I love losers.

By Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

I am 47 years old of normal intelligence. I was twelve years old when my parents split and I was very happy to see my father go because he ridiculed me and humiliated me and made me feel very ashamed of the way I looked and even things I would say. I remember him looking at me and just busting out laughing. As you can see I think my problems started with my father. I have never had a meaningful, healthy relationship. I always pick losers. Convicts, drug addicts, drunks, bums, that are abusive mentally and physically and that cheat on me. The man I am with now has been here three years and I have supported him the whole stretch. When he makes a few dollars he’ll either lie to me about how much he’s made or won’t tell me. He has robbed me several times, said horrible horrible things to me. I have pets that he claims to love. I ask him to help me bath them one day and his response was that he did not come here to bathe dogs. He has left several times but always comes back pleading with me to let him come back because he has nowhere else to go. His family won’t have anything to do with him, but they are trash, just as he is. I really want out of this relationship, I have been very unhappy since this relationship began. I know I will never be happy with this man, I don’t think he’d even be here is he could find somewhere he else to go. This man doesn’t even own a car, the clothes he has I bought. But when it starts looking like he is going to leave me, or if I think he has another woman, I panic, half of me wants him just to go, get out of my face, out of my life, but the other half of me goes into a state of panic, I become paralyzed inside when he’s packing his clothes getting ready to leave, a weakness comes over me, and I am frantic, not wanting to let him go. I feel so stupid. But I have always been like this, my whole life. I am 47 and I have pretty much wasted my life on these losers. I have maybe 20 good years left and I desperately want to be happy. I really don’t think I am mentally capable of having a good relationship with a man and don’t desire to ever have another one. I need help. I need to find out what is wrong with me so I can put these people out of my life that is robbing me for what life I have. Please help; point me in the right direction.

A: “By the crowd they have been broken, by the crowd they shall be healed.”
- Cody Marsh

I teach a graduate course on love. The official title is Developmental Psychology, but the graduate students know it as a course on the dynamics of mammalian love (as compared to reptilian love which would be a quick course, they eat their young, not much more to say about the reptiles.) The reason I am saying this is that I am going to try to collapse the essence of the course into my response.

Your insight into the nature of the dynamic with your father is exactly right. In the family of origin we develop an emotional prototype, a plan, a GPS guide for intimacy. The opposite sex parent gives us big information about looking for a partner if our orientation is heterosexual, but in any case both parents inform our path. The coordinates on our GPS unit are set back then.

Evolution demands we try to make choices that are better, so we choose a partner that looks like he or she is an improvement over what we experienced in the family. The GPS unit gets us to pick a person who gives us a familiar emotional experience. We are choosing the familiar but will try to choose someone a bit better.

The psyche doesn’t care about good or bad as much as it cares about familiar and unfamiliar. As I’ve said, we get our marching orders in the family of origin, primarily through our parents, and then find someone who is familiar. If things were good back then, we choose a familiar okay person. If we weren’t so lucky we choose familiar not okay experiences. Attachment theory has known about this for more than fifty years, and various researchers and practitioners have labeled this emotional prototype as a scheme, an imago, a RIG (representation of an interaction that has been generalized) and some neuroscientists have weighed in with a term I particularly like: Limbic Resonance.

All this points to the fact that, as human beings, we are drawn to the familiar. The humiliation, ridicule and shame you experienced with your father set the unconscious direction for you to look for a familiar pattern with other men. Each of the “losers” are different encounters recreating the familiar feeling you received with your father. In different ways your psyche is finding men who will ultimately humiliate, ridicule and make you feel ashamed of yourself.

The problem, and the opportunity for correction, is that the prototype is based on numbers of interactions. You had a thousand experiences with your father setting the GPS unit. Then, each man you were with had a familiar activation of the humiliation, ridicule and shame. That is why you have such a knack for finding losers. How does this change? The same way it was created: Through real experiences with people different than those found at the familiar GPS coordinates.

What I am saying is: Dare to be happy. I encourage you to work with a male therapist and bring changes into your life. Allow yourself to get some new GPS coordinates by bringing okay experiences with men into your life. You need to create a tipping point of positive experiences to start balancing out the negatives ones you’ve had. I would encourage you to end the abusive relationship you are in, begin working with a male therapist, and seek out other life experiences with both men and woman that are life affirming. You may also want to consider group therapy as an option for accelerating this process.

The GPS coordinates you have know EXACTLY where not to go. This means that anything and anyone that isn’t where it points you has value. Many women say “ I don’t feel the bells and whistles with the new men.” I always answer the same way: “Those aren’t bells and whistles—they are sirens.” Here is an excellent article on changing your dating pattern.

At the risk of mixing my metaphors, if each interaction with your father were a drop of yellow colored water and your psyche a bucket, your GPS unit tells you to go out and find more yellow water to put into it. After thousands of experiences with your father and the other losers the hue of the water, the color of your psyche, is yellow. If you put in new experiences that are different, let’s call these blue drops; one or two of these experiences doesn’t change the color of the water.

But as you keep adding blue drops the color of your psyche and the GPS coordinates change. You start looking for greenish experiences (I will stop short of saying green men.) Over time however, the blue drops change you. The yellow never goes away, but the color changes to blue, and along with it your GPS coordinates. You start looking for, and finding, better relationships.

Knowing that you need to change who you have in your life is the way to begin.

Wishing you patience and peace, (and maybe a Blue Man Group?)
Dr. Dan

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 14 May 2010

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2010). I love losers.. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 17, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/05/14/i-love-losers/