DEAR CAROLYN: I tend to get treated badly by some serious jerks. Often, it's my fault there are obvious signs of jerkiness and I proceed without caution. I just can't shake the feeling there must be something terribly wrong with me that every person I get involved with sees fit to treat me like the human equivalent of dog doo on their shoe.
I mean, I'm the common factor here, right? How can it not be about me and my quality as a person?
Human Dog Doo
DEAR HUMAN: You've made a false connection: that treatment reflects the quality of the recipient. It reflects the quality of the giver.
That men mistreated you speaks ill of each man who did so.
You are the common denominator: You're the one choosing these men.
The "something terribly wrong" is that you're missing or ignoring warning signs, and are possibly in a bad-enough place emotionally for mistreatment to be your comfort zone.
Exhibit A: You're seeing your role as person worthy of shoe-doo treatment, when there is no such role. No one deserves mistreatment.
You're not bad, but your screening process is and that can trace back to points in your history that shaped your emotional expectations.
Whether you do it in counseling (recommended, if you can swing it) or on your own, please tease out what you've found attractive in all of these men, and let that lead you to the why.
DEAR CAROLYN: My 28-year-old son, "Justin," has been with his girlfriend, 27, for more than two years. She is more than ready to get married and is putting a lot of pressure on him.
He, however, can't seem to move forward. I think, well, she must not be "the one," because he has always looked forward to marrying and having children.
Justin thinks living together would help answer all the questions that have kept him from proposing.
I am fearful. I did not feel the need for a "trial," and I am still married 30-plus years later. Thoughts?
DEAR MOM: Living together can help couples prior to marriage, but the risk of an inertia marriage is too high to treat it as a "test."
When it's a third party asking, my advice is generally, good luck with that. As a mom privy to her son's thinking, though, you can call him out on his self-serving logic. Please do.
He may have persuaded himself that he's being kind to his girlfriend by looking for reasons to marry her, but he's not. In your case, once you've said your piece, back off and trust him to run his own life.