The mind is often merciless especially when it feels threatened by being alone and lonely. Have you ever tried to step out of a knowingly dysfunctional relationship to hear your ego chatter on about the reasons you should stay. At least I have somebody to go out to dinner with on Friday or Saturday night. I could call him if I need him. Could you really? Anytime? Or is he available only certain hours. Do you minimize the effect his or her deceptiveness, smoking, raging, self righteousness, demeaning criticism or selfishness has on you. You believe only the part that shows up to see you is what you are dealing with. So you are settling for a part of him not to be alone? Do you tell yourself I’m quite busy in my life and I don’t have the time for a really engaged relationship and on and on and on.
So we numb our yearnings, freeze our emotions and press the automatic pilot button. We go from days to weeks through seasons without examining our lives; whether we are really happy and what are we really feeling or not feeling right now. There is Peter in a marriage with Amy that was toxic for his growth before they married. She operates out of a strong investment in control, self-righteousness, criticism and acts superior to him. He came into the marriage claiming to need her to give his life structure and purpose. She ran with a sense of power accompanied by a style of questioning that may have been used during the Spanish Inquisition. This is their dance and it continues years later. He feels empty and asks is this all there is? She says if he gets fixed up everything will be better. Will it? At what price to Peter? If he steps into growth, the dynamics will change? Will he risk it? He fears changing as he may end up alone.
Then there is Anna who just came out of a long boring marriage. There had not been fun or juiciness for a long long time. After her divorce she became more physically active, lost weight becoming even more attractive then previously. Being vivacious she made new friends, male and female. She had difficulty being alone even though for years her husband had been more of an illusion than a partner. She yearned for romance and excitement so she stayed busy and did not reflect on what she needed now. Along comes Dave tall, good looking, charming, very attentive, almost intuitive in anticipating her desires. She quit seeing her new friends and spent every available moment with him. She was successful in her career but even that lost some luster compared to her new “fella”. She said he’s too good to be true. After being unappreciated, unseen and unattended in her marriage she soaked up the attention, that was coming her way. The intensity of it felt like “true love” for a while. Before long Dave persuaded her to change in what seemed like small ways and she loved that he was so involved and preoccupied with her. She changed her hair color, started searing sexier clothing. He called her frequently even during her working hours. He critiqued her friends and some of her after hour activities. Friend by friend got dropped as well as attending a book club monthly with some women
One time she was on the phone talking with a family member “too long” and she encountered Dave’s rage. Soon he raged whenever she deviated from his plans for them. He pushed her against the wall one time she confronted him. He with his unresolved past, grave insecurities unworked past history wanted to possess her and narrow her world so he would feel safe. She now remembered other red flags she had ignored such as his contemptuous way of speaking of his mother and other women who had been in his life. She thought it would be different because she loved him so much.
It took her a long time to extract herself from Dave. There were many partings, tears, promises and reunions. She said she was in far worse shape emotionally and mentally than after her marriage. She had lost much of her resilience and had to face again what she feared the most being alone and lonely. She discerned that the price she paid was exorbitant. It was too good to be true.
Then there was Martha divorced many years ago about 49 plus with menopause outside the door feeling like it was her last chance to fall in love before she got “old” and “sexless”. She too feared being alone and was struggling with loneliness since her younger daughters had recently left the nest. Instead of enjoying having her own space and enjoying a respite from caring for others, she was anxious and restless, afraid to be alone after dark.She may have benefited from a few counseling sessions to deal with “empty next syndrome”. She didn’t examine the situation but focused entirely on her loneliness which propelled her to look for somebody to be with.
She met a man in a very short time and the chemistry between them begged for ignition. So they played. She played being younger and was happier than she had felt for ages. He being about 15 years older pushed himself burning the candle at both ends. They had a good time until they were both exhausted and cranky and the masks they had created started to crumble exposing two tired disappointed people. None of the silk teddies, soft porn or candlelight dinners helped any more. Their relationship was not authentic. From the beginning neither one risked any depth as they were too busy pretending. And so they felt lonely even together and gradually drifted apart. Less was risked here so less pain was felt at the ending. The original problem of fear of being alone remained.
Then there was Jane a woman who was confident in many areas of her life who had overcome many earlier adversities but denied her dependency on men especially the in her presnet one long term relationship. It wasn’t so much that being alone troubled her. She could be alone for long periods while he took off with a newer younger sexier Neiman Marcus level rush. He’d always return contrite and promising he’d show her how much he’d learned from his mistakes, and she’d let him in again. She was in a lot of denial about him and her. She didn’t deal with being alone because she always knew he’d be back and she could call him if she needed him. So for years she didn’t have a whole relationship and settled for somebody who used her emotionally. She gradually numbed her feelings, froze her emotions and settled. She didn’t get free and she didn’t get back in she just let time roll by. And as sure as the leopard doesn’t change his spots she decided when he was deceptive yet again-it had to get finished. He was agast as usual he though he could have it both ways an ongoing relationship with her, deceiving her and the other women.Getting over a long term relationship was painful at yet a deeper level than ever before. She got into psychotherapy and worked through her frozen emotions her anger, her grief and examined finally the price she paid.
And so it goes. Do women compromise themselves more often than men to have somebody, anybody? I’ve met men fearful of being alone, but more often women comprise their integrity the most to stay coupled.
All of us are emotionally younger than our chronological age and it seems to me it’s the younger part of us that runs the show. More articles to come on relationships.
To be continued—
All names have been changed
All situations are based on intentions to enlighten.