It seems that some people have an uncanny ability to attract the “wrong” kind of people in relationships. I have heard clients describe themselves as having a “radar” whereby the wrong kind of people seemed to be able to pick them out in a crowd. Why, they want to know, do I always seem to attract someone who is going to hurt me? The answer to that question too often lies in a pattern of emotional abuse.
Someone who has been emotionally battered as a child often chooses to enter into abusive relationships as an adult. These can be platonic or work relationships, but most often they are “love” relationships. Some are looking to try to “rewrite” the past by forcing an abusive person to change and actually love them. This compensates for the pain of a past relationship in which change never occurred. Some are subconsciously seeking an abusive relationship in the present to mirror an abusive relationship in the past. Some are so beaten down by the emotional abuse in their past that they are convinced that an abusive relationship in the future is the most they can ever hope for – at least it’s a relationship. Some look for a relationship in which they can assume the role of the abuser as a way to vent their rage at being victimized in the past.
Whatever the reason, one of the most common consequences of emotional abuse in the past is an unhealthy relationship in the present.
In a way, some people do emit a sort of relational radar by broadcasting in subtle ways their willingness to enter into an abusive relationship. Those who are abusers and are looking to abuse in a relationship know how to ensnare someone who has been damaged by emotional abuse. The abuser will initially lavish attention and affection on the person, carefully avoiding the presentation of his or her true, cruel nature. Only after snagging the person with the bait of care and concern will the abuser begin to show the depth of his or her true abusive nature. If the person responds by remaining in the relationship, the hook is set and it becomes difficult and painful to leave. It takes great courage to admit that you have made a mistake in love and to end an abusive relationship when you have been emotionally compromised by abuse in the past.
Emotional abuse is often associated with depression. If you think you may need depression help, take our depression survey.
The above is excerpted from Chapter 3 in Healing the Scars of Emotional Abuse by Dr. Gregory Jantz.