Frances Cohen Praver Ph.D.

Love Doc

Why Lasting Love Eludes You

Overcoming fear of abandonment

Posted Mar 16, 2014

Slim of waist, dark curls framing her dimpled face, Stephanie sighed, “I almost gave up on finding real love. That’s not to say that I haven’t been in romantic relationships, I have, but love didn’t last. Then I met Glen. We have this uncanny connection that I thought came once in a lifetime. We were together for almost two years and I was sure he was the” one” and he told me I was the “one” for him. But I was wrong.”

“Oh my, what happened?” I asked

Her sighs turned to anger, “I was not exactly the “one.” He had another “one” with whom he was having an affair. He’s nothing but a no-good-cheat.”

I inquired, “How’d you find out?”

“I checked his cell phone.” She said.

“If the relationship was so good, what prompted you to check his cell phone?” I asked.

“Actually we had issues and we fought a lot. I was jealous and feared losing him, but I figured it was about my insecurities.” Her head bowed down.

I queried, “What did he do to make you jealous?”

She said, “He “liked” other women on Facebook and he flirted with other women when we went out. He claimed they were old friends and that my jealousy was a problem.”

“Anything else?” I inquired.

Stephanie informed me. “He would go out with his friends without me, and sometimes he went on vacation without me. I trusted him because his friends were good people. I was in love.”

“Ah yes, love is blind.” I said.

“I can’t believe it. He said he loved me and I was the best lover he ever had. In his texts to this other woman, he told her she was the “one”, the best lover he ever had. He told her our relationship was over. But we were still making love, so he lied to her and to me.” Tears filled her eyes.

I asked, “Did you confront him?”

She sat up straight and said, “Sure, but he swore up and down that she meant nothing to him and that he told her things he thought she wanted to hear.”

“How did you feel?

“I felt terrible. I cried, yelled, cursed, but at the end of the day, we made up. He’s a player but I still love him even though I know he’s not good for me.”

“So your head says one thing and your heart another.” I commented.

“It’s that I take one look at him and I melt. I want to believe him.” Stephanie remarked.

I found that an odd remark from a top notch criminal attorney who investigates untruthful behavior daily.

I suspected this was not an isolated case and so I asked. “You mentioned that you almost gave up on finding lasting love. Did you think you were in love before?”

“Yes, but none of them lasted.” She said sadly.

“Tell me about them.” I suggested.

Stephanie recounted, “There was Mike who was 20 years older than me, an established business man, sophisticated, cultured, and charming. When I met him he said he was separated and getting divorced. But a year later, he still hadn’t gotten the divorce or even a legal separation. In fact, he was still living at home with his wife. So he was established, not only in his business life, but in his marriage also. He kept telling me he loved me and that we would be together forever.”

“How seductive.” I said.

“Yeah and I thought maybe he would leave his wife for mm. but he claimed that she wanted too much money. He begged me to be patient which I was to a point. The end came when his wife called me and threated to kill.” Stephanie explained.

“Oh my…”

“I was devastated and it took me a long time to recover from the pain.” She said.

I then asked, “Did you fall for any other men you couldn’t have fully?”

She responded, “Sort of, I guess I couldn’t have Tony either.”

“How’s that?” I asked.

“He was sensitive, sweet, kind, gentle, and intellectual. I enjoyed talking to him about philosophy and politics. We had this close spiritual relationship and I was falling in love with him. But he never came on to me sexually.” She said,

“Hmm, that was odd.” I remarked.

Stephanie continued, “Well at first I thought he was simply a gentleman who respected me and in time we would be making love. Then I met his friend Kyle who turned out to be more than Tony’s friend. He was his lover.”

“Uh huh.” I said.

“I just have no luck with men.” Stephanie looked dejected.

“I ‘m not sure it’s about luck. Perhaps at some level you fear intimacy.” I said.

Looking straight at me, Stephanie proclaimed, “But I want a deep intimate love with all my heart.”

“It seems you are in conflict between your desire for and your fear of intimacy. At an unconscious level you fall in love with men who are not obtainable.” I explained.

Let us take a peek into Stephanie's childhood to understand why she finds men who are unavailable.

Stephanie’s father was a handsome, debonair, financially successful Frenchman in the wine importing business. He migrated to the US where he met and married her mother, a delicate, finely featured beauty. Theirs was a story book marriage till Stephanie was born. Her mother’s post-partum depression never lifted, not because of her hormones after childbirth, but because her fathers’ hormones came ahead of honor in his marriage. He had numerous affairs.

Like many children born to depressed mothers, Stephanie suffered less than optimal parenting. Her mother’s beauty faded with her anguish and depression. Her father broke her heart and her spirit. Preoccupied with her cheating husband, unwittingly, her mother emotionally deprived young Stephanie.

Her father on the other hand was a happy, powerful man. He was a playful, attentive and loving father and Stephanie was Daddy’s Girl. She loved her father and resented her mother – a perfect set-up for the oedipal family drama.

If you recall Oedipus was in love with his mother and killed his father. When a girl is in love with her father and wants to kill her mother – the same family drama with another gender – this is called the Electra complex. Her father, of course, was not obtainable to her as he was married and had lovers on the side.

In a healthy resolution the girl identifies with her mother and finds a man to replace her unavailable father. Stephanie, however, resented and hated her mother. Instead of identifying with her mother, Stephanie has spent her life finding father replacements with unavailable men. She kept repeating this pattern with the hope that one of these men would give her a lasting love.

Once Stephanie realized the futility of her quest we have begun working on new ways to find lasting love. She recognizes the oedipal dynamics that are playing out in her love life and that she keeps falling in love with men whom she cannot have a lasting love − substitute fathers.

She is also learning that repetitive patterns of behavior get locked into the brain. The more unavailable men she chooses the deeper the brain stamps in this impossible dream. Once she realized this she has begun look for suitable men.

The good news is that our brains are plastic and when we make change, the brain changes. In that vein, new positive experiences can dislodge the old painful experiences from her brain.

Stephanie has ended the relationship with Glen and is entertaining new options with available men.

She did not have to go too far as a single, appealing lawyer just joined the law firm where she is partner. More circumspect than previously, she is not falling in love at first sight, but getting to know him well before she commits her heart and soul.

Stephanie is one of many people who desire intimacy at one level, but at a deeper level, fear it. No single brushstroke paints all people who fear the thing they want most ─an intimate relationship. Unique with a multiplicity of diverse backgrounds, temperaments, and cultures, we each have our own influences. Does any of this resonate with you?

To learn more about how the plasticity of the brain and how you can use the brain to find lasting love, read my book, The New Science of Love: How Understanding the Brain’s Wiring Can Help Rekindle Your Relationship (Sourcebooks, Casablanca, 2011.

You have just read Stephanie’s story who is one of many people who fear intimacy. To read another story, listen to Claire’s story, on Tales from the Couch, Podcast 1 and 2 on my website or on I Tunes


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About the Author

Frances Cohen Praver, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and relational psychoanalyst and author.

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