Learned helplessness

Nattie from Illinois writes:

I love your site Sean. I can tell the weather is nice where you are, because you’ve switched to every other day postings. I am glad though. I love to get out when I can.

My issue is this. I have been on and off with a guy for 8 years now. It’s not a healthy relationship, it’s long distance mainly (we lived together for a bit), and all we do is breakup and get back together. When we get back together, everything is fine and sooner or later we always split up. He can be extremely hurtful in the things he says, he throws things, and he is extremely controlling. I’ve dated others in the “between points” but once he finds out, he pursues me and makes things extremely stressful until I give up and go back.

I am definitely falling under the cycle of abuse category, but I want to know why I feel the need to keep going back..to keep trying to fix things. Any ideas?


Nattie, Lys is on vacation, so I am answering this one solo.

I am glad you have recognized an abusive and controlling relationship, the second step is ending it for good. You go back because this guy has put you in a mental and emotional “lockdown” of sorts. He pursues you time after time because he either doesn’t want anyone else to be loved by you or he is just not finding other women where he lives in those “between points”. You go back because he pulls out all of the old good memories when he starts pursuing you again. Chances are, he tricks you into telling him about the new guy, then puts down every aspect of this new person you’re with until you doubt why you’re with them. He keeps building himself up, making you feel insecure, and then he moves back into place. The fact that he’s messed things up so many times, and that he’s been verbally and emotionally abusive, says to me that he really doesn’t love you. He just doesn’t want to let go.

Abusive men sometimes create this “lockdown” because of their own self-esteem issues, and because they lack control in their own lives. Insecurities, family issues when they were young, abuse in their past, and a myriad of other things create this feeling of insecurities, so they seek to control what they can. Too many times however, the control turns to abusiveness.

Do what you can to get out. Move and change your number if you have to. These things never get better. You deserve more than the situation you’re in. If you need anything else, I am right here.