6 Signs You Suffer From ‘Broken Woman’ Syndrome

This is article #31 to be published on the Get The Guy blog from my brother Stephen. Steve helped co-write the Get The Guy book and is a wealth of knowledge on dating and relationships.

(Photo: Deborah Freeman)

Enter Stephen

She brings up her ex on a first date. That’s usually the first bad omen.

But sometimes it’s more subtle. It might just be a sort of lost quality in the way she speaks about the past. She sighs a lot and has a pained puppy-dog look in her eyes when she talks about past relationships.

She has that forlorn quality of Cate Blanchett in Benjamin Button, the ballerina who broke her leg and can no longer dance on stage. She talks about her dreams as though they lie at the bottom of a well never to be seen from again.

This is what we call the Broken Woman Syndrome. It’s those subtle ways that a certain kind of woman communicates to a man “I’m a fallen fairy who needs to be nursed back to health again”, with the subtext being “and I hope it’s going to be you who will do it”.

I’m not knocking vulnerability, nor am I saying that some of us don’t have very painful memories in our past. This isn’t about either of those. The Broken Woman Syndrome is really about when a woman mistakes being ‘vulnerable’ with being ‘damaged’.

Vulnerability, in the right doses, is sweet and endearing. Guys like seeing the occasional hint of vulnerability so that they can be protective and reassuring. Sprinkled here and there, it works wonders because it makes him feel needed.

But the ‘Broken Woman’ is someone who takes vulnerability to an uncomfortable level. She acts like someone who is ‘damaged goods’, who needs taking care of.

She revels in a vision of herself as a kind of romantic martyr, and secretly hopes that a man will want to care for, soothe her bruised soul and help her blossom again.

Unfortunately guys rarely find any poetic romance in being tasked with coaxing those broken wings back into flight. A more likely response from a guy who sees this kind of attitude is “I’m really glad we’re not ordering dessert”.

Guys have their own version of this too: the Wounded Soldier Complex. These are guys who feel burnt by love, and excuse their jealous or crappy behaviour due to them having been ‘hurt and betrayed’ so many times by cold, manipulative, nasty women, as though that now justifies them generally being an emotionally-closed asshole.

So what are some of the major behaviours of the Broken Woman? Here are six major characteristics she’ll have (all of which ought to be avoided at all costs):

1. She Talks Like Her Best Days Are Behind Her

The sure sign of a wounded woman is someone who reminisces constantly about the past and talks as though her future is bleak and lifeless. The only time she compliments herself is when she brags about a bunch of stuff she used to do, or past accomplishments that she no longer feels capable of equalling.

Talking as though your greatest hits are already behind you is about the worst thing you can ever communicate to a potential romantic partner.

2. She Uses Other, More Successful Or Exciting Friends, To Validate Her

Broken women like to feed off of having successful friends in order to look ‘successful by association’.

Unfortunately, an hour of you gushing about your incredible friends Jack, Sarah and Christy, whilst also looking like you don’t have much going on yourself, just makes him wonder whether he would be better off hanging out with them instead.

By all means, talk up your friends, but it should never seem like you are looking to their great qualities and status to validate yourself.

3. She’s Lost Her Driven Spark

If it looks like her emotional fire has burnt out, it’s going to be just as impossible to start a romantic one.

Guys want women who have burning desires and aspire to independence. They want women who are in the race, not those who just want to win a consolation prize.

You don’t have to achieve all the time, but he does want to see that you have something you’re serious about shooting for (and that you’re taking steps towards it now, rather than ‘maybe someday’).

4. She’s Talks A LOT About People Who Have Hurt/Damaged Her

The Broken Woman has been hurt, and it’s everyone else’s fault.

She makes excuses for her behaviour and talks a lot about all the culprits who are responsible for her erratic emotions.

She’ll usually bring this up as a defence mechanism any time she gets called out on bad behaviour too. (I’ve had this, it’s exhausting. It’s ok a little in the beginning when you are breaking down barriers with each other and establishing trust, but it gets tiring when someone starts self-sabotaging and it keeps coming back to problems from the past).

5. She Looks To Him To Be Her ‘Emotional Repairman’

Broken Women like to bring someone else into their baggage so that they can help carry it.

That means a guy gets dumped on with all kinds of responsibilities and becomes her crutch to lean on (even if he hasn’t known her that long). After that the guy quickly realizes this relationship is going to mean a ton of repair work and makes rapid plans to exit while he still can.

Trust me, whatever Coldplay say, he’s not going to try to fix you.

6. She Instantly Demands A Lot Of Unwarranted Attention, Reassurance, And Love

One classic Broken Woman behaviour is trying to move things forward WAY too quickly, usually because she is needy and seeks out emotional validation to make her feel whole – something she doesn’t feel on her own.

This kind of neediness sucks the life and energy out of a guy, especially when she’s asking him if she’s the only girl for him and it’s only the first month of dating.

Most guys don’t want to be nursing baby birds back to life. They want a woman who is going to help them soar like a majestic eagle into the golden horizon (Bette Midler sung about being the “Wind Beneath My Wings” for a reason).

The single guys I know aren’t looking for a girlfriend so that they can take on an extra responsibility. They are looking for someone who is bringing excitement and fun into their world. Responsibility, of course, comes in later, but if the balance feels too much tipped in favour of a lot of arduous effort and emotional surgery, he’s going to only associate more commitment with pain (usually this is the point where he feeds her the line: “I’m just looking to have fun right now”).

And if you happen to spot the male equivalent, the Wounded Soldier, come stalking around and looking at you to repair all of his broken views about women, unless you’re going to be charging by the hour, give him the number of a good therapist instead.

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63 Replies to “6 Signs You Suffer From ‘Broken Woman’ Syndrome”

  • Funny…
    I’ve been going out with a man for a year and he behaves exactly like this. I was trying to figure out what was wrong with the whole thing, why I felt as if I was taken advantage of and treated as his second mother… I guess you’ve just given me the answer.

  • Oh..no…I did everything. May be it was a cause he said I am not looking for relationships rightnow to me. Now he is in relationship with a girl who did ok to have relationships at the beginning. Now they are happy together. I was so unsure that I would be use until turn myself to be unattractive.

  • How to fly:

    1. Stop talking like your best days are behind you
    Start making plans again. “Dreams don’t work unless you do!” “It’s NEVER to late for change.” – I know all of these are easier said than done. Especially when you just went through an (unwanted) break-up or your whole life changed because you lost your job, BUT after a few weeks (3, 3 weeks is ok – grab your favorite sweets, get on the couch and make the most of it) you have to restore yourself. Make new friends, set new goals, try to find something that motivates you. Or short: challenge yourself a little bit more every day!

    2. Having successful friends is ok, BUT

    don’t bring it up all the time. Even if you do think they are amazing and what they do is so much more important than your job – there is always another side to the medal. You are on this date and this person wants to know more about YOU! No matter how far away your dreams may seem – a passionate description of the way always paints a beautiful picture!

    3. If you mastered part 1 and 2 showing a “driven spark” should be no problem.

    4. There is a right time for every story.

    Of course your new love interest wants to know how you became the person you are today – but not all at once. And not on the first, second or third date. Be honest, but be paitient as well. YOU (yes you – not him) have to built a net before it can catch you. Love, trust and respect take time and guess what: your messed up past will still be there 6 months into the relation-ship. I know that sounds harsh but I’ve been there, done that.
    Plus: If you know better – start to do better. There is no use in falling back into old patterns just because someone (unconsciously)pushed your buttons. You don’t want to let your past ruin your future! If you have to – go see a therapist, there is nothing wrong with getting help from somebody who is actually capable of providing it.

    5. There is no such thing as a “Repairman”.

    You know the one person who should – and once the love has been built – will always love you? YOU! Start to take care of yourself today! No there is no Mr. Right waiting to tell you all the things you always wanted to know about yourself because guess what – nobody knows yourself better than you do! Only you can save yourself. Isn’t that the best thing ever? You don’t need to look out for that one guy because you don’t need a singe one of them to get happy and healthy!
    (And you should not start dating if you can’t be happy & healthy on your own.)

    6. Take one step at a time.

    You can’t turn back the hands of time. If you feel like you need to be rescued go back to step 5. And if (even worse) you feel like the world (and all the men in it) owe you something for the pain & heartache you’ve been through keep reading, because surprise: they don’t. BUT once you built a loving and trusting relation-ship and you let them know about your past they will admire you. Not because of what happened to you but because you did not let yourself down! They will look at you with appreciation and respect, they will ask you for advice in their darkest of hours and your example will inspire their actions!

    Be your own lovers ladies – and not only will you rise from the ashes but you will fly to heights you’ve never known.

    P.S. Please excuse my english – it’s freakin late over here in germany.

  • I have some of these qualities. I feel overwhelmed and sad most of the time and I wished for a long time that someone would come along and change all that. Now I know it won’t happen that way. But man it is hard to pick myself up from this place.

    1. I have always been this woman. I’m almost 38, my longest relationship has been 2 years. I got pregnant at 22, and not one individual has looked at me seriously since. I have been sad my entire life (multiple abandonments, starting with my father at 18 months old), and have always been waiting for a partner who sees who I really am, and wants to see me shine.
      If you are in your teens or your twenties, please get therapy, or do something to turn your life around.
      I have missed all my chances at love, and now I’m too old to attract anyone, and can’t really offer the prospect of more children either.
      It’s brutal and impossible to try to accept that youth is gone, and you really will end up alone.

  • Wow! This sucks so bad!… And I just realized I know a handful of these women. How do I make sure I won’t end up being one? Seriously, this scared me!

  • I have certainly been this woman. At present I am the most “damaged” I have ever been but also in control of my life for the first time as I am 24 and have made the decision to stop binge drinking/cut down hugely on my alcohol consumption. Yes it has killed my social life but that is fine. I’m healing from a year of trauma. I am dating a man but am very distant. Not revealing much about myself and not opening up much vulnerability. I am aware that he is seeing other women and I am ok with it because I can’t give him everything right now. It wouldn’t be right. It would be too easy for me to expect someone to fix and take care of me. I am very codependant. I need to fight it consciously.

    1. Have you ever read any Codependent No More? It’s my second Bible. The daily devotionals are awesome as well. On amazon you can pick them up for gently used about 4.00 Melody Beattie .She is awesome. Check here out for your well being. Peace and love to you my friend.

  • I was once called a “Broken Woman” because they believe every broken promise they hear, and don’t let it go. To me that was just a cop out of trying to telling me he was lying all the yrs we lived together of loving me and wanting me to marry him. He had said it a lot, he has since passed away, & I still have no clue how he died. All i know is that his family was mad at me & he did have previously a few months back had a heart attack & 25 yrs ago had a quadruple bypass. I only lived with him 2 yrs, but the first yr i feel in deep love with him. He was so fun, and was so giving and then all of a sudden he changed, blaming me for everything, and for killing his dream. In the end that was one of his last sentences about a broken woman, maybe he was right, he did say he didn’t want me anymore, i had surgery 300 miles away in a great hosp & was leaving him as soon as I healed but only saw him once got only some of my things, i still felt there was something there & he said also he was still attracted to me, but didn’t want me to stay and come back in a couple of wks to get the rest. The next phone call i got was that ….. passed away last nite. That was in August & to present i’m greiving his death so much, because i’ll never know what happened, did his emotions of hate toward me in the end kill him or was it that he hated that he still loved me, or never loved me at all and was just there as something for the moment. Now I feel like a broken woman, the shock of his death, never knowing the real truth, still loving him, and a lot of guilt with lack of much support, losing him, losing my apt and all my material things, living in a war zone with a friend but it’s a very temporary basis, and have to leave by next week, the only two beautiful creatures i have left are my cats and one is very sick now he has been thru a lot of trauma also with this, i would definately call what’s happening now a broken woman’s syndrome not when he said it, i only think that was he definition because he was trying to make an excuse for the lies he told me of his broken promises of loving me and wanting to marry me among many other promises that were lies or broken. Tk u

  • I am a man. And I came upon this site because I googled why do I always find broken women. Here is my deal I have been married twice. Once at a very young age because I got her pregnant and the other because a woman actually believed in me. The 2nd wife was the best, and I built a successful company an got my life, finances etc together. But then she slipped away. Since then I have had numerous relationships with women. But reflecting back, they are all severely damaged. Either through horrendous childhood experiences, abuse etc. I in our relationship with these other women, somehow take on the task of showing them their self worth, that I love then for who they are an encourage them to grow and move past the pain, and mental blocks. Some of these women I went on to new careers and business’s that they never thought possible, but then they move on like I was just a blimp on the radar… I honestly at times feel like I will always be alone, and that my sole purpose on this planet is to try and fix the really broken ones. I’m not a beta male either, this is what at times drives me to the point of insanity, I know and have been told a million times over I’m good looking, I’m successful, yet when I’m just happy being single and dating, these women somehow show up in my life. WTF signals am I putting out? Can someone please please please tell me what is going on here.

  • I think extremely resentful and paranoid people do not make good partners at all and should seek help before entering a relationship but I’ve never really understood how some degree of neediness is bad in a relationship. Being in a relationship implies that there is a need. If there is no need then there is no point to a relationship. Every man and every woman has emotional voids and a need for physical intimacy. When a relationship ends these are always the things that are missed the most. As long as both people are thinking about each others needs and each others happiness it’s not a crime to look to one another for help. That’s what a relationship is for. Woman are all incredibly needy both in terms of the time they demand of you and the emotional investment. I have no problem with this. If anyone is looking for a woman that does not have at least two or more of the things on this list then you are looking for a woman who does not exist.

  • Am I broken? I met a guy 3 years ago across the street from my mother he lived we fell in love he went to prison for 18 months and when he got out we continue our relationship and it became more we never did live together but close to it I fell in love with him and I just knew that I would never look for another I thought he was my soulmate he and return told me the same thing to come to find out he was cheating on me under the same roof without me knowing about it he was buying prostitutes without me knowing about it he was talking about me to the women he was having sex with telling them that I was fat that’s why he cheated calling me names suddenly making me feel like I was everything he didn’t want suddenly it devastated me and I have a very hard time getting past it I took him back the first time that I found out I did not know about the others something told me that he was continuing to do it I put my phone on record and I laid it down before I went to bed I could not check it the next morning until I left when I left oh my God I could not believe what I heard not only did he do that he had unprotected sex with some girl I don’t know did he came into the room stuck his in my mouth and had sex with me after he did her in the same room I did not know this until the next day and my broken am I damaged goods will I ever be able to trust again I do not talk much about it because I know that men like a challenge if you let another man know how another man treated you bad they will not treat you any better you have to let them know that you have been treated well by me and therefore they have a challenge because you better so I don’t speak much of this but this did happen to me and I still suffer from it inside emotionally I am dying inside still and I also just found out that in my relationship in the three years we were together that he slept with my sister unprotected Lee and she has HIV I have been tested that I came out negative I do not know if I will come out positive eventually but this is another thing that devastates me I asked him face-to-face if he slept with my sister he told me know as he fry and my legs in part wanting to make love to me and telling me look at me in the eyes and see how much he loves me knowing that she had HIV knowing that he was giving it to me telling me in my eyes how much he loved me in my eyes he’s a monster and I think about a lot should be done to him because I think he purposely doesn’t does not care what he does or who he hurts or higher-ups them it would not do for me to be God and have to make him pay for what he’s done all I can say is be careful who you trust the devil was once an angel sugar and salt with awful lot of like know them a difference know them apart before you let your heart fall for anyting be sure it’s what it is and always remember trust is something that’s earned it don’t happen overnight love is something that is not in 5 minutes or two days or after you sleep together love is something that comes in the end infatuation is in the beginning

  • Most women nowadays unfortunately are damaged goods, compared to the old days when they were so much different and much nicer to meet.

  • I was subjected to mental, verbal & emotional abuse for 30 years. Everything was always my fault. He was unemployed over half of the 30 years we were in same house. Two high risk pregnancies but he insisted I keep working at my 40 hr a week job. He refused to take interest in our kids – I wanted them he said so I was to take care of them. He wasnt a provider. He died 5 years ago from brain cancer. Left nothing. I’m so tired, broke, no confidence, so much anxiety and stress. No self esteem he wore me down. I lost hope. My walls are too high and thick after 30 treatment by a cheater, a liar, a manipulator and a jerk of a man.

  • Shame on you!! So many women give their heart and soul to a man, to be totally mentally and physically destroyed by them! You have no right speaking on behalf of a women, nor give advice! You can never understand how a woman feels when she gives everything for her human.. to be locked up and abused. To be told she is the lowest piece of shit. Month and month of abuse and neglect.

    Yes she may bring a guy up.. but so fuck your self for being anything but loving to a strong woman who has survived the absolute worst torture. Shame on you!!

    Imagine being locked into a room for days and being verbal and physically abused when you partner comes come and steals all your money. You fight for them to help but they destroy you. More and more everyday. Tell you you are a piece of shit at everything and everyone hates you.

    Yes.. judge that wrong woman who has fort thought that pain!!!! That has been so strong to try fight though the guy she did fall I. Love with demons to try help him! Even though every day it. Destroyed her.

    These woman never asked for this or this battle. Nor should our should we ever go through this!! Shame on you and this article. Honestly shove your stupid advice up you asshole!

    No woman should be judged because another man has abused her. No woman deserves to be abused or put through it. Instead give her a BIG HUG amd tell her what a wonderful woman she is, amd how much admire her!!!

    I’m tired of f##king men destroying beautiful women’s life’s!

    Big love! Kelly x

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