I need your help. I can’t find a man who loves me for me and I don’t know why.
I’m 55, divorced, and, although this may sound vain, still quite attractive. I have a very healthy self-esteem and with good reason. I built a successful real estate career, made a ton of money, and I drive a Bentley! Yet with all I’ve got, I haven’t been happy.
I was in a lonely marriage to a cold and remote man. I knew I deserved more, which is why I divorced him. But rather than finding a loving companion, I ended up with a series of Lotharios. It starts out with romance and affection, which ends up with me funding their “dream businesses, which never go anywhere. Of course, when I realize this and stop being a cash cow, these jerks get nasty and manipulative. Rather than being loved, I feel used. These losers have cost me several MILLION dollars!
Dr. Deb, how did I become such a victim? I’ve heard a lot of these things are rooted in childhood experiences, but I couldn’t have had a happier one. My adoptive parents loved me, showered me with attention and reminded me I was everything they ever wanted in a daughter. Sure, they had strong ideas about the kind of person I should become, which wasn’t necessarily what I wanted for myself, but they’ve guided me well and I trusted they knew best.
This makes it even harder for me to figure out. Dr. Deb, how could I be so smart in business and so stupid in men?
There is nothing more devastating than being bilked out of money by someone you trusted, someone you loved. When it happens over and over again, as you describe, our hearts grown even harder, our armor ever thicker. However, if you don’t get help to resolve your trust issues, you may end up isolating yourself from a real chance at finding happiness.
That’s why I am so glad you reached out to me, because I don’t want to see that happen to you. I am sorry you gave your love to a succession of scoundrels. Just know you aren’t the first woman who did. But, please don’t take offense at this. Could it be that you are your own worst enemy? Instead of choosing men who are your equal – those likely to have the confidence and security to respect you and love you for you and your achievements – you seem to have chosen lesser characters, outright takers, men who “love bomb” you. They make you feel like you are the boss while manipulating your wallet. Understandable as that is, it is also a caution, because it points to a fear of emotional vulnerability.
Subconsciously, I believe you knew that their love would flow as long as you made yourself financially, not emotionally, vulnerable. You were afraid that if you didn’t, they wouldn’t stick around. These are classic cases of codependency where you subsume your needs to theirs. The only way you felt valuable was by actually dispensing your wealth. Deep down, despite your talk of knowing your own value, you aren’t convinced of it.
You asked me why this keeps happening. You’re partly right that relationship issues start out during childhood. In your case, I think we need to look before childhood, into infancy.
Even if a child learns the extenuating circumstances that compelled her biological parents to surrender her to another couples, and how less advantaged her life would have been if she had stayed with them, she may still feel rejected, abandoned, not good enough.
In my work, I deal with many intelligent and successful people like yourself. But every single time, the defenseless inner child in them always comes out. I have no doubt your parents adored you, and that they did everything to tend to the psychic wound of being adopted. Yet parents have an almost instinctual desire to see themselves reflected in their children. That is likely why your parents unconsciously pushed you to live up to their dream image of you as a daughter rather than letting you develop into your own person.
My suggestion: take a break from your search for Mr. Right and instead make friends with the little wounded girl inside of you and let her grow and blossom. This is a challenging journey which should be guided by a therapist. Once you learn to love yourself for you, and not the ideal you thought your parents wanted you to be, I guarantee you’ll find the “right” love that will align with everything else in your life.