Advice for: “I’m Attracting Damaged Men”

attracting damaged men

By Jackie Pilossoph, Creator and Editor-in-chief, Divorced Girl Smiling site, podcast and app, Love Essentially columnist and author

Jackie, I’ve been divorced for two years. I cheated but my ex left. I am dating but only attracting damaged men. Recently, a man left me again after two months. I’m so heartbroken and want to know what I did wrong. He and I are never going to work out, we are totally different people, but I so miss him. I feel so down and crying non-stop.

I always feel the need to state that I have no training in psychology, so please take my advice as a friend and someone with years of dating experience, not a licensed therapist. With that, here are my thoughts.



First, why are you saying “I want to know what I did wrong?” In other words, why do you assume he broke up with you because you did something bad or wrong?

Dating can be very difficult in the sense that when people date, they are spending time with a person to determine whether or not that person is a good fit. So, they date that person until they decide for some reason, they don’t want to anymore. The reason to end a relationship can be many things.

Maybe in their heart they just can’t picture a future with the person. Maybe they thought they were over their last relationship and they just aren’t, and it’s impossible, in their mind to start something with someone else. Maybe they met someone else unexpectedly and they want to date that person exclusively.

So, dating means taking risks that you might get hurt, and the hardest thing to do is to not take it personally if it doesn’t work out. But, unlike in a business situation, it IS personal! So, how can you NOT take it personally? It’s hard. I get it.


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But, just because you weren’t the one for this guy, that doesn’t mean you aren’t the one for someone else. For one reason or another, he just didn’t see it moving forward. That doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you, or that you said or did something bad or wrong. It was just wrong for him. One of these times, you won’t be wrong for someone else.

The other thing is, maybe the reason it didn’t work out isn’t because of you, but because of him. I think you might suspect that’s the reason, which is why you mentioned that you are only attracting damaged men. Consciously (or subconsciously) you know the reason it didn’t work is because he’s damaged. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have written that you are only attracting damaged men.

Attracting damaged men. What does that mean and why do people do it?

Does a “damaged man” mean: he’s older, divorced and possibly suffered a bad breakup? Does it mean he’s mentally or physically abusive? Has an addiction? Is commitment-phobic? Is depressed? Has anger management issues?


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Damaged could mean anything, and damaged people are not bad people, they’ve just been through something.

Maybe because they are “damaged,” they exhibit behavior that makes it difficult to sustain a healthy romantic relationship, (as is possibly the case in your last relationship.) Maybe they are constantly drinking or doing drugs, being abusive, mentally or physically, cheating on you, acting mean, ignoring you, being non-communicative or hard to talk to, being impatient.

These are all behaviors that can stem from being damaged. That said, not every person who is damaged exhibits these behaviors. I think the difference lies in those who get professional help–therapy, addiction treatment, etc. and those who don’t.


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1. Low self-esteem.

In my opinion, people with low self-esteem, who don’t think they can attract someone better than a person exhibiting these bad behaviors tend to go after damaged men (or women.) They think they can’t do any better, and they don’t think they deserve any better.



2. You don’t want to be alone.

Some people can’t stand not being in a relationship. They view being single as lonely and sad. (Which is why people rush into second marriages). And so, they settle for someone they know isn’t right, because in their mind, it’s better than not having someone.


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3. You’re stuck in a pattern.

Here’s an example. A person’s father cheated on their mom and they knew it growing up but no one talked about it. Then let’s say they married a man who cheated and they got divorced. Now, they get into relationships with guys who cheat, because that’s all they know. There is a subconscious comfort in the familiarity and they don’t realize that they need to break this awful pattern and attract a different kind of person.


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4. You don’t like or love yourself.

A lack of self-love almost always leads to people dating men (or women) who aren’t right for them. Maybe they are even punishing themselves by going after people who don’t treat them well or make them happy.

5. You subconsciously don’t want to be involved with anyone.

People who don’t want to be in a relationship will often go after men (or women) they know they aren’t ending up with because it’s safe. Maybe they get involved with someone who is much younger or much older, or someone just out of a long-term relationship because subconsciously they know the person won’t commit. Or, they attract a big drinker, and they continue to date him for a long time because in their mind, they are saying “this guy is great to date, but I would never marry someone who drinks this much.” So, if there’s no way it’s going to turn into a marriage, and in their mind, they don’t want marriage, that works out perfectly.

But here’s the thing. Isn’t every man (and woman) damaged in a way? I’ll come right out and say it. I’m damaged. That doesn’t make me a bad person, or a person who can’t have a successful relationship in the future. But let’s be honest. A divorced person (and really, anyone who is older and who has lived a life) is in a way, damaged. That’s not a bad thing. Along with going through things and getting older comes wisdom, patience and gratitude. Plus, people who are divorced and who have overcome hardships are more interesting. They’re deeper.

If you think you are damaged, I only ask one thing. That you look deep into your heart and ask yourself if you deserve to get the help you need to have a better quality of life and better relationships. I pray for you that the answer is yes. Remember that damaged people are good people. It’s loving yourself enough to get the help you need that makes the difference.

Like this article? Check out, “Dating After Divorce at 50: What to Say, What To Wear and Other Tips”


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Jackie Pilossoph

Editor-in-chief: Jackie Pilossoph

Divorced Girl Smiling is here to empower, connect and inspire you. Jackie Pilossoph is the creator and Editor-In-Chief of Divorced Girl Smiling, the site, the podcast and the app. A former television journalist and newspaper features reporter, Pilossoph is also the author of four novels and the writer of her weekly relationship column, Love Essentially. Pilossoph holds a Masters degree in journalism and lives in Chicago with her two teenagers. The author of the novels, Divorced Girl Smiling and Free Gift With Purchase, Pilossoph also writes the weekly dating and relationships advice column, “Love Essentially”, published in the Chicago Tribune Pioneer Press and the Chicago Tribune online. Additionally, she is a Huffington Post contributor. Pilossoph holds a Masters degree in journalism from Boston University.

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