Why You Keep Dating Men Who Hurt You, And How To Stop


Middle-aged man with sunglasses, who thinks he's cool, trying toYou say you want true love, companionship, roses, butterflies, rainbows, and unicorns, and whole enchilada of happily ever after, but you keep finding yourself with distant bad boys, or some version of the exact opposite of what it is you really want.

Well, here’s the cold hard truth—it’s your unconscious that’s choosing. Yup. Sorry sister, but that’s the whole damn truth.

Imago Theory, which was developed by Harville Hendrix in 1980, defines the Imago as “the inner unconscious image of the opposite sex” or “what you’re looking for in a partner but aren’t aware of.” Ergo, your unconscious.

The theory goes that you will unconsciously choose someone who most closely resembles the person responsible for your childhood wounding in an effort to settle the score. If you can get this new person to change, to do it differently, then you will be healed of your childhood trauma. So mom and dad are off the hook and your partner/husband/boyfriend is now wholly responsible for your healing.

As a basic example, if your dad abandoned you as a child, you are likely to choose unavailable men who will constantly “abandon” you. But if you find that magical man who is willing to change for you and stop abandoning you, you will be healed on a deep, psychic level.

Notice I didn’t say, “If you find a man who will love and adore you and stand by your side no matter what,” you will be healed. Nope. He won’t do it. It’s getting the one who mirrors the one that hurt you to change that does the trick.

Now, we all know we can’t “make” people change, right? But the idea behind Imago Theory is that two people will likely match up in their wounding and keep the wounding cycle alive. If you work with an Imago Therapist, you can make specific, conscious requests of one another that can heal old wounds. You might say to your partner, “It would really touch me if you’d text me three times a day, and it would really help heal my wounds of feeling abandoned when I don’t hear from you all day.” And because he totally adores you, he stretches himself to give you this gift. It is a stretch for him because he has to work to overcome his wounding of being smothered by his mother in order to help you heal (thus the Imago match).

Note: Imago theory specifically states that you’re not entitled to anything; it is really and truly a gift your partner chooses to give – and they can refuse.

So, what if you’re not married? What if you’re choosing these guys over and over again and this is resonating so deeply in you that you’re getting super pissed off just hearing about it? Good news. You can work to heal this stuff yourself. A great coach or a therapist can work with you to see the truth of the choices you’re making and work through them to have your adult, conscious brain calling more of the shots more of the time. Do the work now, and you won’t end up in a marriage that hurts you over and over again.

About author

Kate Anthony

Kate Anthony, CPCC, ACC is a coach, speaker and international best-selling author who has had articles published in The Huffington Post, MSN Living and YourTango.com. In 2014, DatingAdvice.com named Kate one of the Best Dating Coaches in Los Angeles. A single mom herself since 2009, Kate has helped hundreds of single moms create fulfilling and extraordinary lives through her coaching practice, Kate Anthony’s Guide to Rockin’ Single Motherhood. Kate is a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, trained and certified by the world-renowned Coaches Training Institute. She is also trained in Organization and Relationship Systems Coaching by The Center for Right Relationship and many moons ago received her BFA in Acting from Boston University. Kate’s passion for helping single moms has led to a natural union with Joly and Solo Parent Magazine as they strive to elevate, enrich and enliven solo parents with dedicated content, resources and connections. Kate served as SPM's first Senior Editor.

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