How do you attract good people and rebuild broken trust with bad apples?
June 14, 2016 7:47 AM   Subscribe

Is it possible to consistently attract good people (or luck of the draw) & how do I rebuild my trust in men after these experiences which have left me jaded. Where am I going wrong and how can I do better?

I've had a string of bad experiences in the last couple of years. My dating life was generally happy for about 10 years before this. I'm ready to do some hard emotional work on myself and would like advice.

1) Ex bf - together for about a year. He wanted us to move in together within 6 months & professed love after 2 months. Broke up with me, saying he was convinced I was going to leave him and did so to spare himself the pain. He begged for me to take him back, I did not.

2) Unrequited feelings for close male friend, who was having an overly close emotional relationship with me for years, including sexual innuendos. I feel he broke my trust by upping the sexual suggestiveness in recent years. I developed more than friendship feelings and then he rejected me. So I cut off the friendship.

3) The guy in my most recent Qs. Red flags everywhere including abuser tactics that I edited out in order to continue a high chemistry relationship with an intense man who I craved like a drug. He hadn't been treating me well, I cooled things off. He came back around, admitting responsibility & wanting to move forward while promising to be more attentive. We had a very romantic evening planned by him & we had a heart-to-heart where we he opened up and made me feel we were growing closer. He said he wanted to grow the relationship. Over the last week he ghosted me and I feel like a disposable piece of trash. When I asked for an explanation, he denied diminished feelings, then just disappeared.

Should I consider therapy (a specific type?) or is it really just a numbers game? I feel eroded in some way - like I've shrank backwards into a shell. I have been on dates with some really nice guys, who from a chemistry perspective, just don't do it for me. I feel like abandoning dating, especially OLD, altogether.
posted by Ariel432 to Human Relations (10 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Therapy might help to get at what "chemistry" means to you. Often people have a craving for something that's either a familiar bad pattern or otherwise unattainable, something that's fun to chase but maybe not as nice to have. It's absolutely possible to be surrounded by good people. You start by being that kind of person and then by setting strong boundaries, consciously or otherwise, around the behavior you don't want in your life. But if you regularly find kind people "boring" it might be worth looking a bit more at why that is and what that really means.
posted by Lady Li at 7:59 AM on June 14, 2016 [3 favorites]

Partly it is a numbers game and matter of luck. Even people with high self-esteem and good instincts are sometimes fooled. However, the chemistry thing suggests you may have issues that lead you to crave guys who mistreat you. Think about whether there is a specific pattern of abusive / lousy behavior that you find exciting, and then get some therapy.

One other technique to consider, particularly once you are far enough along to introduce someone to family and friends, is whether you people in your life who you trust and who are good at reading people. It can be good to get a third-party take relatively early. I'm remembering the way my sister hated my ex-girlfriend from the moment she met her, for good reasons it turned out, and adored my now-wife, also for good reasons it has turned out.
posted by Alluring Mouthbreather at 8:04 AM on June 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Step AWAY from the dating ma'am.

Take the advice in a lot of your previous questions. Take some time off, spend it working on you and making sure your health and mental health are in good shape, have some experiences on your own, learn your own self-worth, and build non-romantic relationships.

Dating can be bruising, for sure. When you feel winded, just take time out and recover and really commit yourself to it. Those who are wounded, and still lonely from the gap someone else left, often make bad choices - this article isn't perfect but it does sum it up quite well in the eighth paragraph:

We make mistakes, too, because we are so lonely. No one can be in an optimal frame of mind to choose a partner when remaining single feels unbearable. We have to be wholly at peace with the prospect of many years of solitude in order to be appropriately picky; otherwise, we risk loving no longer being single rather more than we love the partner who spared us that fate.

posted by greenish at 8:15 AM on June 14, 2016 [5 favorites]

Yes- ruthlessly reject people early on at the first sign of disrespecting you. It seems like you're getting better at this (at least with the first guy, maybe not the next two.) Overreact and over-correct when people hurt you. IMO most women doubt their own instincts to their detriment, because they're so worried that they "misunderstood" or the other person "meant well" or blah blah blah. Just be hard, be cold. Do not indulge in drama. (There used to be a book called "Why Men Love Bitches" - cute name, maybe worth a peek). Get into relationships for practical reasons with people who share your values. Forget about brilliant, good-looking, exciting, drama-filled wonder dudes and just find someone who shares your values. This cannot be overstated or over-italicized!
posted by quincunx at 8:17 AM on June 14, 2016 [23 favorites]

Also! The most important trusting relationship you need is the one you have with yourself.

Unfortunately, you can't really trust all of humanity or even most of humanity.

But you need to have rock-solid trust in yourself and your ability to have your own back and get yourself out of a scrape.
posted by quincunx at 8:22 AM on June 14, 2016 [3 favorites]

I'm married, so I don't date anymore, but I do own a small business and what I am about to tell you 1000% applies...

You need to be firmer and quicker cutting off the time wasters.

When we started, other businesses would want to pair up with us and I spent hours detailing to my partner why X was a bad fit for us. To me, same principle as dating. Flags I saw in business practices did not phase my partner at first, now after years of experience, partner sees what I see and we hardly discuss worthless offers anymore.

You need a system, a way of evaluating people and trusting your instincts.

Distilling your life experience into your own system is one method forward. Therapy to help you do that? Everyone poo poo's The Rules, but I think that's because they don't get it? The Rules are not about game playing, it's about weeding out the clunkers. When you have standards, the clunker tactics are not attractive + they pass over you because your standards are not compatible with their shenanigans. Know what I mean?

In business, I look for win-win. If we both don't get a lot with equal effort, I want no part of the transaction. This includes paying people fairly for their work on our behalf.

Are there areas of your life where you are selling yourself or others short in some way? If you are being dishonest, expect same. So, maybe that's the work on yourself part, too??

Eventually you want to get to a place where you develop discernment to figure people and situations out, such that drama is automatically unattractive.

Not sure if this was too theoretical. Hope some of the ideas helped.
posted by jbenben at 8:36 AM on June 14, 2016 [18 favorites]

If you're anxious, I think the aim should be to look for secure, confident, reliable people; to say no to people who are avoidant or otherwise red-flaggy (and try to look at possible signs clearly). Also, if you have much a greater need for reassurance than is typical or that a secure, warm, engaged partner can comfortably provide, learn to soothe and reassure yourself.

(In another question you talked about needing to be planny, e.g. having a planning day; hard to tell if that's about an unusual need for security or a way of talking about deeper anxiety (probably?), especially since you say you didn't speak about abusive behaviours.)

If all that is hard to see, if your compass is off - therapy, for sure.

To be regarded with suspicion: cocky men who are unusually charming; the guy everyone and their mother is attracted to; unreliable men; men around whom you feel more nervous, less secure, less yourself.

Better: reliable people with calm energy around whom you feel safe and strong.

There are a couple of longish Asks somewhere about signs of bad and good relationships, if I find them I'll post them, they're worth reading. Also see Mira Kirshenbaum's Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay - it's for people questioning themselves about iffy relationships, but it's also a really good checklist of things to look for.
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:44 AM on June 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

It seems like you're doing the right thing by going no contact, asking for what you want, breaking it off with people who don't seem into you, etc. However, you aren't SURE you are doing the right thing. You're questioning whether or not you should give them more leeway. I really think that's the main thing you're doing "wrong." Don't go back on your decisions. I think if you keep practicing cutting off drama-filled people it will get easier and you'll do it sooner. I don't think a break from dating would hurt, either. It doesn't sound like dating is particularly fun for you right now. Maybe you need some time to enjoy life on your own before going back?

I don't know you, so I can't say whether you are subconsciously seeking out people to hurt you. Personally, I find that sentiment to be kind of victim-blamey, like when people say that if you get sick, it's your own fault because you're putting out negative vibes and the universe is giving you what you asked for because of the "law of attraction." Or when people say that if only the patient had been more positive, they wouldn't have died from cancer. I think this is dished out to women a lot, like the label "codependent." In my own life, people have gaslit me (probably really trying to help in the way they felt a woman ought to be helped) with pop-psychology victim-blaming, so I admit my opinion is very biased. However, there are a lot of assholes out there. You're going to encounter them. High self-esteem is not some magic shield against ever meeting a douchebag. It just gives you less patience for them and it sounds like you're already going in that direction. Just know you're right in not letting them hang around.
posted by Beethoven's Sith at 9:53 AM on June 14, 2016 [4 favorites]

I looked over your previous Asks briefly. I seem to have replied to a couple of them.

I don't think the "nice guys, but lack of chemistry" necessarily means you are hooked on drama and abusiveness. You are bright and accomplished and career oriented and young. Some people just aren't all that happening. They have no big goals. They have no big dreams. They aren't going to interest you.

I think people are suggesting therapy in part because the vast majority of your participation on Metafilter is 8 questions about relationships and your own replies to your own questions. I am seeing only three or four comments by you that are replies to questions by other people. So the only thing Metafilter knows about you is relationship drama. We have nothing else to go on, and that magnifies the problem in our eyes. It will be hard for people here to not feel that you have a really serious issue with men, but I don't really think that is what is going on.

You should read up on the social and emotional issues of gifted individuals. Hoagie's is a good place to start.

Stop dating guys who are older than you. There is nothing inherently wrong with a big age difference in a relationship, but I think you are attracted to older men because they are more accomplished than men your age and you think that makes them a good match for you. It doesn't. You need to find men who are closer to your age who are a good match for you. They do exist.

Like you, men who are a good match for you are going to be inclined to have some social and emotional issues. This path will not frictionless. But I think you are trying to analyze this issue to death because you are bright and everything else in your life yields to effort if you just put your mind to it and focus on it. Social problems do not work the same way. Bright people are sometimes tripped up by that fact.

I will suggest you broaden your participation on Metafilter. If AskMe is all that interests you, that's fine. I spend the majority of my time here. But post at least two non relationship questions for every relationship question and leave more answers so people have a more well rounded impression of who you are. It will get you more useful replies generally.

Also, start a journal. You can overanalyze things to death in a private journal without the world concluding you must have some dire, overwhelming problem.

Best of luck.
posted by Michele in California at 12:02 PM on June 14, 2016 [7 favorites]

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