The Intelligent Divorce

And further unorthodox advice on relationships, marriage and parenting

Tied Up With the Wrong Person?

Settling for Less in Relationships

Ever look at someone you know and worry?

What’s she doing with that boyfriend; he’s so narcissistic? Or, she's so bad for him.

Sure, it’s their choice, but what if your instincts are right?

How We Settle For Less—And Can't See It: 

With my Intelligent Divorce Project, I’ve seen more divorce cases than I can count. Friends often come forward and confess that had been worried from the beginning. Now, relieved, the truth comes out. Can we be blind to what is good for us? Unfortunately, yes.

Love Through Rose Colored Glasses: 

Intimacy is a field of sorts—like a magnetic or gravitational field, you get pulled in. When you fall  in love, you're actually falling into a Field of Intimacy. And, no matter how well put together you might be beforehand, things change dramatically once you enter. It can be grand, and awful.

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When you are on the outside, intimacy’s fun, but not urgent.

But, then you're drawn in, first with a small crush and then deeper into intimacy’s matrix, feelings emerge that you may never have known before. You may get jealous when it’s not a general part of your personality. You may find clinginess or rage  triggered in ways that feel foreign to you. In intimacy, the rules of many relationships change.

So why do some people settle for a role of being second best?

Do you know anyone like this?

Don't Fall Victim to Repetition Compulsion: 

Freud gave us the concept of Repetition Compulsion. It’s a brilliant idea which applies to many unhappy relationships. What happens is that you are hurt as a kid, and then go about recreating that injury in adulthood, in the unconscious belief that this time it will turn out better. Do you know someone who suffers from a repetition compulsion with narcissists and cheats? What if you find yourself repeating the same mistake, over and over again, of choosing someone who treats you as second best? It is more common than you think.

Here is one woman’s path to the world of charismatic cheats and narcissists.

Her name is Rachel, and her story is not unique.

Case Example:

Rachel, 27, never felt particularly special when she was a kid. Her dad, Gus, was so involved with himself. He loved his work, his friends, and his social scene. Gus was the center. Rachel and her brother, Andy, each felt second best; and Gus was too self preoccupied to pay it much mind. Gus was a typical narcissistic kind of guy. He didn’t even notice that Rachel and Andy were suffering.

Gus “knew” that he loved them, and just assumed it was enough. But here are the facts: Gus saw his family fleetingly. He was often late for dinner, rarely came to their sporting events or shows and the kids longed for whatever they could get. Everyone came second: Rachel’s mother, Anna, suffered gracefully—but struggled with depression for many years.

Rachel and Andy did well professionally, they were bright and motivated. Yet, even after Gus’s passing, they continued to compete with each other. That strange feeling of never being good enough could not be shaken.

Now, as an adult, Rachel has casual relationships with men that are unsatisfactory, but somehow work. She has taken the role of being a modern, sexually active woman, but down deep settles for less than a real relationship. She finds herself with charismatic guys, who rarely remain faithful, but who are fun and even exhilarating. Rachel experiences little conflict. She enjoys sex and these exciting men, but wants her distance as well. The problem is that as time goes by, Rachel wonders why everyone she hooks up with ends up leaving. Perhaps she’s not the marrying type.

Entering the Field:

Now, Rachel meets Anthony, a charming, successful guy on the rise. He’s older and has his “act together.” At, least that’s the way Anthony sees it. They date for a while and it's crazy time. Rachel loves the sex, the fun and Anthony’s confidence. She has entered the Field of Intimacy.

Three months go by, and Rachel starts to see less of Anthony. He’s away at a conference, or perhaps out with friends. She wants him more. She texts and harangues him—not her style. He gets angry and tells her that she’s over reacting. Rachel backs down. She is locked in.

Then, the truth comes out. Anthony has been getting some on the side; and old fling—a casual friend. Rachel wants to leave him but can’t. In fact, Anthony offers the idea of real commitment. Although Anthony’s got a bad track record, Rachel’s hooked. Gus may not be around, but the pain of loving someone while feeling second best, is all too familiar.

From the Couch:

Rachel believes that she is enjoying a modern, sexually free lifestyle. But secretly, she’s got self-esteem issues. She settles time and again for less; a repetition compulsion. Now, Rachel’s in love with Anthony, a narcissistic guy who makes her feel unwanted in their relationship

Rachel’s battle is with Gus, as much as it is with Anthony. She’s entered the Field of Intimacy, and once inside, it’s tough to get out. Imagine a rocket trying to escape the gravitational pull of Earth. She is stuck in an unhappy vortex.

Normally, Rachel is in charge. She has sex, does not get too attached and then is left. It may not be happy, but it’s under control. And, for a young woman who never felt adored by her powerful father, it is a solution of sorts.

Then, Anthony comes along. Despite herself, Rachel begins to like him—and he triggers all her longings. Anthony will never love her as she wants to be loved, not unlike the way Gus loved his business (or his affairs—we don’t know). Now, Rachel feels second best—and she is.

Anthony is killing her slowly with his affection.

So, Rachel finally lets someone in, and settles for a lot of long-term chronic pain.

Do you have a friend like Rachel? It could be a guy too.

Take Away:

Rachel deserves to be loved and valued. By clinging to Anthony, the sexual chemistry (without the emotional, spiritual and mental bond) she allows herself to be stripped of her dignity and vitality. At first Rachel believes that sex but no intimacy is acceptable. She is satisfied with it—and feels safe this way.

A relationship with a charismatic narcissist is a safe relationship; if that is all you know.

Welcome to the repetition compulsion.

Rachel needs to break away. She needs to shout out “NO” to exploitive relationships. Perhaps in therapy, Rachel will realize she’s worth more—and by doing so, restore a sense of confidence to her life. Because she helped to create this relationship, Rachel also has the power to make changes that will make her happy.

Let Gus rest in peace already!

When you enter the Field of Intimacy, childhood issues come to the surface. Like Rachel, many people have had parents, like Gus, who were narcissistic or self involved, making them feel second best. And, such people often end up with self absorbed women or men as mates, only to feel insecure and pay the price.

Why not find someone who can really love you?

Break the old pattern. The past need not dictate the future.

Love is something worth fighting for. You now know the first step. 

 

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Mark Banschick, M.D., is a psychiatrist and author of The Intelligent Divorce book series.

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