Aubrey has done well professionally, in large part because she focused on her career after her divorce. She has great relationships with her girlfriends, but hasn’t had satisfying connections with men. The few men she’s become involved with have looked good initially, but they turned out to have serious issues.
For decades Aubrey has been perplexed about how she ends up in relationships with pathological people who lie and cheat to get what they want. But what’s most troubling to her is that while they’re the ones doing bad things, she’s the one who ends up feeling badly about herself.
Aubrey has been taking a serious look at her life. She’s realizing that she gravitates toward men who are critical of her because that’s how she learned to love when she was growing up. Her parents – who divorced when she was in elementary school – were so caught up in their own struggles that they largely ignored her when she tried to express herself. And if she demonstrated unhappiness toward them, they blamed her for causing the problem.
As a child, Aubrey was powerless to countermand her parents, and she’s operated that way in her “loving” relationships ever since. The men who’ve been attracted to Aubrey have been able to discern that she’ll shut up and smile if they become critical of her. These men have been able to manipulate her, even when Aubrey felt that what they were doing was wrong.
This combination of being criticized and placating the people who were treating her poorly has kept Aubrey’s self-esteem at a very low level. She feels badly about herself because her childhood programming leads her to becoming involved in these types of toxic relationships. She’s vulnerable to guys who seek women who feel insecure. These men lure females into relationships by promising to take care of them, but end up only taking care of themselves.
John was typical of the manipulative men who enticed Aubrey into a relationship. In the beginning he was very concerned about her and what would make her happy. But over time he began to exert control over her with his increasingly critical comments.
He didn’t allow her to exercise her own judgment; it presented too much of a threat to his control. He was especially critical of her friends and systematically undermined her relationships with anyone who might question her involvement with him or support her leaving him.
But after dating John for nearly a year, Aubrey had an epiphany. She realized that the more she was around John’s negativity, the more she was consumed with thoughts about what’s wrong with people – herself and others.
She recognized that when John stoked her fears that she wasn’t good enough to take care of herself, he was fueling her anxiety and insecurity.
The more vulnerable he was able to make her feel, the less trusting she was of others and the more dependent she was on him.
Unlike the moth to the flame, Aubrey found that she could use her acute awareness of John’s negativity as a signal to disengage from him immediately.
Instead of agreeing with John in an attempt to quell her fears and self-doubts, she started telling herself to stop allowing his negativity to contaminate her life. Instead, she converted her worry into action.
For example, Aubrey started taking classes to keep up her skills so she feels more secure in her job. She met some people in her classes who are much more optimistic and upbeat. Aubrey is inspired by their determination to create a better life for themselves.
Aubrey’s new affirmation is “I only engage in relationships with positive people.” As a result, she’s finding that she appreciates more good things about herself and others. She’s feeling free to do things that make her feel good, and she finds that the positive people in her life help sustain her good mood.
By deliberately projecting her positivity, Aubrey’s attracting a different kind of guy. Over the holidays one of Aubrey’s new friends gave her a necklace with hearts on it. She wears it as a reminder to herself that she’s committed to connecting to people who have as loving a heart as she does.
The more she consciously chooses to engage in loving and mutually supportive relationships, the more secure she feels. Aubrey’s finding that being committed to living a positive life requires a daily effort to stay away from negative people. Instead, she’s engaging in behaviors that give her control over her own happiness.