Once upon a time I used to suffer from what I call Prince Harming Syndrome -- the tendency to date men who were either Trouble or TroubleD.
I remember once I was sharing a dark story about a particular Prince Harming with my buddy Scott, when the man at the next table at the café interrupted.
"Excuse me," this stranger said. "I hope you two don't mind, but I must confess I overheard you talking... and well... I'm a psychoanalyst... and I'm worried about you," he said, staring directly at me. "Do you mind if I give you my free therapy opinion?"
"Not at all," said Scott, answering for me.
"I have nothing to gain by telling you this," the anonymous psychoanalyst began. "I don't want or need your business. But as a psychoanalyst, I cannot help but recognize how this man you're with is emotionally abusive. He sounds like a classic control freak... with sadistic tendencies... and you, well, you are a classic masochist... since as of right now, you are choosing to stay."
"Masochist?" I repeated.
I looked at Scott. He meekly shrugged.
"But it's good news, too," the anonymous psychoanalyst said. "Masochists always have the most hope for change, because masochists always blame themselves. So... search deeply for why you're with this man, your responsibility for having chosen him... and get out while you can!"
He then grabbed his brown leather briefcase, and whisked out of the café -- like some masked psychoanalyst avenger.
I felt both horrified and validated. My Prince Harming had been assessed by a professional to be a sadistic control freak.
And me? I still had yet to figure out why I had chosen him.
In my mind I wasn't a masochist. I'd been tricked. The way advertisers use "bait and switch" my Prince Harming had employed "date and switch." He truly did start out so nice. And he seemed so charismatic, smart, funny, successful.
"You really should end this dysfunctional relationship," Scott urged me. "Trust me. You'll meet and marry a great guy soon enough. You've just got to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince."
"I accept that," I told him. "It's just the pigs, dogs and jackasses I mind kissing."
Scott and I laughed heartily at the time. Thankfully, shortly after this talk I developed the inner strength and clarity of mind to leave this Prince Harming. I recognized, however, just because this man was no longer in my life, it didn't mean my masochistic dating tendencies had left too. I needed to do some serious self-exploration, and understand why I had this urge to go towards bad boys -- rather than run from them.
Happily I've since broken free from my Prince Harming Syndrome and am living happily ever after with a true Prince Charming -- thanks to the empowering insights and techniques I've enthusiastically researched and am now excitedly sharing in my ebook Prince Harming Syndrome.
My Hope: I want to help as many men and women out there as I can to also break from their curse of being attracted to Prince Harmings and Princess Harmings -- so they, too, can live and love happily ever after.
Having "been there, dated that," I wanted to offer up right here, right now seven quickie empowering tips from the book which helped me break my pattern -- in order to help both men and women break theirs.
7 Tips to Help You Avoid Toxic Relationships -- So You Can Find Happy Love:
1. Did you have a parent with a bad temper?
If so, you're experiencing what Freud called Repetition Compulsion. Your past is sneaking into your present. You accept being shrieked at as being "normal" when it's not. Some part of you from childhood feels "you're bad" and deserves anger as a ritualistic behavior. Well, I'm here to tell you, the time has come to stop these anger rituals! Nothing in your past is in your present making you do anything you don't choose to do. You are not your past history! You are not your past failures! You are not how others have at one time treated you! You are only who you are and what you do now in this moment.
2. Are you hooked into pain because of low self-esteem?
Perhaps you feel like you don't deserve healthy love because of your weight, career, etc. If so... either improve your weight, career, etc. -- or change your view of these things. Start loving yourself -- flaws and all. Focus on what makes you hot stuff! You're funny, kind, generous, a great kisser. A partner should be so lucky as to be with you! The more you believe that you deserve healthy love, the more you will conquer and attract.
3. Have you stopped being a hopeless romantic -- and now think romance is hopeless?
Have you lowered your "dating bar" so low that now only the slimiest reptilian snake-y guys are wiggling through? If so, raise that bar -- by surrounding yourself with friends and family who are in healthy, loving relationships, so you're reminded that "good love" is out there -- and know what it looks and sounds like!
4. Are your values off-kilter?
Do you care more about money or good looks than you do about your self-esteem and happiness? You must remind yourself: The No. 1 reason to merge your life with someone is that he makes you feel happier -- not more anxious and depressed. You must also remind yourself of your top values for a partner. Make a list -- and on it should be: even-tempered, kind-hearted, gentle, a good listener, a compromiser, etc. Also write how you'd feel being with this type of partner (relaxed, safe, content, happy, etc.). Keep these lists in your wallet.
5. Are you an "enterpainer"?
Are you used to entertaining everyone with your tales of drama and conflict? Do you get attention and feel important every time you complain about how awful this man is? Stop settling for attention for the negative stuff in your life. Get rid of Prince or Princess Harming, and seek positive passion and purpose.
6. Do you keep telling yourself it's not three strikes and Prince Harming is out -- it's 3,452,103 strikes?
Are you more afraid of the pain of temporary solitude than the pain of abuse? If so, accept that when you break up, there will be a temporary period of aloneness. Decide now to use your alone time to do things you've been putting off. Take a class. Join a club. You'll get through the solo time.
7. Are you afraid to break up?
Don't let the prospect of saying goodbye to a Prince or Princess Harming make you feel like a failure. Re-frame this as a success story. This ending represents your brand new beginning! Every time you miss your Prince Harming, repeat the word "Forward!" Remind yourself you're moving forward, away from this self-hurting tendency and towards a better, brighter future.
NOTE: If you sense you might be with a Prince or Princess Harming -- or want to better avoid dating any -- my ebook Prince Harming Syndrome offers many helpful tips on how to break the bad habits of your past -- merging modern cognitive therapy with Aristotle's philosophies on love and happiness -- delivered with feisty humor.