American men have been persuaded through the media of music, television and movies that "love at first sight" is the acceptable way to court and marry women. How did this happen over the last century? Film critic Michael Medved noted, "...mass entertainment emphasizes the new, the immediate, the fresh....in the world of the cathode ray tube, there is no tomorrow, no self-denial, no world to come. There is only this minute and this hour; appetites to satisfy and desires to be fulfilled."
The mass media have a tremendous power to influence even the best of us. Basing relationships on physical attraction and charm has become the way that men satisfy their appetites for companionship and desire for sex with women with immediate results.The media have popularized the concept of men wooing women with no thought towards compatibility in thousands of movies, television shows and songs. The corrupt courtship fits the corrupt media: why be honest in a relationship when there is a higher probability that the woman will discover the real you, determine that you are incompatible with her and reject you before you have reached your goal of romantic intimacy?
Taking time to get to know a woman before beginning a serious relationship is slow, non-rewarding physically and fraught with failure. These are all the aspects of courtship the media loathes as old-fashioned. You can feel it in a movie as the writers have you rooting for the deceptive but attractive character to make the score. The media want men to live for the moment and men who practice what we call Mirage Man Syndrome certainly live as though there is no tomorrow.
The media have used movies like "The Music Man", "West Side Story", "Back To The Future" and "Titanic", television shows from "Cheers" and "Friends" to "Two and a Half Men" and music from the Beatles "I Saw Her Standing There", the Doors "Hello I Love You", the Monkees "I'm A Believer" and Fleetwood Mac's "Tell Me Lies" to bestow heroic status on those who think sexual attraction equals love and to those who practice artificial intimacy and approval seeking to get the girl. A common plot device in movies and television is that infatuation can overcome any mismatch of personality or temperament. The overwhelming message to the youth of America is to do whatever it takes or be a loser.
The constant immersion in a culture of deception has taken its toll on even the best of us who might have initial reservations in behaving so callously. As Michael Medved observed, "even if you see people doing things you know to be horrible, you know to be irresponsible- if the people are pretty enough, those things look attractive. those things look desireable. The whole emphasis of the media is on the eyes- on the eyes connecting with the heart, connecting with the emotions...In real life, it is not necessarily uplifting or praiseworthy to follow one's heart, especially when one's heart is tugged by one's eyes. How many families have been broken up by men who decided to follow their hearts?"
There are few things more horrible and irresponsible than practicing the Mirage Man Syndrome, but if an attractive "mirage man" like George Clooney does it, and a beautiful woman like Michelle Pfieffer doesn't seem to object, then it's not so bad. The media praise it because it is living for the moment. Over the last century generations were slowly but steadily persuaded this was the modern way for men to court and marry women. Today we see the results in millions of unhappy and broken relationships affecting men and women in every walk of life.
Many mirage men attend therapy and support group meetings to deal with the inevitable side effects of their lifestyle. However, the wash-out rate is high as many tire of the challenge to become healthy and retreat back into the comfortable mire of deception.
The reasons for relapsing are varied. For some, the fear of abandonment erodes their nerve no matter how sick and degrading the mirage relationship has become. They would rather not risk the loss of a flawed but known union and end up all alone.
Other men abandon recovery because they fear they might provoke their spouse or common law wife to legal action and their subsequent financial ruin if they discover who they really married. Rigorous honesty is the last thing these men wish to attempt. For Craig, a thirty-five year old dentist, the choice is a monetary one: better to stay sick and flush than healthy and fleeced by divorce lawyers, alimony and child support payments. He will spend the rest of his life seeing how much of his building resentment and addictions he can safely express before his wife reaches a crisis point again. Then he can plead for forgiveness, promise to walk the straight and narrow for the umpteenth time and white knuckle his addiction that threatens the union until the heat is off. Men like this can figuratively live on the edge of the cliff of divorce for decades.
Some, like Chris, a forty year old accountant, dabble in a knowledge of recovery and attempt to learn a boundary skill here or a communication tip there without ever renouncing their mirage lifestyle. They may add their role of "healthy hubby" to their repertoire of deceptive roles.
Tragically, some men who initially seek healing after the end of one mirage romance will insanely begin another, thinking that somehow things will be different this time with a new partner. In Twelve Step lore, this is known as "Thirteenth Stepping", where a participant in a recovery group pairs off with another member:
Instead of dealing with the issues that doomed their prior union, they medicate their pain by embarking on a new romance based on artificial intimacy and approval seeking. They will rationalize that they were victimized by their ex-spouse or ex-lover because they weren't "healthy".
Armed with a little knowledge of boundaries and codependency and feeling the strange emotional rush of sharing their pain in a therapy or group setting, they plunge into a new romance just as structurally sick as the one they just left behind. They refuse to accept the hard truth that the chief cause of their poor relationships is that they have been conditioned by the media to create relationships that are as sturdy as a balsa wood glider. They demonize their old lovers using newly acquired psychological terms and delude themselves that it always their partner's fault when their romances end up in smoke and ash. They love to tell people that they are "unlucky at love" and absolve themselves of all responsibility of the trail of tears they leave behind them.
Once the Thirteenth Stepper begins his new relationship, he will declare that "love has made me whole" and that he and his new love are "working on their issues together, just the two of them". Caught up in the rapture of love, he will tell his mental health professional that there is no reason to continue therapy. After being exposed to a weak form of recovery, it is highly unlikely he will ever return to deal with his issues. The Thirteenth Stepper is effectively vaccinated from Recovery.