Dear D: I Used To Date Terrible Men. Why Don’t I Feel A Spark With My New Nice Guy?

Hi Danielle!

Like many women, I’ve got a string of bad relationships behind me. In fact, every husband/boyfriend/lover I’ve had through the years has been either a substance abuser, domestic abuser, married or chronically unemployed. I’ve had therapy in the past and I certainly don’t want to repeat this pattern in my future.

I’ve met a man and we’ve been dating nearly a year. He’s kind, thoughtful and considerate. He’s got a job, financially secure, unattached, doesn’t drink/use drugs and has never even said a cross word to me.  We have common interests and activities and I enjoy spending time with him.  He makes me laugh.  But, there’s no spark. I don’t feel the same intensity of feeling that I had with past relationships.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve come to love him, but it just doesn’t feel like fireworks.

So here’s my dilemma. Are the fireworks missing because I don’t recognize a good relationship when I see one? Or am I just not that into him?  After a past like mine, how can you tell when you’re finally on the right track?

Best regards,




Hi C!

I am sorry to hear about your romantic past. So much heartache and so many life lessons for sure. I am happy that you reached out to a therapist + are consciously trying to choose better partners + avoiding the toxic patterns of the past.

I saw a therapist myself around the time my father passed away in 2004 and there are a few things she said that really stuck with me throughout the years.  One of them is: “We are attracted to the familiar whatever the familiar may be.”

If all you ever knew from an early age was verbally, emotionally and physically abusive relationships then the brain learns that this normal + what it should expect. We learn to navigate in it. We understand ourselves in it. Unfortunately, the drama becomes tied to our identity.  It’s just how things are.  This way of thinking and living can become so integral to who we are that we look for identical situations because in a twisted, illogical way it’s comfortable.

The toxicity becomes so comfortable that a healthy, supportive, respectful relationship can actually feel uncomfortable, foreign + even threatening. We don’t know what to do with the love + admiration.  We don’t know how to be vulnerable enough to let the “good” in.  Sink in + feed our spirit.  So many of us self-sabotage.
We will start fights or simply break up with the good partner because it makes us jittery, frantic + raw.

That being said, it sounds like you have a wonderful man in your life + he represents many of the qualities you wish to surround yourself with and that you rightly deserve. Many people in your situation, based on the above conversation, would have run for the hills + right back into the arms of hell.

It sounds like you have done that in the past. But you’ve learned + are choosing to live differently.

My question is: Why does it have to be so black + white? Why is it that you imagine your choices are an abusive relationship OR a supportive relationship minus the chemistry/spark?

Why can’t you be in a supportive relationship that ALSO has spark?  (Not drama mind you.  Spark.)

Maybe the man you’re with is proof that loving, supportive, good-natured men are out there + interested in loving you.  This is proof that you never-ever have to go back to abuse again.

Maybe that’s it.
Proof that great men are out there + you are capable of choosing right.
Choosing right.
This was your lesson.  Your assignment.  It’s what the universe wanted you to “get.”
There are great men + you can choose to be with them.

That being said, sometimes you have 2 great people that aren’t great together.

When you say no fireworks…what do you mean exactly?  Do you want to kiss his face
all day long? How’s the sex? Are you satisfied? Do you like his body – imperfections and all?

The fact that you are writing to me 9 or 10 months in and doubting your love for him
sends up a bit of a red flag.  I’m not sure you are happy.  You think you should be happy.
You’re mostly happy, but it sounds only halfway there.  I know you appreciate him because he’s the kinda guy you want to be with but it feels like an important puzzle piece is missing.

Thank you for your trust.


© 2012 Danielle Dowling

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I’m a Los Angeles based relationship expert + life coach. I offer a sharp combination of keen insight, know-how + intuition.   Want more life + dating advice?  Jump on my newsletter.   Interested in laser focused one-on-one treatment?   Hire me.  You won’t regret it.

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  1. I have a girlfriend who I have been dating for a year. She recently told me that she doesn’t have that spark with me that she has had with other men. As far as I know I’m the only man who has genuinely love and reapected her. How am I supposed to feel about that? What do I do? She also told me that she probably found a spark in other men because they weren’t craY about her…I’m a little lost here. Thanks

  2. I have just lost 5 1/2 year relationship because she said there was no spark! WE laugh love, and enjoyed our children. She tells me I am the best thing that has ever happened to her, I love her more than she has ever been loved, No one has ever made her feel safer than when she is in my arms, and so on and so on. BUT she needs that spark she had with her ex, a controlling abuser. She met and chased a man who “makes her feel like her ex””! He became available, she left me for him, telling me she was afraid she was making the biggest mistake of her life, she cant imagine life without me, but she must chase the spark!!

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