Will You Ever Learn to Find Mr Right?
“This is it, this time he’s gone too far,” huffed my friend, as we sat around her, nodding sagely and offering non-committal grunts of acknowledgment. You see, it wasn’t the first time she’d broken up with James. The first time, when he’d gotten cold feet and done a runner within days of first raising the possibility of marriage, we’d all jumped on the badmouth-the-man bandwagon without a second’s thought. Days later, when he returned with his tail between his legs, we’d had to face up to the fact that we’d called the love of our friend’s life an idiot... and far worse. Fast forward to break up number four and nodding sagely while mentally compiling a shopping list was as good as it was going to get.
You see, it wasn’t that we didn’t care. Far from it. Mel is the kindest, most thoughtful soul, with a romantic streak that puts the rest of us cynics to shame. It’s just that, sadly, while her head may be full of Cinderella fairy stories, in real life, her conquests have always proven to be less Prince Charming, more Captain Commitmentphobe. And we’d learned the hard way that criticising her romantic decisions was going to hurt us more than the man.
Of course, Mel is not alone. We all know a woman, or three, who seems to be a homing beacon for unreliable men. And we all have our particular peccadilloes – from commitment shy blokes like James to control freaks or untameable ladies men. A quick straw poll in the office throws up a variety of preferences – from surfer guys to tall, dark and handsome types, via men who can cook – but not one VIVA woman said they didn’t have a type. It seems that, unlike shoes, we rarely change our taste in men.
The problem arises when our ‘type’ is quite obviously not a healthy choice, as even the briefest of glances at the showbiz columns reveals. The poster girl for the recent ‘will she ever learn?’ movement being, most obviously, Rihanna, who sparked global fury when she reconciled with Chris Brown, the man who violently beat her before the 2009 Grammys.
Publically confirming their relationship to Rolling Stone magazine earlier this year, the star insisted she wouldn’t be influenced by public anger, declaring: “Even if it’s a mistake, it’s my mistake.”
Despite admitting that when viewed from the outside their relationship is “not the cutest puzzle”, the 24-year-old defiantly insisted: “I wasn’t going to let anybody’s opinion get in the way of that. I decided it was more important for me to be happy. After being tormented for so many years, being angry and dark, I’d rather just live my truth and take the backlash.”
The interview sparked a flurry of frenzied debate across the blogosphere and beyond, with relationship experts queuing up to give their opinion on Rihanna’s willingness to forgive. Many commentators hinted perhaps the singer’s childhood influences were to blame, among them psychologist Lisa Firestone, who declared “I believe people who are going to take a beating as an adult - not when it happens one time and the person leaves, but when a person gets stuck – has to do with her experience growing up with mother and father,” while her claims were echoed by fellow Ph.D. Gilda Carle, who pointed out that “Nobody knows how she saw love expressed as a little girl.”
For her part, Rihanna insisted that worries for her safety were misplaced. “He doesn’t have the luxury of [messing] up again. That’s just not an option,” she said. “I wouldn’t have gone this far if I ever thought that was a possibility…”
Of course, Rihanna is an extreme example. But there are plenty of other high-profile women who make no secret of their attraction to a certain type of man. Take Katy Perry, who is said to have never been happier than she is now, following her divorce from notorious lothario and reformed bad boy Russell Brand. The man putting the smile back on her face? John Mayer, aka Mayer the player, whose list of exes reads like a summary of females on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Then there’s billionaire heiress Tamara Ecclestone, who recently became engaged to a man she’s known for a month. Eyebrows were raised when it emerged she’d become betrothed to Jay Rutland, a 31-year-old until now most noted for being banned from working in the city as a result of insider trading.
Tamara insists she’s been well and truly swept off her feet, and few would deny she deserves it given her recent travails. Her engagement came just after her first boyfriend, Derek Rose, was jailed for four years for trying to blackmail her, which followed hot on the heels of a broken engagement to stockbroker Omer Khyami, whose police record she overlooked to be rewarded with public humiliation and an infidelity scandal.
Whether Jay, as she insists, turns out to be her knight in shining armour remains to be seen. But with her willingness to jump head first into marriage, it seems she’s definitely not a poster girl for the ‘once bitten, twice shy’ brigade. Indeed, we can only hope that her claim she’s been in enough bad relationships to know a good one proves true...
Dubai based psychologist Dr McCarthy says repeating our past mistakes is common when it comes to relationships.
It may sound like a cliché, but there’s no doubt our choices in relationships are heavily influenced by our first male role model – our father. It’s not the only factor though. Our level of self-confidence and our attitude towards commitment also play a part, as does our personality. Some of us are carers or rescuers and look for the opposite in a partner, the opportunity to play nurse. Whether we are rebellious by nature also plays a part, as does our attitude to punishment or defeat. It may seem unlikely, but some people really do seek out relationships which act as punishment.
Normally, women who are attracted to rebellious men get a buzz out of their relationship. As a girl with low self-esteem, they will often be attracted to rebellious boys, falsely believing his self-confidence will be reflected in her. They feel secure but haven’t realised that aggression is actually a sign of low self-esteem in itself. We call it keeping the sameness - if their first male role model was a bad one, women will likely repeat the same. This is the environment they are familiar with and they do not know how to deal with niceness. I regularly see women in their 40s and older who still continually pick partners who are bad for them.
Some women will even return to their abusive partner because they do not like to be defeated. They prefer to live under the illusion that tomorrow will be different. If I change myself, he will change, they say.
Some women also learn from their mothers to be a victim. This can be cultural, to some degree, or sometimes these women don’t even realise they’re being dominated. They lose their self-confidence and with the co-dependency of living with a man who doesn’t treat them nicely, become depressed and incapable of making independent decisions. Other women are on a rescue mission, and stick around because they like to feel needed.
Not every instance of adultery necessarily means a relationship is beyond repair, but it does signal a real problem and the ability to solve it varies greatly depending on the quality of the bond. When couples come to me regarding infidelity, I believe that we have to go back two years before to see what was going on in the relationship. It’s never all the sole responsibility of one person. For some women, an unattainable man is a challenge and they’ll actively seek out those who are likely to be unfaithful so they can say ‘I got him!’ It’s about challenging their own insecurity, rather than looking for a partner.
Another thing that can have us retreading the same worn path in relationships is our genes, with researchers recently proving that we are each genetically drawn to certain types of men. In my long career experience, I can’t explain why a girl from an abusive family will choose an abusive partner or a girl coming from a family where her father is bipolar will choose a bipolar partner – but I can confirm it does happen.
None of this is to say we can’t change. It’s simply that to alter a pattern we have to alter ourselves. A mentally and emotionally healthy person will choose a mentally and emotionally healthy partner because they each understand that at the core of a successful relationship is unconditional love.