For the first time in my life, I am in a healthy, committed relationship. I feel extremely blessed and even lucky that I have Dave in my life because I know that lots of people do all the right things and still don’t find this. I’m also grateful that before I met Dave, I spent 5 years as a single person and got to the place in life where I didn’t need to be in a relationship.
Last week, I realized something important about my relationship with Dave that has helped it be healthier than any other I’ve been in. In all previous relationships, I was attracted to powerful men, or at least what I perceived as powerful. Lucky for me, that Dave has no position of power over me and I was attracted to him in a new way…because of his character.
My attraction to power was a direct result of being sexually manipulated and abused by a powerful person – a pastor. I don’t know, but I imagine that this is true for many survivors, since one element of abuse is that it is perpetrated by someone who has power over another.
I think that my repeated attraction to powerful men was complicated, and had many layers. But, it was also simply an attraction to what was familiar because it happened at such a formative time. I recognized this last week as I was reading Stacy’s story, and she shared how many times abusive relationships were repeated in her life. I wish this was something I could have realized ahead or, or even at the time that I kept choosing powerful men, and imbalanced relationships. But seeing it now gives meaning and understanding to much of my relationship experiences. At the time, I lacked any understanding that what I was really attracted to was the power certain men held, but on a guttural level, I knew that my attraction felt unhealthy, addictive, even compulsive. Unfortunately, I learned at a very early age not to trust my instincts and intuitions. So, I ignored what I felt and rationalized how the latest relationship was different.
Sometimes, I was attracted to men in power because gaining their affection made me feel powerful. Sometimes it felt like self-preservation, finding out if he was an abuser. At other times, it was about gaining power over him. Whatever the scenario, those relationships always turned out badly in the end.
Dave and I are committed to having as healthy of a relationship as possible. We read books together that help us identify opportunities to grow our relationship in a balanced way and we check in with each other on a regular basis as our relationship grows. Neither one of us has power over the other, but each of us influences the other. It’s a work in progress.
I wish I could share a great insight about figuring out when attraction is healthy vs. unhealthy, or how to break the cycle. For now, just know that if you find yourself repeating unhealthy patterns in your life, that you are not alone and there is hope for healing.
It has been a long road for me, and not always forward or even in a straight line.