Which ‘down-and-dirty’ men should you spring-clean from your life?


Normally when we think of spring cleaning, we think of a thorough do-over of our homes. We wipe the windows inside and out. We send dirt and germs packing. We toss the old in favor of the new.

But how many of us ever consider getting rid of the — ahem — “down-and-dirty” men in our lives?

Shannon Colleary did and, well, her life has never been better.

“I feel like I was able to break a generational pattern of divorce in my family, and I’m hoping that will be true for my kids,” Colleary told me recently.

Most of her 20s and early 30s was spent in painful relationships.

“I didn’t have an addiction to alcohol or drugs. I was a love addict, attracted to men who alternated between being loving and kind, to lying, cheating and shutting me out,” she said.

It didn’t help that her parents, who divorced when she was 2, weren’t the best relationship role models.

Tired of attracting clueless men, Colleary decided to seek help and went through a 12-step recovery program that changed her life.

Long story short, Colleary was living with her last “toxic” boyfriend when he abruptly moved out, then, months later, asked her to be his wife.

It was a dream come true but “so confusing,” Colleary remembered.

RELATED: Single good men, where are you?

She contemplated accepting his proposal, but her 12-step sponsor advised against it and called Colleary every single morning at 8 a.m. to encourage her to stay strong and stay away.

“There were some mornings when the phone rang and I knew it was my sponsor that I didn’t want to pick up. I thought about entering the Witness Protection Program so she couldn’t find me and I could continue living in denial.”

Well, we all know how that is. The heart wants what the heart wants.

But Colleary did what she was told, and six months after the relationship ended in 1998, she found her good guy, a screenwriter named Michael Colleary.

They were married in 2001, and Colleary, a self-described recovery road-warrior, became a pregnant playwright and screenwriter working, between bites of pizza, for Warner Bros., Lifetime Television, TBS and Disney.

About the time their daughters began approaching their teen years, she started to think of the men they might date and how she could protect them from her “youthful floundering.”

So she wrote an article for the Huffington Post offering 10 signs you might be dating, well, trouble and five ways to avoid it.

The response was overwhelming. Readers started calling and emailing her for help, and Colleary knew she was on to something.

“I thought people really need this information,” she said.

Colleary decided to write a book on the subject. Last month, on Valentine’s Day, “She Dated the #Asshats but Married the Good Guy: How to Go From Toxic Love to Real Love in 12 Exercises” landed on bookstore shelves and Amazon.com.

You’ll have to get the book for the complete list, but here are three of my favorite down-and-dirty guys Colleary suggests you “Spring Clean From Your Life.”

1. Mr. Need for Speed. This guy sees you across a crowded room and it’s Love at First Sight. He wants to shake you up and make you Instant Girlfriend. But as soon as you’re convinced he’s a good bet and you’re hooked, he freaks, ices you out and runs as fast as he can, leaving you dazed and confused.

2. Mr. Mopes a Lot. This one resists doing anything for you or the relationship. He especially doesn’t want to get to know your friends, family or anyone who truly loves you, because he actually knows he’s not treating you well and realizes they will sense it. If you do manage to get him to an event, he spends his time moping and answering questions with monosyllables, making you pay for making him come.

3. Mr. One-Way Street. He has needs, but you can’t have any. For instance, he asks favors: Can you pick up his laundry? Can you type up a report for him at the last minute even though you need to get to work? Can you be his lover with no commitment? But if you ask him to just be on time for a date, he acts like you’re asking him to drywall your entire apartment.

Male or female, I know you saw your mate somewhere in that list. I can remember a few such men myself.

Don’t know how I made it through, but I did thanks to Jimmy, my husband of 31 years.

If you are dating any of these men, or women for that matter, it’s time to take action. Sweep them out of your life for good.

First, Colleary suggests that you identify your self-defeating personality traits that are keeping you stuck.

Some might be people-pleasing, co-dependent personality disorder, having a sense of misplaced responsibility (e.g., “It’s my fault he’s emotionally abusive,” instead of “His bad behavior is his responsibility”) or having too much empathy for a man you’re trying to fix.

Second, establish a “mental health village” to help you change your relationship patterns, such as a Higher Power, a good therapist and/or a support group with similarly circumstanced women in recovery.

And third, implement steps to empower yourself to receive real love.

For instance, Colleary said, “find a couple whose relationship you admire and quiz them about the secrets to their success.” Reclaim yourself by recording the amount of time you spend obsessing about or stalking your Lothario online and carve out equal time increments for self-care.

It’s incredibly important to seek help. Colleary’s love life improved because she found a compassionate recovery road-warrior to help.

“Funny how just one person can change your life,” she said. “What I want to be for other women is what she was to me.”

In 2015, Colleary began coaching women to recover from emotionally abusive relationships. She uses goal-setting, visualization, inner child work and the same 12-step program from Al-Anon that her recovery road-warrior used to help her.

“Women and men who remain in these situations are often ashamed and embarrassed, so they isolate and marinate in self-contempt,” Colleary said.

The first step toward getting better, she said, is forgiving yourself for being human, then you can ignore the shame, come out of isolation and embrace recovery in a way that resonates with you.

RELATED: Spring cleaning on the cheap

RELATED: Is volunteering the new Match.com?



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Living

Superman trades cape for badge: Dean Cain sworn in as reserve police officer in Idaho
Superman trades cape for badge: Dean Cain sworn in as reserve police officer in Idaho

Superman has changed uniforms. >> Read more trending news Actor Dean Cain, who played the Man of Steel in the show “Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman,” was recently sworn in as a reserve officer in Idaho, Fox News reported. Cain, 51, was sworn in as a reserve for the St. Anthony Police Department, Fox News reported...
Former Pantera drummer Vinnie Paul dead at 54
Former Pantera drummer Vinnie Paul dead at 54

Drummer Vinnie Paul, a founding member of the heavy metal band Pantera, died Friday night, the band announced on Facebook. He was 54. >> Read more trending news "Vincent Paul Abbott aka Vinnie Paul has passed away," Pantera wrote on Facebook. "Paul is best known for his work as the drummer in the bands Pantera and Hellyeah...
Can fish oil supplements treat depression?
Can fish oil supplements treat depression?

Fish oil supplements may ease depression in some people. Some studies in adults suggest that omega-3 fatty acids may help treat mild to moderate depression, but more research is needed. Fish oil is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which play an important role in brain function. People with depression may have low blood levels of brain chemicals...
Research comes to surprising conclusion about runners and arthritis
Research comes to surprising conclusion about runners and arthritis

A new study comes to the somewhat counterintuitive conclusion that marathon runners have less arthritis than non-runners. The study Most people would assume that serious runners face a high risk for arthritis of the hip and knees. Yet prior research has generally failed to uncover such a connection. The most recent study, published in the Journal of...
4 tips for a safer picnic
4 tips for a safer picnic

Picnics can be a lot of fun. But improper handling of the food can mean trouble in the form of foodborne germs. Before you fill your cooler, review these tips for safer picnics. Picnic tip No. 1: When you open the cooler, keep an eye on the clock. “The general rule is to have food out only two hours,” says Kate Zeratsky, a Mayo Clinic registered...
More Stories