I've been thinking about how we (readers, writers, crack addicts, etc) hold on to past injuries and let them influence our present.
We are all products of our history. It shapes us but it doesn't have to rule us. In Shades of Gray the abuse Christian suffered as a child twisted him but he wants to change. For me, that's the key--self-awareness and a desire to be better. Christian knows that he has to change if he's going to have a relationship with Ana, and he desperately wants that relationship. It's very motivating.
In another of my favorite stories, Demon From the Dark from Kresley Cole's Immortals After Dark series, Malcolm holds on to a 400-year-old hurt, but I forgive him easily because he's been in constant battle with his enemies for all that time. He's hurt but, again, he wants to change. He knows he has to change to hold onto the girl because she's not going to take an endless pile of $h!t from him. He knows he's hurting her and he doesn't want to keep hurting her, so he has to change. I love it.
For me, self-awareness is the key. These guys are blundering through life and they want a different path. They realize that they are carrying the flaw with them and they have to change.
I've used two male examples. I think the image of the wounded alpha and the patient, loving woman who "cures" him is a pretty common story and really appeals to us as women. We want to fix these damaged males. It's the healer in us. But the universal theme is clear--the only one you can change is yourself.