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We Attract Who We Feel We Deserve

This may be the most important post I've ever written, and one of the most important you'll ever read?

I saw the Facebook® post headed "There Were Times When I Wished He Would Hit Me" in Elephant Love, Dating & Relationships Group.

What I went on to read was pretty shocking, and far too common.


We Attract Who We Feel We Deserve & We Put Up With What We Feel We Are Worth.

I'm going to go venture into dangerous territory here – I'm going to talk about relationships:

Abusive Relationships.

It's dangerous because in my experience people who are in unhealthy relationships are extremely defensive and if you try and point this out to them they sometimes attack (and sometimes abuse) you.

I understand that – I wouldn't want someone casting doubts over the health of my relationship – especially if I'm having big doubts myself.

It's also a coaching rule that you can’t (and shouldn't try to) help those who won't, or aren't ready, to help themselves.

If you try and solve people’s issues without being invited, you may consider that you're being an angel but to the recipient of your unwanted help you may appear as an interfering demon.

So, I understand people not wanting other people to get all up in their business.

Abusive relationships happen everywhere there are people: at work, in families, within marriages, between same sex partners, women vs men … but because the most common Intimate Partner Violence seems to be between men and women I'm going to focus on that.

If it's just one person being abused, then although family, friends and society are affected, I can justify keeping my nose out of it, but when children are involved it's very sad.

If a husband abuses his wife, what is that teaching his son?

When her Mom is put down right in front of her, what is she showing her daughter?

When I was involved in the church we did some work helping at the local women's refuge.

The look in the eyes of the women and on the faces of the children, told you exactly what they'd been through.

In the case of men abusing women, part of it can be attributed to our macho society.

If a “man” feels bagged by his buddies, put down by his boss, or belittled by his bank Manager, he may want to exert his authority over someone to feel like a man - so gutless men take their feelings of inadequacy out on those that can't defend themselves or won't stand up to him.

And “weak” women who “love” these men go along with it.

A gutless man + a weak woman = a very destructive combination.

But the worst part is, the children who live with these relationships repeat the cycle and grow up to be gutless men and weak women.

I heard a statistic recently that shocked me - half of Police callouts here in New Zealand (but I'm guessing in most places around the world) are for what we call “domestics.”

Yes we've normalized the term.

What's worse is that in 2 out of every 3 callouts, children were present.

Add to this the fact that 80%+ of domestic violence goes unreported, and you have the proportions of an unbelievable epidemic, so the chances are very good that you know someone who is in, or has been in, an abusive relationship.

Although men are the overwhelming perpetrators, it's not always started by men.

One friend told me that she used to scream at and belittle her ex-husband to the point where he became physical because she wanted to be hit.

A world acclaimed 45 year study called the “Dunedin Study” found that women were just as likely as men to engage in aggressive behavior with their partners.

The finding was controversial but backed up by extensive research.

I guess the difference is that women tend to use their tongue’s rather than their fists, and the bruises that words leave are not so obvious?
I had a coffee with a friend recently.

While we were at the café, she received a call from a friend and she chatted for a while, before ending the call by saying, “Ok, I’ll go visit her.”

When she got off the phone I asked her what she was talking about.

She casually informed me, “Oh one of my friends has just been put in hospital by her partner.”

By ‘put in hospital’ she meant beaten.

What shocked me was she didn’t bat an eyelid.

It was just like she was relaying an everyday piece of information, not a violent assault, and it was then I found myself wondering about her relationship history …
The Facebook® post I mentioned included the line, "abusers need to have power over someone else to help them feel better about their own deficiencies, low self-esteem and feelings of inadequacy.”

I posted a comment “and victims need to feel powerless to help them feel better about their own deficiencies, low self-esteem and feelings of inadequacy.”

I wrote this not to blame the victim, but to make the point that “like attracts like.”

The abuser and the abused are both wounded people, with an unhealthy “need” for each other.

A ‘Victim’ No More …

Victims need to take responsibility for their part in the relationship dynamic and when they do so they are no longer victims.

Someone who is scared and insecure needs to control and so they seek a partner who is scared, insecure and wants to be controlled.

They both need to get in touch with their fear.

Someone who is frightened and afraid may choose to bully and seek partners who are frightened, afraid and ok being bullied.

Both parties need to get in touch with their old buried feelings of being put down, shamed and bullied, because abuse, just like any compulsive behavior is not about the bottle, the drugs, the gambling or your partner.

It's about old stuff - ancient unresolved pain.

It's about you trying to get your head around and rewrite the story of your early life with a “happily ever after” ending.

It's about your childhood and how your father or your mother, or your father and your mother, treated you and what that taught you about what life is and what love looks like.

But this time, instead of your Father being a bully and it all ending badly, now it's about you and your partner and your kids.

You're desperate for it to turn out okay this time round, because that will help erase the wounds of the first time and you won't have to own and confront all the messy yukky feelings you've been carrying around all this time.

The passive participants in abusive relationships don't feel they deserve better, so they seek a partner who will treat them the way they feel they deserve to be treated.

This is why it's so hard to leave - because you're asking them to leave the secure, known, comfortable part of their hurt, confused, messed up selves.

The problem with chaos is that if it feels normal you will be attracted to it, and if you can't find it you will create it to feel safe.

If we don't know what love looks like or feels like, we can be hooked by powerful emotions that we mistake for "love."

But this isn't love – it's fear based attachment, which describes the dynamic of an abusive relationship.

This relationship hooks you and the feelings keep you blind because it's not about the person in front of you now – it's about trying to rescript, replay and do-over your past.

This is why it's so hard to talk sense to someone hasn’t dealt with their neglected, abusive childhood.

Emotions don't make sense to them because the healthy connections aren't there – so they can't see through, or imagine life outside the crazy bubble they're living in.

The Answer To Every Problem Is Awareness

One very good friend of mine who was the subject of domestic abuse, told me that what helped bring her to an awareness of the seriousness of her situation and its effect on her children, was keeping a diary of the abuse, so when she was tempted to dismiss it she could look back and see how bad it really was and how often it occurred.

Responding to my Facebook® comment, another lady posted that, “if people would stop abusing, the cycle would stop,” and suggested I watch a Ted Talk by Leslie Morgan Steiner.

So I told her I would watch it, and I did.

Then I replied to her with what I hoped she could detect was kindness;

“I agree that ‘if people would stop abusing the cycle would stop’ but also if people would stop allowing themselves to be abused the cycle would stop.”

Speaking of awareness, at 12:02 in the Ted Talk by Leslie Morgan Steiner, she says, "One final sadistic beating broke through my denial."

She also spoke of how difficult and dangerous it is to leave an abusive relationship.

I understand it's complicated, but for the sake of the children born and not yet born, all I can do is beg and implore the women I love to heal themselves so they can see that;

“It's not love – and no, he won't change, so …

Don't wait

Don't look back

Leave the First time


and …

Yes, you're beautiful.

You're worth more than this --

much more.”

Much love,


Harley M Storey
"The Life Coach Toolman!"


P.S. What Happened To You Is Not Your Fault, But Now It's Your Responsibility.

If you relate to any of this there is lots of help around when you're ready and willing to look for it.

If you've had a childhood of neglect, find a good therapist or a smart Coach, and deal with your old hurts so you can heal your battered self-esteem and inoculate yourself, and your children, against unhealthy relationships.

Please feel free to drop me a line or post on our Blog here.

10 Responses

  1. Hi, Harley, Outstanding message! If just one woman reads this and makes her move, you are doing immeasurable service... Keep it up! Monica
  2. Kate
    Hi Harley Years ago I shockingly found myself in an abusive relationship. In the beginning he was charming (often a sign ). I was working in a good full-time job. It took a while to realsie he wouldn't change as in such a relationship 1 holds on to hope it will come right/he will change. I did leave and life got better. I re-married and had 2 kids . I guess I wanted to say women are not neccessarily weak or need or expect this treatment. It can come as a shock (when 1 is young and not as good at reading people when more mature) to find oneself in such a relationship. When 1 is committed (and/or married) and only wanted to marry once, it is not easy to leave (tho I thought it would be!). The most helpful thing is to be compassionate, and not judge. I sought Counselling after I left which I loved and this planted the seed for wanting to train as 1. It was a life experience I can bring to my practice- I get what is so hard about these situations. I am so glad I didn't have kids (I decided I wasn't going to have any till it got better!) as I knew it would be even harder to leave. Also love isn't killed off instantly-I still only half wanted to leave but went with the half that wanted to be in a healthier relationship. Just wanted to share some more insight with you-hope it helps I get that it is hard to understand but until some things happen to you/us you do not know how it will affect you/you will react/respond. Regards Kate
    • Harley Storey
      Thanks for your email Kate. What you are saying is right of course and one blog post cannot encapsulate the different experiences of everyone in an abusive relationship, I guess what I hoped to do was to get people thinking and hopefully someone who was in that situation would be encouraged to think more about their situation. I just had a lady email me last week further to this email who was in an abusive situation and she felt it was helpful, so that was my intention. Thanks for your thoughts. Keep in touch. Kind regards Harley
      • Thanks for your reply Harley That's good re lady's reply. Yes I understand-your intention was good It's just when I read about the person being weak and we get the love we think we deserve-I wanted to write as I don't think it's quite that clear cut. Another thing is they do get to and weaken one's self esteem, they can be very manipulative and even try to get you thinking it's all your fault-crazy now when I look back! (I wasn't beaten but he threw the odd unexpected punch which was not treatment I had had before). I'm glad you inspired this lady to think as whats needed is-courage -to leave-which can take some time to build up and act on. Worth it when you do as life gets better! xx Kate
  3. Harley Storey
    Hi Kate, This issue is close to my heart as I have had people I love in abusive relationships - I felt very angry and pretty helpless. Yes I used “weak” to get a reaction from readers, hopefully saying, “I'm not weak!” but maybe I could've chosen a better word … perhaps weak is the wrong word – what word would you suggest? Kind regards Harley
  4. Hi Harley Yes I wondered re 'weak' word but it may offend some people (and I guess it stuck in my mind-it's more I'm a romantic and was hoping things would change-plus it was only a month after we married that the 1st incident occurred). Mmm was wondering re a different's more that you are (I was) stunned, shocked and in disbelief that this is happening..I will think on a word..I would probably just not describe it as such. There is also a lot of shame involved-one feels (I felt) shame to be in this did this happen? What did I not see? Though looking back there were signs..and my parents didn't want me to marry him-another sign. (Seems a lifetime ago now and I'm a different person!). It did start me on a quest to understand human behaviour more and get better at sussing people out though (especially future partners) as I did not want to repeat this choice as some seem to do (often people have had abusive parents and it's a pattern of behaviour they know/have come to expect/may choose unconsciously-indicating something needs to heal -as you probably know). This issue is close to my heart too and I share my experience at times when I think it would be helpful. It is hard to share sometimes as shame comes up but I always say we are only responsible for our actions in a relationship and our partner is responsible for theirs. Their behaviour and how they choose to behave is never your/someone else's fault. I'll stop now..I'm on a roll! Regards Kate PS I think it's about encouraging the person to think about what they really be strong-courageous, get safe, supportive people around they have somewhere safe to go? When might be a safe time to leave? How might they do this? Do they need someone to help? Uh-o I better stop..
  5. Harley Storey
    Just while I'm thinking about your reply I came across this post, written by a man by the way.
  6. Harley Storey
    It is great how you grew from that situation and came out the other side Kate. The concept of shame is interesting to me and is a word I've heard a lot in relation to abusive situations. I sort of understand it but I feel it's a little like guilt and is ultimately a wasted emotion. If it's shame for still loving them, you can't stop your feelings but you can still remove yourself from the situation to keep yourself safe. If it's shame because someone is feeling like they should leave the relationship, I feel giving in to shame serves to perpetuate the cycle of low self-worth, abuse, shame, low self-worth, etc. Both people need to deal with their pain before they are capable of a healthy relationship. Pain + denial = fear + denial = shame / anger, etc … I guess what also led to me to use the word “weak” was that for both people stuck in this situation, there is often a big resistance to grow and face the emotional drivers of the relationship and the situation, ie. owning, facing up to and dealing with the old pain. My 2c anyway. Kind regards Harley
  7. Thanks- interesting reading I guess when I share the feeling of 'shame' -it is a bit like guilt and embarrassment-a mix-1 of the many emotions we can experience but it doesn't hang around too long. Yes both need to address what is happening-difficult when 1 partner doesn't want to/won't but good when both do. Kate xx
  8. Harley Storey
    A great conversation Kate– thanks for sharing! I'll give some more thought to using the word "weak." cheers Harley

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