I can understand why people who read parts of my story might think I’m weak or needy. There are plenty of weak women out there who jump into relationships because they are scared of being alone or have low self-esteem. However, I want to posit here that the reason that I ended up in a bad marriage was exactly the opposite. I was, and still am, strong. I wasn’t scared to face the world alone. I knew how to summon my courage and talk myself through being brave. So I had no doubt in my being able to manage any situation. My mistake was in believing on some level that because I was strong and because I was smart, that I had control over what was going to happen. Being a good girl meant valuing intellect over emotion, and believing that making the right choices would ensure me a good career, a good marriage, a good family and a good life.
The conundrum of being a strong girl is that often the people who are attracted to you are weak. It’s like the law of attraction coming back around to kick your butt. If you manage hard situations well, you gain competence and strength and that in turn brings people to you who need you to figure out their problems, to fix them. And a good girl always helps others out. It’s what makes her good.
Making matters worse, weak people sometimes are really hard to identify. They don’t walk around wearing a sign. They often masquerade as brave people, and talk a good game. And in their own defense, they are only trying to figure things out themselves. An emotionally weak person really has just two choices: work through the painful roots of fear and shame that created their shaky foundation (Thanks, Mom! Thanks, Dad!); or, find someone to fight their battles for them, to act as their constant cheerleader, to blame when things go wrong.
When a weak person encounters a strong, good girl, the one who is in the most danger is the good girl. She will want to help, and has enough confidence in her own strength that she won’t realize that she should fear the weak person as much as she fears the strong one pitted against her. The good girl will not have her guard up around the weak person, but when the weak person realizes that even the good girl does not fill his own void, that weak person will lash out and catch the good girl off-guard.
When I went back to college for my second year, I was angry, but also convinced that everything was within my own control as long as I made good choices. I met a senior boy who did not excite me, but who seemed to really like me. He made me laugh and was unintimidating. I had some ulterior motives for agreeing to go out with him the first time (more on that later) – but ultimately threw myself into a relationship with him, mistakenly believing that a guy like him could never hurt me because I knew I was stronger than he was. I was not blown away by him or madly in love with him, but I felt because I was making the decision with my head instead of my heart, it was a good thing. I was definitely a good catch for him- so he’d spend his days being appreciative of me and loving me, right? Sigh. So many lessons I had to learn.