Has My Abusive and Cheating Ex-Boyfriend Ruined Me for Other Men?
Recently, I finally left my verbally abusive/cheating boyfriend. It took me longer than it should have to get the courage to break up with him, but when I finally did it I felt a huge relief… And to put the icing on the cake, almost immediately after that I met a really nice guy who has clearly shown that he wants to pursue me and has hopes for marriage. I’ve told him I am not ready to dive into anything serious right away, as I need to heal from my last relationship’s trauma, and I also want to feel okay being on my own. Still, we’ve gone out casually a few times, and although I’ve told him I need to go slow, I definitely get the impression he’s already planning our wedding and future. In spite of his not at all being my physical type, I’ve been attracted to him because of his kindness, clear intentions, life goals, etc… Until today. On our fourth date (we went to church together), I suddenly came to the realization that I feel absolutely no attraction to him whatsoever. I’ve read some of your posts about attraction and understand that it is something that some people can either get over, and some people can’t, but I’m not sure why I suddenly feel such a drastic change overnight. Since I just left an abusive relationship, I’m confused about my feelings; is the problem my inability to find a nice guy attractive, do I feel smothered by his intensity, or do I simply not feel a romantic connection? I am starting to see a therapist to work through my experience with my ex, but wonder what I should do about this really nice guy… Is it worth giving him a chance and seeing if my feelings change? Should I just tell him I don’t feel it for him, after all? Thanks for your help!
Since I’m not a psychologist, Katie, I’m largely going to stay in my lane and tell you what I’ve noticed as a dating coach for fifteen years. It may or may not square with what a psychologist trained in abusive relationships may tell you, so take it with a grain of salt.
“Is the problem my inability to find a nice guy attractive, do I feel smothered by his intensity, or do I simply not feel a romantic connection?”
Yes, yes, and yes.
Without getting too deep into attachment theory, as a victim of abuse, you may associate love with bad behavior. Where other women may find a verbally abusive/cheating man unappealing, you may have felt that this is just what relationships are all about. You fall in love. You’re wildly attracted to someone. He treats you like shit. You stick it out because that’s how relationships are, or because you don’t know if you can do better, or because you’re afraid to be alone, or because you somehow suspect this is all you deserve. Abuse does a real number on women and what you’re left with is a sort of PTSD when it comes to men and relationships.
Where other women may find a verbally abusive/cheating man unappealing, you may have felt that this is just what relationships are all about.
You’re so used to being attracted to a man who exhibited cruel, unpredictable behavior that when you finally meet someone who treats you with consistency and kindness, it’s confusing.
Imagine learning that everything you believed about love was wrong; that’s the state you’re in right now. You’re going to need to rewire yourself to be attracted to men of high character and it will not happen overnight. Your therapist should be valuable in this endeavor.
That said, your other questions are perfectly fair and should not be discounted. Which is to say that EVERYONE gets turned off when someone’s feelings seem disproportionately intense, but especially a woman with your background. If you’re used to being treated poorly, being put up on a pedestal by a total stranger is going to be more jarring than it might be for someone else.
Factor in the distinct possibility that you objectively have no romantic connection, which isn’t anybody’s fault, but a biological reality, and I hope you can see the value of letting yourself off the hook on this one.
This guy may be doing everything right, but just like your evil ex wasn’t the last man on earth, I can promise you, there’ll be other nice guys who come along where attraction won’t be an issue.
I can promise you, there’ll be other nice guys who come along where attraction won’t be an issue.
Long story short — there’s a lot going on in your head right now, but you should not have to talk yourself into being attracted to someone just because he’s nice.
Never ever ever.
Keep looking until you find both.