Ken Page L.C.S.W.

Finding Love

The Wave: The Single Greatest Threat to New Relationships

What makes us flee good relationships?

Posted Jan 14, 2011

The most common way we sabotage new love possibilities is through what I call the "Wave of Distancing" (or simply, the Wave). The Wave occurs when we unconsciously push a caring and available person away by inwardly diminishing his or her worth. As I explain in my book Deeper Dating, our lack of training in the phenomenon of the Wave has led to the loss of countless relationships.

Groucho captured it perfectly: "I don't care to belong to any club that will have me as a member."

Here's what this phenomenon might look like: You're dating someone caring and available, and there has been at least a spark of attraction for you. And yet:

  • You can't find the sense of affection and desire you once had.
  • You keep getting irritated at them or bored by them.
  • Their flaws make you quickly lose respect for them, even if you don't show it.
  • You start yearning for the excitement of the hunt.
  • You feel like a fraud, pretending you're still interested when inside, you just don't feel it anymore.

This has huge implications for our romantic lives. If we can't navigate the Wave, we'll keep going after the wrong people and passing the right ones by.

How many people do you know who've been in a new relationship, only to have their partner flee for no valid reason? Have you ever done the same to someone? Most of us have. I've seen many people change their entire relationship futures simply by recognizing the Wave for what it is—and responding to it in a new way.

So what do you do when the Wave hits? The main thing is to recognize that it is just a wave. And waves pass. In most cases, your affection just went temporarily underground. Even though you can't feel it, it's probably still there.

If you can just give yourself a bit of space—you're allowed!—and keep a sense of goodwill toward the person you're dating, the feelings almost always come back. It can help a lot to speak with friends who can remind us of what we like about that person. Sometimes a simple, "Are you nuts? This guy (or gal) is great!" can be enough to bring us back to our senses.

And when the Wave passes, you'll probably find an added benefit. You'll have a clearer view of who this person is and what you feel for them.

Have you ever gotten close to a bird's nest in the wild? It's very disconcerting. The mother bird's most precious possession is in danger, and she does wild things to keep you away from the nest. She may attack you, or she may act as if she has a broken wing, distracting you away from the nest. It is a desperate instinctual response to having her nest endangered.

When someone is available and decent, something inside us knows they can get to our nest, our soul: the place where we care the most and can be hurt the most. And our unconscious gets panicked. It does whatever it can do to get us away. Like the protective bird, it creates a ruse: anything at all to keep the nest safe. And the Wave can completely throw us off course—unless we know better.

Let's briefly explore another rich dimension of this wave. When we risked our heart in the past and were met with coldness, distance, or abuse, some part of us learned that there is something shameful about being so vulnerable. So now, when someone becomes vulnerable with us, our old wounds come back and unconsciously instruct us that there is something shameful in our partner's vulnerability.

The more we've been shamed for our openheartedness, the more we will be prone to the Wave. It can be tremendously helpful to do deeper therapeutic work to heal these wounds. But whether or not you choose to do deeper work on this issue, the techniques I'm describing can still help immensely when the Wave hits.

In fact, when you are in the Wave, it may be time to celebrate! You may well have just found someone who is really good for you.

Please know that I'm not advocating that you settle for less, or that you discount your intuition when someone doesn't feel right for you. What I am suggesting is that you simply let the Wave pass, and let the affection wash back in. And then see how you feel.

Do that as many times as you need to. It may change your dating life.

Have you experienced the Wave in your dating life? Please join us in our discussion and tell us your story and what you learned from it. Are you in the Wave now with someone? Let us know what happens.

 © 2011 Ken Page, LCSW. All Rights Reserved