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Clients often ask why they have so many emotionally unhealthy people in their lives. “I’m like a magnet to jerks,” one client insisted. Another asked, “How do all the ass-wipes in the world find me? What’s wrong with me?” If you think this way, you can heave a sigh of relief: There’s nothing wrong with you. But there is definitely something wrong with the way you select people to be in your life.
Here's what’s going on. There are a multitude of unhappy, mentally unhealthy people in the world. Are there more of them than of their opposites? I doubt it, but sometimes it seems like that. My own estimation, with no scientific basis whatsoever, is that about one-quarter of people are absolutely terrific, about one-half are okay, and one-quarter are those we need to watch out for. Mind you, I’m not judging people in this quarter. They turned out how they did via a combination of genetics and socialization. I’m not saying they’re “bad” people, a construct which isn’t even valid. I am saying that they are dangerous to be around if you wish to live a happy, healthy life.
This last quarter does not confine themselves to others of their kind. They mingle with the other three-quarters of us. Sometimes they blend in and we don’t spot them right away as people to steer clear of. Sometimes wise people can tell from the minute they see or meet them that they don’t want them in their lives. Too often, this quarter seems one way when you first meet them and, over time, turn out to be very different.
Perhaps you meet someone who seems as if they have great potential as a romantic partner. They shower you with affection, hang on your every word, and let you know you’re the one (the only one) for them. This relationship could go either way. You could have found a gem or someone posing as one. Time will tell. If you realize you’ve been mistaken it’s time to move on, not continue to wish they were how they used to be.
Perhaps you find someone who seems as if they could be a great friend. You share similar values and enjoy the same activities. They’re struggling emotionally just like you are. You can commiserate about your sorrows with them. Wait a bit and see if they can’t seem to get out of their victim role or need to always have drama going on in their lives. If they start to drain the energy and compassion out of you, it’s likely time to cut ties.
People who are emotionally healthy run into the same unhealthy folks that you and I do, only they don’t continue their relationships when their needs aren’t getting met. Problem solved; simple as that. Be wary, be cautious, be smart, be patient and observant, and watch for small (and large) signs that it’s time to smile and wave goodbye.
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