Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Dear Dr. Yael,

Recently I was rejected by a guy I was dating. I thought things were going great and he decided we were not a match. In retrospect I realize that this guy would often trigger negative emotions in me. He would reject me and hurt me. I even found out that he was dating another girl at the same time that he was dating me. I felt betrayed, helpless and treated in an unjust manner. He was a very critical person, often disapproving of me. I am a very attractive woman who is financially successful. I am caring and try to always do the right thing. I am quite religious and this is not the first time this happened to me. I seem to be attracted to men who end up abusing me emotionally. I come from a divorced home and my father was abusive to my mother and to all of us. How do I break this cycle? Many men are interested in dating me but I always seem to be attracted to critical, negative men. Please help me navigate this difficult situation.




Dear Anonymous,

Thank you for your important and sensitive letter. It is possible, like you mentioned, that you may be attracted to men who are negative and critical because your father behaved in this manner towards you and your mother. Your parents divorce may have impacted your life negatively. I often talk about the Imago theory in my column. In the Imago theory we tend to seek out people who are similar to the parent that we had more difficulty with and we try to “fix” our problems by marrying someone similar to our negative imago. The fantasy in this instance is that this person will treat us differently than our complicated parent, and in this way we will repair that hurt.

In reality, though, you need to marry against your negative imago. Marrying someone who will treat you well and who will not be critical and verbally abusive will help you have a good marriage and will build you up. It is very difficult for people with a negative imago to marry against their imago. People with a negative imago are often attracted to critical and negative people because that is what they are used to and because, subconsciously, they are trying to repair that negative relationship. I would strongly recommend that you seek out professional therapy in order to build your self-esteem and to help you marry against your imago. Working out your feelings about your father and processing the verbal abuse you endured will help you heal. Once you can build yourself up and work out your issues outside of a relationship, you will hopefully be more attracted to healthy men who treat you well! Hatzlacha with this challenging time and with the help of Hashem you should find an amazing person to marry!



Dear Dr. Yael,

I just listened to your lecture on dealing with negative triggers. I am a sensitive person who is triggered easily by others and I struggle with anxiety symptoms like a pounding heart, upset stomach, shakiness and dizziness as well as sweaty palms. I have a loving, wonderful husband and he tries to be supportive of me and tells me not to allow others to upset me so much. He tries to protect me and encourages me to avoid people who upset me. I know that he means well, but I can’t avoid all difficult situations. I know I need to be stronger, and I don’t want to transfer my problems to my precious children. Please help me.

A Reader


Dear A Reader,

I don’t think avoiding all difficult situations is the answer to your dilemma. I think that you need to build your self-esteem, try to work on not allowing others to hurt you, and learn techniques to deal with your anxiety. Why are these people triggering you? Do you have any negative experiences in your past that are affecting you currently? Learning how to reframe situations so that you can be strong and answer negative comments with positive responses will help you tremendously.

We cannot control others, but we can control how we respond to what others do. It is hard when people say negative things to us. However, we cannot let others dictate how we feel. By building yourself up, you will be confident enough to realize other’s opinions of us is not always an accurate representation of what is happening. You will be able to know when maybe you made a mistake and need to rectify the situation or when others are just being negative and you are ok. Even if you were wrong, you do not need to have tremendous anxiety (as you described above). We are all human and can make mistakes. If a mistake is made, you can apologize and do everything in your power to rectify the mistake, but there is no need to disparage yourself or make yourself feel horrible.

Most people who feel the way you describe are telling themselves very negative things, which is making them feel horrible. For example, if someone says to you that you did something wrong, you may be telling yourself you are so stupid and how could you have done this, etc. This only makes you feel more anxious and upset. The other person may be wrong, in which case you need to replace this negative thinking with a more rational thought that you can repeat to yourself until you calm down. But even if the other person is right, you cannot destroy yourself over a mistake. You need to tell yourself you are human and you can try to make it right, but putting yourself down will not fix anything. You have the power within you to build yourself up and to stop ruminating about negative things that make you upset and anxious! If you feel that you are struggling to do this on your own, seeking professional help can help you learn how to replace negative thoughts with positive ones and help build your self esteem. Hatzlacha !


Previous articleGames Galore: You Are My Sunshine (Part II)
Next articleChai Elul: Birth Of The Baal Shem Tov
Dr. Yael Respler is a psychotherapist in private practice who provides marital, dating and family counseling. Dr. Respler also deals with problems relating to marital intimacy. Letters may be emailed to To schedule an appointment, please call 917-751-4887. Dr. Orit Respler-Herman, a child psychologist, co-authors this column and is now in private practice providing complete pychological evaluations as well as child and adolescent therapy. She can be reached at 917-679-1612. Previous columns can be viewed at and archives of Dr. Respler’s radio shows can be found at