Women, who have a history of mistreatment in relationships, tend to place themselves back into relationships with men that foster further abuse. Often, after the damage, women appear to be mystified as to why they set themselves up. They are easily lulled back into situations that potentially blindside them to personal attacks and betrayal.
What is the trigger that compels women to chronically put themselves in harm’s way? Often, this perplexing problem gets activated in women who have been victimized by troubled childhood experiences; in adulthood, they tend to fluctuate between shame-based feelings and a sense of vulnerability to control. Many women, who experienced an absence of parental validation from childhood, will seek affection and attention at all costs. They will drive through every stop sign in their quest to get right what went wrong during their perilous past.
A lack of parental affirmation and support from childhood leads a woman to be vulnerable to emotional hurt, including feelings of self-doubt, shame and blame. This complex of feelings fuels the pattern by attracting men who invade their partner’s personal space. As a result, a useless interpersonal dance gets replayed over and over again. Putting themselves back in the fray is a women's way of trying to fix that which remains unfixable – that is, the vulnerability that ensues from being dominated by controlling men.
As they reel from additional assaults, women may eventually retreat into their private, emotional world. Then the cycle resumes - rejection and self-blame, resulting in anxiety, followed by the quest for validation from those who can't give it. Often, women maintain the illusion that if they try hard enough, they can fix any damaged relationship. Their perception about the way things ‘should be’ clouds their judgment and leaves them susceptible to further abuse. How do women break this cycle?
- Let go of the ‘dance’ and recognize the impact of shame and fear.
- Acknowledge and renounce needless self-blame and discover that the relationship wreckage never was your fault.
- Learn to experience the kind of constructive anger that says, "I deserve better than this!”
- Fight the urge to get in harm's way with those who would "flip things" by creating self-doubt and conflict. Stay above the fray by developing self-talk that pushes back against men who project responsibility for abusive behavior.
- Rationally respond to self-blame and vulnerability by setting appropriate boundaries and refusing to take responsibility for other people’s problems.
- Learn detached identification (step back emotionally) from partners who might choose to exploit you through manipulation, intimidation and fear.
- Surround yourself with friends who are supportive and let go of those who deplete your energy and use manipulation as a means of bolstering their own ego.
- Recreate yourself. Build new, positive goals, relationships and activities.
Women who desire to maintain positive relationships must leave behind old assumptions from childhood that get activated in present partnerships. They must learn to shut down the pattern of being exploited by those who seek to continue the cycle of abuse. Women who have been abused, can learn to take a step back, refusing to ‘take the bait’ while letting go of patterns that previously put them at risk. Only then can they overcome the pain of the past and get themselves unhooked from the men that repeat it.