This has puzzled me all of my life and I have yet to hear a cogent answer from a psychologist or anyone else: why do some people keep dating others who treat them terribly? Perhaps, since I’m a straight male, I see it most often in straight women. Does it play out the same way in gay relationships or with straight men as well?
I’m not talking about someone who falls in love with a decent person who simply doesn’t fall in love back with them. I’m talking about out and out low life predators and those who inexplicably continue not just to love them, but to forgive all kinds of terrible actions and go running back to them in the delusional hope things will be different the 20th time around. I can give example after example drawn from almost four decades of heterosexual life, dating back almost to the first time I noticed girls were different and wonderful.
Just yesterday a really neat, otherwise independent, very attractive platonic friend I know blew off her friends, her seven year-old daughter, and parents — after making solid weekend plans with both and confirming those plans a few days ago — to disappear without a trace leaving us all worried she was dead or in jail or something, to spend a few days being used sexually and financially by an unemployed, gross loser living in a travel trailer in his grandmother’s backyard. This is not your average guy looking for easy sex: he has systematically ripped off her, her family and directly cost everyone in her life thousands of dollars over the course of three years, cheated on her multiple times when they were supposedly dating, demeaned her in every way, and once got her so wasted he was able to get her to do some things she has been deeply ashamed of ever since. After which, when she would try to get him out of her life, he would claim he had taped it and would post it on the Internet just to scare the shit out of her. And all after swearing many times she hated him and would never talk to him again.
When some of us pointed out we were worried we’d be stuck helping her pick up the pieces, again, she became hysterical shouting that no one cared about her, it was none of our business, and she doesn’t tell us how to run our lives so we shouldn’t criticize her. Believe me, we all wish it wasn’t our business. But the emotional and financial wreckage left behind ends up crying and ashamed in our living rooms time and time again. It is almost exactly like a destructive drug or alcohol addiction, but it’s common enough in non drug addicts that I bet readers know exactly what I mean. That’s the thing, this is not unique, quite the opposite. This is a stark case, but sooner or later I see some version of it play out in many woman who are otherwise totally secure and have their shit together.
Before anyone gets all preachy, I and others have told her we won’t hang out with her until she gets the guy out of her life, or better yet has him arrested or sued in court. She’ll get burned, excise the loser for a few weeks or even a month or two, and then be right back with him. Plus I have known her since she was 12 years-old and this is totally new behavior for her.
Is this a universal human weakness? How does it happen? What subconscious or conscious forces are at work there?