doing you more harm than good. Many of these strategies are a form of “magical thinking.” By relying on them, you avoid dealing with the reality of the situation and never fully develop a good healthy mutual dialogue about difficulties.

These behaviors are primarily avoidance techniques. Ultimately, they only serve  to undermine your chances of a satisfying relationship because they’re really just ways of beating yourself up and ignoring your needs and right to be treated well. If you consistently take the blame for everything in your relationship to avoid confrontation because you fear it will lead to a break-up, you need to consider the quality of the relationship and whether your partner actually values you.

The fear of opening yourself up, being taken advantage of or rejected also add to a dissatisfying relationship pattern. Whenever you doubt yourself or are afraid of being hurt, you may approach relationships in an unproductive manner, which guarantees the outcome you most fear. For example, a woman is afraid the man she began dating will reject her and break her heart. Without realizing what she’s doing, she begins to push him away and acts distant. As a result, the man doesn’t think she’s interested and stops calling her.

Consider if you have any self-defeating behaviors that you engage in when you’re feeling vulnerable, fear that a potential partner may reject you or worry that your relationship is ending. At these times, do you have a pattern of:

  • Trying to rescue or save your partner?
  • Putting more into your relationships than you get out of them?
  • Pursuing the other person while he or she acts in ways that create distance?
  • Not expressing your feelings or needs to your partner or potential partner?
  • Pushing people away who try to get close to you?
  • Feeling like you can’t live without the other person?
  • Becoming dependent and clingy?
  • Becoming cold and distant?
  • Becoming angry when your partner doesn’t respond or behave the way you want?
  • Becoming upset if you don’t get your way or feel like you’re being ignored?
  • Censoring yourself and freezing up?

Consider if your choice in romantic partners is based on past relationships and subsequent faulty beliefs, fears and self-defeating behaviors. If so, it’s probably contributing to the difficulty you have establishing and maintaining a healthy relationship. It’s natural to want a satisfying intimate relationship. However, when you seek intimacy from individuals who aren’t capable of reciprocating due to your earlier relationship programming, you end up following the same pattern without questioning the futility of it. You would spare yourself a lot of pain and disappointment if you start to challenge your beliefs and fears and make different choices instead.

For example, let’s say you want some bananas, but instead of going to the supermarket, you go to the hardware store. You go back to the hardware store everyday and each time you’re surprised that they still don’t have any bananas. It’s ok to want bananas, but you’re never going to find them at the hardware store. In fact, you’ll drive yourself bananas if you keep trying to do so. Perhaps this example seems absurd, but so is choosing the same kind of person with the same kinds of issues over and over again, hoping for a different outcome.

The logical conclusion is that if you really want a healthy and loving relationship, you need to reality test your self-defeating relationship beliefs, fears and behaviors and choose a different kind of partner. Or, if you’re currently in a relationship with the type of person you’re usually attracted to, assess how ready he or she is to change before going any further. If you’re in between relationships, I strongly recommend that you try to understand if your attraction to this kind of person is a way to repeat and master (repetition compulsion) earlier relationships (i.e., with your family) that are unresolved in your mind.

Next week, I’ll post Part Four in this series, which will examine how self-defeating attitudes contribute to unhealthy relationship patterns, so please check back.

Counseling, Consulting and Coaching with Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD

Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD helps individuals work through their relationship and codependency issues via telephone or Skype. She specializes in helping men and women trying to break free of an abusive relationship, cope with the stress of an abusive relationship or heal from an abusive relationship. She combines practical advice, emotional support and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Schedule a Session page for professional inquiries or send an email to

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Photo credit:

Clones on lostartofblogging.

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