Dear Chantal, I’m seeing a wonderful woman, however before me she was “on and off” in an abusive relationship for 4 years. We’ve had some amazing times, full of love and romance, but whenever we get to the point of committing she pulls back and starts reconnecting with her ex.
It seems like whenever we hit a peak of love and intimacy she pulls back emotionally, and I’m left wondering where all this is going, which doesn’t help my confidence.
WATCH: HOW TO NOT LOSE YOURSELF IN A RELATIONSHIP
I bought three of your books and gave her No More Assholes, and highlighted the chapter on Guys versus Men – I think my love for her reflects that I’m a Man. I also highlighted the chapter on being put on a pedestal, because I feel like she has trouble accepting the quality of love I’m trying to give her.
I care deeply for her and would love to see her stop this roller coaster ride. What should I do?
First, let me say I’m here for you, and every good man out there wanting to give a woman a stable, loving, supportive relationship.
But our culture is a little messed up about Love, and ultimately we’re all paying the price. People who aren’t taught to love themselves enough end up in relationships that are full of chemistry but void of loving support. This leaves men who are willing to prove themselves capable of real, intimate love sitting on the sidelines wondering why good guys finish last.
WATCH: WHY DO NICE GUYS (AND GIRLS) FINISH LAST?
I’m here to change that.
I want men like you to feel like women are ready to plug into the sort of relationship you’re putting on the table, because ultimately it’s what everyone is looking for.
But here’s what’s getting in the way.
We seek what’s familiar, even if it’s wrong for us.
The human animal in us craves familiarity because within that bubble lies a sense of safety. It might seem like an oxy-moron when you consider abusive relationships “safe,” but that feeling of predictability is what draws people back IN over and over. Hell, I’ve even been there myself, spending 3 years going back to a guy who thought physical abuse was the right way to deal with conflict.
“I know he’s a jerk, but I can always predict how it’s going to turn out.”
Emotional pain, even physical pain, is easier to bear when we know its coming.
On the contrary, sometimes we’re uncomfortable with Goodness because we’ve never been in that space before, which incites a feeling of emotional angst. It’s weird, but true. I had to work really hard to accept how great my relationship became when I started meditating and stopped fighting with my husband, reminding myself over and over to say yes to Goodness and accept how it changed my life for the better. It’s a strange struggle, but real nonetheless.
WATCH: HOW TO START MEDITATING SO YOU’LL HAVE A MAGICAL RELATIONSHIP
After fighting for over eight years with my husband, finally arriving to a space where never fought truly felt uncomfortable. Our brains would cycle to the notion that “We’re overdue for a fight now” and we’d both be on guard, waiting for it to happen. The only way we avoided falling into that trap was by not allowing the discomfort to escalate into dysfunctional behaviour.
So what do you do when you’re in love with someone who’s repeating dysfunctional behaviours?
The first thing you have to understand is, you can’t change anyone. People only change their behaviour when they feel it’s not working for them anymore.
You need to let her know you’re aware of why she’s doing this, and that as much as you love her you want a functioning, two way, loving and stable relationship. Here’s the conversation I recommend you have:
“I get why you’re going back to him each time I try to get emotionally close to you. It’s a more comfortable feeling to go back to a relationship that feels hurtful because you’ve been in something like that for so long it feels familiar. I want to give you something that’s more stable, loving, and committed to your happiness than what you’re used to. But you need to ask yourself, “What do I want?” and decide for yourself what you’re going to choose.
“But you should understand that I can’t keep having a yo-yo relationship, where whenever we get close you pull away. So if you need to think about whether you want to commit to me I can give you that time. And if you need to go get help so you stop going back to someone abusive, I can support you through that. But I can’t keep doing this to my heart, and I need to know if I should stay, or go and find the relationship I need.”
This is a tough talk to have, but burying your head in the sand and waiting for change after something proves itself to be a pattern isn’t helping. Least of all your heart and soul.
Be open to the outcome. She just might make the decision to let her ex go and walk into your open arms, so she can receive the love you have to offer. Sometimes we just need a wake-up call.
Or she might choose to stay with her disrupting pattern, and it’ll be up to you to decide if this is really what you want for yourself going forward.
Abuse is a sticky situation, because it rarely happens in a bubble. Usually we’ve been conditioned as children to accept it as a normal part of life, and that mindset can take a lot of work to undo. If you’re patient and loving, and if she truly wants to shift her lifestyle, this can work. But it’ll take the both of you wanting that change for it to happen.
Here’s what she can do:
If she needs help figuring the whole thing out I can work one on one to help her gain the clarity and peace of mind she needs right now.
Chantal Heide is an Author and Motivational Speaker, focusing on dating and relationship building. Her books Dating 101, Comeback Queen, Fake Love Need Not Apply, No More Assholes, After The First Kiss, Fix That Shit, Say Yes To Goodness, and Custom Made (available on this website, Amazon, and your favorite online book retailer) help her readers attract the love they're looking for, regardless of their starting point . View her BOOKS page for more information. Be sure to check out more free advice on Facebook, YouTube, and Itunes, as well as fun tidbits about her life on Instagram and Twitter.