How Do I Stop Being a Loser?

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Reader’s Question

I’m a loser. At first I thought it was my partner. She seemed distant and emotionally withdrawn from me. I began reading self-help articles and dating advice. I wanted to fix things.

Then I found Joseph Carver’s article, “Warning Signs You’re Dating a Loser.” I fit into almost every category. At first I didn’t want to accept it, but deep down I knew it was true. It’s been days since I read the article and I’m crushed. I’m so crushed on the inside; I can’t accept who I am.

I want so much to make up to her and change. I don’t want to be a loser anymore, but I don’t know where to start. I don’t want to be ‘that’ guy. I’ve never had a successful relationship or a good breakup. I’ve never even had a good relationship. I always thought it was because I just never found the right person — that they were crazy or damaged. It was always blame, blame, blame. I reviewed everything I did in the relationship and always thought I was in the right. I believed it.

Now I see how wrong I was, but it’s too late. I started a family with this woman and we have a child. I know I won’t get her back just from noticing I was an idiot and promising to work on it. I really have to change every aspect of myself to become the man she fell in love with — the man I thought I really was. I have to break the cycle and fix this so that one day in the future I can give my daughter and the love of my life the lives they deserve. I just have to change. Even if I can never get them back, I can’t go on living as a loser!

Psychologist’s Reply

According to Carver, a “Loser” is a partner who creates a great deal of psychological damage in a relationship. The twenty signs that he lists basically describe an emotional abuser who has anger issues, isolates partners and attempts to destroy their self-esteem. “Losers” feel very entitled and believe that they have the right to treat other people however they want to treat them, even if the treatment is destructive and hurtful.

Given that “Losers” generally do not have much empathy or accurate insight into their own behavior, it is surprising that you see yourself in the list and want to change. This should give you hope that perhaps you are not quite the loser you believe yourself to be, or that, even if you are, there is a way to be different.

Try Online Counseling: Get Personally Matched

You say that you need to change in order to become the man you thought you were. I would start there. One strategy is to list the characteristics of the man in your self-image, and do some reality testing. For example, one characteristic might be that you believed yourself to be kind. You would define kind (i.e., how the dictionary and other experts define it), and then start listing examples of the ways in which you are or have been kind. From there, you can ask yourself how you can demonstrate kind behavior in the future. Do that with as many characteristics as possible, and start exhibiting those behaviors.

Another strategy could be to start working on positive relationship skills. Learn how to be a good listener, how to communicate effectively and how to compromise. Discover ways to be appropriately affectionate, nurturing and supportive. Explore proper boundaries, both for you and for others, and start implementing them. Learn how to trust and be trustworthy. Start working on how to manage anger constructively. These are difficult skills to learn, so you may want to try taking a class or, even better, going to counseling. A good counselor can help you analyze your behavior (including in previous relationships) to see where you have gone wrong and what you can do to change.

Once you start demonstrating your newfound relational skills, it is possible that your partner may want to join you in counseling so the two of you can work on your relationship together. However, even she is completely finished with the relationship, your new skills can only help enhance your relationship with your daughter and any future relationships you may have, romantic and otherwise.

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