Dear Dr. Date,Re…

Dear Dr. Date,
Recently, my girlfriend dumped me after a year of friendship and eight months of going steady, six of which we were having sex. Her reason was that she didn’t feel like I would ever do anything to hurt her. At first I thought she meant that she didn’t feel like she could get involved enough because she didn’t want to be hurt again, but she said that wasn’t the case. She was crying the entire time as she said this.
I asked her if I made her happy and gave her everything she could ever want or need, and she said yes. I asked her if she thought she could find someone better and her response was “No, but I could find an asshole I could love more.”
Can you tell me what it is that women in abusive relationships find appealing? All of the other guys she was with were alcoholics, unfaithful or date rapists. I am none of those things (although I have been drinking quite a lot lately), and those qualities are things she says she despises. What is the deal with women who go for guys who will treat them like dirt?
— Not an Asshole

This is terribly frustrating. Not just because of the story you tell, but because your story is so similar to other women’s stories. Inexplicably, there are women that seek out men who treat them like crap. What’s worse is these women don’t ever seem to learn. In fact, one of the leading indicators that you might currently be in an abusive relationship is if you were ever in an abusive relationship before your current one. Women who end up in an abusive relationship have often been there before and are invariably destined to end up in another one in the future.
It’s impossible to know what drives your girlfriend to want to be with jerks, but you can safely bet it has something to do with a poor self-image. A woman that truly does not believe in herself and sees a complete loser when she looks in the mirror may feel more comfortable with a man who confirms her suspicions. If she feels she deserves to date jerks, then she’ll date jerks.
How does a woman develop such an attitude about herself? It could be many things, but child abuse springs easily to mind. Read Dorothy Allison’s “Bastard out of Carolina” and tell me that young girl is not going to be screwed up when she gets older. Humans are fairly impressionable beings (especially as children) and if she repeatedly had it told or hit it into her that she was nothing, she most likely believes it now.