Q. When my boyfriend left me for another woman, I had to look at how I set myself up in the relationship. I never thought I was good enough for him and one day he would leave me. What was wrong with my thinking?

A. Karen wrote this letter to me after her four year relationship ended. She also gave me the following information: In my family of origin my dad was verbally, emotionally and physically abusive. He told me I was stupid and would never be good enough for someone to love. That was his primary interaction with me throughout my childhood.
I left home at 17 with the first man who gave me any attention and we got married. I had no idea how my dad’s behavior would imprint in my brain and guide my relationships for the rest of my life (until I got into counseling and began to learn how my childhood beliefs morphed into my adult beliefs). That marriage lasted three years.
I never stood up for myself (with my boyfriend), I let him make all the decisions and I never questioned them. When he called I would go over to his house and we would do what he wanted to do. When I called to ask if we were going to get together he usually had other plans that did not include me and my feelings would be hurt.
I did not have a voice but inside I would feel hurt when he did not give me the attention I wanted. I realized in therapy that the dynamics of my two previous marriages were almost identical. It was true that I never felt good enough, I did not use my voice to state what I wanted and I never disagreed out loud. I never wanted any kind of confrontation or possible altercation so I stayed quiet.
But what I began to realize was my insides were screaming out and I was ignoring that too. I was taking medication for my depression, often calling in sick for work because I could not get out of bed. I had gained weight over the years because I didn’t care as much about how I looked.
A few months into therapy my ex-boyfriend called because he was having trouble with his “new girlfriend.” I let him come over and even park his car in the garage (she had family that lived on my block). I listened to him for hours causing me to lose sleep in order to “be there for him.”
Now I realize my needy, low self esteem, co-dependent behavior was created in my childhood and I can make changes. I do have worth and value and a desire to be loved in a healthy way. I am learning not all men are like my father and I don’t have to continue playing out that script.
I am writing a new, healthier me and finding I like the word NO. What I want is important and if I don’t have a partner, I have me.