I am an expert on the subject because for far too many years the only guys who held any sort of intrigue for me were the ones I couldn’t quite have. And the ones who were head over heels in love with me and willing to do anything for me? Blech, I didn’t want them. I wanted to want them and everything they offered, but I just didn’t. And the heart wants what the heart wants, right?
Before I started dating my husband, I dated a guy I’ll call Kevin. Kevin was yet another classic case of the type of guy I just couldn’t seem to resist. He was charming, charismatic, confident, fun, and always slightly beyond my grasp. He also had some deep-rooted emotional problems to deal with and some major commitment issues.
He was a classic “damage case,” a guy who has a lot of potential hidden under a pile of issues. The “bad boy” who needs to be saved. And like many women, I wanted to be his healer, to be the woman who inspired him to break through his walls and finally commit.
Damage cases are like a pair of super sexy shoes that are brutally uncomfortable. When you look at them they’re amazing—they’re beautiful and sexy and you have to have them. But when you wear them you’re in agony. Then you take them off and experience euphoric relief, the most incredible feeling. But this feeling doesn’t come from gaining something positive, it comes from removing something negative—pain. This experience is the same as dating an unavailable guy.
He seems to be everything you want, so enticing you can’t resist him. But when you have him, you just feel pain and discomfort. Your stomach is in knots as you wait for the next text, or for a sign that he truly cares. Then he gives you some sort of indication that he does, and you’re ecstatic; you feel a rush of euphoria. But then he pulls back again and you’re back in those unbearable shoes. Then he comes back, and relief. And on and on it goes.
When I was younger I kept chasing the high of removing those painful shoes. And I thought if only X would happen, then I would have that taking-shoes-off feeling forever. As I got older, I realized I didn’t want to be on this roller coaster ride anymore. I decided that a comfortable pair of shoes that gave me the support I needed and a steady feeling of ease was much better than a sporadic shocking jolt of relief.
Kevin was the catalyst for this realization. It had been a while since I’d chased after a damage case, and I thought I’d nipped that problem in the bud until he came along and got me all twisted like a pretzel. It was devastating on many levels, especially to my ego! I mean, I was supposed to know better at that point—I was a relationship expert for crying out loud!
Solution: After a series of letdowns, of high hopes and thinking things would be different, followed by crushing disappointment and feeling like a fool for once again thinking the same story would have a different ending, I made a firm resolution to end this cycle for good. To make a lasting change that would lead me to the kind of love and relationship I really wanted. I was going to finally figure out why I kept going after the guys who didn’t want me.
After being crushed by Kevin yet again, I decided to sit down and ask myself some really tough questions. What was I getting out of this relationship? Why was I so drawn to him even though I objectively knew he wouldn’t be a good long-term partner? What had he even given to me? I did a lot for him, but what had he ever actually done to show me he cared? (The answer was nothing.)
I was getting nothing out of the relationship except for quick shots of temporary validation whenever he seemed to reciprocate my interest, and that is just so very sad. And then I realized that I am not the kind of woman who needs that sort of thing anymore. Maybe I did when I was younger, but I’m not that girl anymore, and I don’t need to repeat history in order to subconsciously mend some old wounds.
Next I looked at why I kept going back to Kevin even though it was clear that the relationship was a dead end. I thought long and hard about what I was getting from him that kept drawing me back in, and the answer went beyond validation. I realized that with Kevin I felt less alone and maybe a little understood. Like me, he was a little lost and hurt, and that made me feel better in my own world of lost and hurt.
I also considered what I was giving to the relationship (if you could even call it that) and why. Why was I so invested in solving his issues? Why was I so wrapped up in getting inside his head? The reason, I believe, is that getting lost in his drama was an escape from dealing with my own. I had a reprieve from my own life and my own issues, one of which was why I was so drawn to damage cases like Kevin! I felt like I had a mission and a purpose, and that felt kind of nice…at least for a little while.
Once I saw the situation for what it was, it lost all appeal for me. Instead of feeling sorry for myself because I couldn’t get him to commit in the way I wanted, I felt sorry for him for having so many issues, issues that prevented him from committing to a great woman he had right in front of him.
Soon after I processed all of this and healed, my high-school sweetheart, the one I’d never quite gotten over, resurfaced. On our first date I could tell by the way he was looking at me that he was already smitten, that he had graduated from being a damage case (back when he was 17) to husband material, that he was taking me and this seriously, and that I could trust him. There was no hunt, no chase, no guessing games. I knew how he felt; I didn’t even have to ask, it was just so obvious. And I knew I was cured from my damage case addiction because the fact that he wanted me didn’t turn me off. Instead it made him even more appealing.
And now we’re married! (And in case you’re wondering, Kevin is still as single and afraid of commitment as ever…no hard feelings though, I still run into him here and there, and we’re friendly. I can’t help but laugh to myself when I think about all the inner turmoil he caused…although he was also the catalyst that got me emotionally ready to be in a relationship with my husband, so maybe I owe him a thank you!)
Remember, damage cases are a waste of time and energy. Wanting a guy who doesn’t want you is a tragedy. Time is a precious thing to waste, so get to work and undo the faulty wiring that leads you to the guys who can’t appreciate you.
More than anything else, the path that leads to lasting love involves making yourself a vessel to receive love. If you only want guys who can’t want you back then you are blocked, so make the decision, right here and now, to push yourself to break free and clear away all the obstacles preventing you from getting what you truly want.
5. Faulty Filter Systems
A bad filter system sets you up for failure before your relationship has a chance to get off the ground, if you even get that far.
Everyone has a certain ingrained filter system. This system is partially due to genetic wiring, but it is largely shaped by our experiences. This filter system is often based on our interests, desires, and fears. For instance, if you are afraid of rejection, all you’ll pick up on is being rejected. A hundred people can tell you how great and wonderful you are, but it won’t sink in. All that will stand out to you is the one person who didn’t seem to be interested in you.
If you put ten people in a room and have them listen to a class and then ask them at the end what the class was about, you’ll get ten different answers. The reason is we hone in on things that appeal to us and serve our interests in some way and ignore the rest. And what is focused on and what is ignored varies from one person to the next.