• Quote of the Day
    "There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered."
    Nelson Mandela, posted by Daniel

stargazer

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I'm not writing on this subject because it necessarily applies to me today, although I suppose it must have, at one time. I'm writing because today I received two lengthy phone calls from two very important young women in my life. One of the calls was from my daughter, and the other from one of her peers--not a friend of hers, but a young friend of mine. Almost unbelievably, each of them called me on the same day for the same reason.

Both of them told me that they had realized that they purposely seek out young men in relationships whom they "know" to be no good for them. My young friend said that she does it because she needs the drama, as well as the praises (for her beauty, intelligence, charm, etc.) that these young men invariably offer her. My daughter said that she does it unconsciously, because she's trying to conform to the model of the earliest male-female relationship she had ever witnessed; that is, the relationship between me and her mother, who divorced me after a relatively brief marriage some 15 years ago.

Although I agree that the model my ex-wife and I presented to my tiny daughter was definitely not that of a healthy male-female relationship, I think it's more important at this stage that we find some way for her, as a grown woman, to find a healthier model of an intimate relationship within her experience, and to follow that model instead. What the two young women seem to have in common is a "need" to experience a dark side, even though it's a destructive dark side, in their romantic relationships.

While I think it's great that they both have realized this, and it's probably a good thing that they decided they had to tell me about it, I'm a little bit overwhelmed. Did I, for whatever reason, think so lowly of myself that I unconsciously sought out a woman with whom I "knew" I could have a destructive and unhealthy marriage?

The component that they both have in common is low self-esteem. They seem not to think themselves *worthy* of a positive, healthy relationship. Now, for my part, I basically, consciously, have no real desire to even be in a relationship. I'm not cynical about them; I just function best alone. Every now and then I have a girlfriend, but it never really goes anywhere, and usually the relationship just sort of fades out. But in my youth, it was very important to have a girlfriend. So I can't imagine that I would have on any level, consciously or unconsciously, sought out an unhealthy relationship.

What do you guys think of all this?
 

Daniel

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My daughter said that she does it unconsciously, because she's trying to conform to the model of the earliest male-female relationship she had ever witnessed; that is, the relationship between me and her mother, who divorced me after a relatively brief marriage some 15 years ago.

Even if this is true, I would think there would be other contributing factors like the low self-esteem you mentioned. Personally, I found some solace reading Love Sick : Love as a Mental Illness, which argues for a more rational approach to romantic love.
 

stargazer

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I wonder. In the lengthy phone conversation, neither of us wanted to delve too deeply into the distant past; however, I did notice that her memory of things that happened before she was four years old is somewhat distorted. She was four when her mother left me. But that aside, I think you're right, Daniel. There has got to be some other factor.

Now that I think about it, though, I do think that I sought in my marriage a marriage similar to the one my Mom and Dad had. But in my case, I think that was a fairly positive model. My parents didn't drink, didn't smoke, didn't fight very often, and certainly didn't abuse us. They also seemed to ease fairly well into their respective roles, and they stayed married for over 40 years, till the day Dad died.

Perhaps one of the problems with my marriage was that I unconsciously expected my ex-wife to perform a similar role to that which my Mom had provided in her marriage with my Dad. But in any case, I tangent.

The book description on Amazon looks interesting, by the way.
 

David Baxter

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I did notice that her memory of things that happened before she was four years old is somewhat distorted. She was four when her mother left me.

The adult version of human memory does not form until about age 3 or 4. Most people cannot recall events prior to that time (or more acccurately cannot retrieve them) because those memories exist in a different "filing system". Generally, what people do remember before age 3 are only traumatic memories which are stored in a more epsodic and emotional format, as opposed to the semantic format of adult memory.

I suspect that what your daughter is suggesting is based more on "deduction" and perhaps things her mother has said than on reality.
 

Lana

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You mentioned that you do not have desire to be in a relationship, Stargazer. That while you would engage in some form of a relationship, they all fizzle out. Perhaps your daugher seeks out men that are similar to you, just as you sought out a woman similar to your mother.
 

David Baxter

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Harville Hendrix (author of the so-called Imago Therapy approach to couples counseling) argues that we seek in a partner someone who has the negative attributes of our parents.

To put it bluntly, I think that's utter nonsense and the process by which he arrives at that conclusion is a textbook example of flawed logic.

I do think parents help us to form our beliefs about relationships but we are just as likely to seek relationships with people who are decidely NOT like our parents as we are to seek partners who are like them. One of the factors is the kind of relationship we had with that parent and the kind of relationship our paretns had with each other. I'd also point out that parents are far from our only role models for relationships.
 

stargazer

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David Baxter said:
I suspect that what your daughter is suggesting is based more on "deduction" and perhaps things her mother has said than on reality.

I have suspected this as well. In fact, I think not only her mother, but my stepdaughter, provided her with fallacious information regarding events during her first four years of life, and that they did this for two reasons:

(1) They simply don't themselves remember what actually happened. In the case of my ex, she may sort of choose not to remember, if you know what I mean.

(2) In the event that they do remember, they have decided to create a different version of reality in order to more easily fend off questions my daughter had (as to the reasons for the divorce, etc.) that might have led to ugly psychic places.

That said, I'm sure their intentions were good. The problem for me now, as one adult attempting to relate to my daughter as another adult, is that she seems to be drawing conclusions as to her present behavior patterns based largely on false data. And since I'm no longer in contact with either my ex-wife or my stepdaughter, it's not possible to engage in any constructive dialogue around it. Neither of the two has returned e-mails or phone messages from me for over a year now. Hopefully, however, my relationship with my stepdaughter will improve.

Lana also raises an interesting point. My daughter may unconsciously be seeking out men who secretly don't really want to be in a relationship. Myself, I had had about five steady girlfriends prior to courting my ex, the last of which was a fiancee who broke off the engagement. I was pretty much done by the time I met my ex, but she aggressed so persistently I finally just gave in.

In retrospect, I feel somewhat guilty that perhaps I didn't put my whole heart into the marriage. I was always faithful to her, but she could tell my work was more important to me. And everyone else could tell, too.
 

stargazer

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Lana said:
You mentioned that you do not have desire to be in a relationship, Stargazer. That while you would engage in some form of a relationship, they all fizzle out. Perhaps your daugher seeks out men that are similar to you, just as you sought out a woman similar to your mother.

The more I look at what you said, Lana, the more I wonder if it might be true....
 

Daniel

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Frankly, these explanations are too simple. With a lot of human behavior, I would think that there could easily be hundreds or thousands of environmental factors along with genetic factors that may be just as significant. Life, like history, is too complex to fully understand why things happened the way they did:

History could have gone off in any number of different directions in any number of different ways at any point along the way, just as your own life can. You never know. One thing leads to another. Nothing happens in a vacuum.

-- David McCullough, "Knowing History and Knowing Who We Are"
 

stargazer

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I see that now. She's using deductive reasoning to draw conclusions based on the only evidence she knows of, even if much of that evidence is false data. However, I'm not sure how important it is for her to understand what really happened, or if it's best to just let sleeping dogs lie. My concern is that I don't want her to go through her adult life with perceptions resulting from misconceptions, especially if it continues to interfere with her developing healthy intimate relationships.

Less abstractly, her boyfriend/roommate just invited a girl from New York over to visit him, slept with her, and left the door open so she would be aware of what was happening. She's moving out this weekend.
 

Daniel

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Of course, for people who tend to get into bad relationships, there's therapy and a ton of self-help books available besides the help of friends and family.

When she is not in a relationship, is she desperately waiting for the next relationship? In other words, how is her mental health between relationships? Is her life in need of repair in other areas...does she like her job, her friends, etc.?
 

stargazer

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Daniel said:
Of course, for people who tend to get into bad relationships, there's therapy and a ton of self-help books available besides the help of friends and family.

Yes, and I think she ought to go that route. She tends to call me first, every time there's a break-up. It's happened about ten times in a row, in the past four years or so. She probably calls because she feels she needs me at that moment, which is sweet, but yes, it would be good for her to read up on the subject. We've also discussed her getting one-to-one therapy, now that she might have mental health benefits through MediCal.

Daniel said:
When she is not in a relationship, is she desperately waiting for the next relationship? In other words, how is her mental health between relationships?

Well, it's hard to say. She seems to be unconsciously "on the lookout" for a new relationship while claiming to just chill for a while. But invariably, someone comes along, and then she calls me telling me she's never been so attracted to anyone before, and that he's different, and that she's sure he's the one.
 

Lana

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In my youth, I was a jerk magnet. If there was a jerk in the immediate vicinity, I?d attract him and be attracted to him. I met ?nice boys? but I turned up my nose because they were ?nice?. Bad boys got my motor running. In my naive youth, I had same unrealistic thinking that many women had (and some still have) that I can ?make? them fall in love with me, change for me, and want no one but me. :unsure: I had very vivid imagination.

After much introspection, therapy, and looking back I know what was happening. The ?jerks? did exactly what I wanted them to: they left and in doing so, validated each and every one of my ?reasons? (i.e. fears, beliefs, apprehensions, etc.). I selected boys that were not commitment material. If at any time someone even thought about commitment or behaved in that manner, I promptly gave them reasons not to (I?m awesome at that!). I became destructive. I became difficult and unreasonable. I whined, moaned, and groaned. I put my worst foot forward to test them and re-test them. As soon as they broke, I won and every view, action, and belief were justified. It wasn?t ME, it was THEM.

Things changed when I met my husband. My antics didn?t work on him and that scared the bejeezes out of me. Every single time he didn?t cave in, I panicked. All of the sudden, I was vulnerable, I wanted more, I cared, I didn?t want to loose him?but it felt like receiving a death sentence and being happy about it. :panic: Few things were more terrifying.

I didn?t pick my husband due to similarities to my mother (the only relative I knew and grew up with), I picked him based on the ideal image of a man I had by reading books and watching TV. :yikes: So the image I had, I made up by constructing attributes I liked into this ideal, which included favoured attributes of people I knew

Stargazer, your daughter may want a partner like you because of your great qualities: you?re there for her, you care, you are involved. It doesn?t have to be ?she?s gets involved in unhealthy relationships because of what happened in the past?. She may very well be focusing on the good that you share. I also agree with Daniel and David, that she may have her own reasons, views, and ideas. I didn?t mean to imply that it?s the only possibility. Those, of course, are endless.
 

stargazer

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Lana said:
Stargazer, your daughter may want a partner like you because of your great qualities: you?re there for her, you care, you are involved. It doesn?t have to be ?she?s gets involved in unhealthy relationships because of what happened in the past?. She may very well be focusing on the good that you share. I also agree with Daniel and David, that she may have her own reasons, views, and ideas. I didn?t mean to imply that it?s the only possibility. Those, of course, are endless.

Well, thanks for the compliment. I'm not sure my qualities are all that great, but I do care for my daughter. Also, I must say that, on this subject, I feel like I'm completely far afield from the realm of my comprehension and competence. I read what people are writing, and I can understand some of it, but a lot of it just doesn't make any sense. Or, at the very least, it raises so many questions.

For example, why *would* a young woman seek out guys who are reluctant to commit themselves? Is it because she herself doesn't want to commit? I would think that, of course she wants to commit...don't most girls? I just don't get the psychological thing here...
 

stargazer

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Lana said:
Bad boys got my motor running. In my naive youth, I had same unrealistic thinking that many women had (and some still have) that I can ?make? them fall in love with me, change for me, and want no one but me.

Continuing with a related question: is this done because the young woman wants the rush of a special challenge? I'm not sure I'm grasping what your motive was.
 

Lana

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Well one explanation is that to be in a committed relationship is to be vulnerable...exposed.

You yourself do not wish to be in a relationship yet you do enjoy the perks now and then..until it fizzles out: what are your reasons? I'm not asking for you to answer them, but just to show that everyone has their own reasons...it's impossible to attribute it to one specific thing.

In my case, I wanted to be in a relationship, but inability to form attachments and intense fear of trusting and letting go got in the way. Keeping my fears and insecurities alive (so as to validate them, to "prove" them) I selected partners that would "help" the cause. Case in point: I recall saying to one man that he'd break my heart....and then proceeded to become involved with him. Needless to say, he did just that: he broke my heart. But, I then was able to say: see, I try to care and be in a realtionship but they just don't work.

I guess it was the case where what I believed in, and what I wanted, were two very different things. If you go into a relationship thinking it'll fail, it will fail. I believe the term for that is self-fulfilling prophecy. I fulfilled mine through careful unconscious selection. I actually thought that "making" someone change was the answer.
 

David Baxter

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Yes. Following up on what Lana said, I've seen something similar in young female clients:

Scenario 1
I have low self-esteem and self-confidence and I don't believe anyone could really love me because I'm not worthy of love.

The guys who are interested in me - they don't mean anything because they're obviously just not seeing the real me or I don't trust their judgement - otherwise they wouldn't be interested in me.

The guys who are not initially interested in me - I go after them because if I can make them like me it will prove to me that I really am interesting / pretty / worthy. But I know that won't happen.

Scenario 2
I'm afraid of being hurt in a relationship.

If I get into a relationship with someone who likes me, I may start to really like him too and then it will hurt when he dumps me.

If I get into a relationship with someone who doesn't care about me, then I'm less likely to care about him and then it won't hurt as much when he dumps me.

Scenario 3
I'm afraid that there's something wrong with me and I'll never have a good relationship.

If I am with someone who cares about me and treats me that way and it doesn't work out, that will prove there's something wrong with me so I can risk it.

If I am with someone who doesn't care ab out me (is a jerk) and it doesn't work out, that will just prove that guys are jerks or that relationships don't work - it won't be confirming evidence of my fear that there's something wrong with me.
 

stargazer

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Uh, not sure what you meant by the "perks" but I don't have sex when dating, to clarify. My recent girlfriend and I kissed on the first date, and it never went any further. But to answer your question, it's an area of life that I haven't explored or thought about much. It never occurs to me to seek the company of women, or to seek out a relationship. It's just that every now and then a woman shows up in my life, and we hit it off, and each of just sort of takes it from there. So I don't really have any developed set reasons.

Not sure if I answered you or not. Will write more, am in and out the door, back late this evening.
 

Daniel

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Some excerpts from Psychology Today that may be relevant.

Why do women seem compelled to go for the "bad boy"? And is there anything I can do to influence that situation to my benefit?

Bad Boys do seem to have their appeal -- until it's too late and a woman is stuck in a relationship with one of them and mortgaging the house to bail him out of jail yet again. They really lose their appeal with age. There is no shortage of theories why we like 'em. Bad boys are provocative and daring; that always seems appealing. They stir up excitement, which seems like fun to be around. One take with an evolutionary twist has good women falling for bad boys because they seem to display some qualities (like strength) that may have been needed in our prehistoric past for achieving high status -- but unfortunately, they lack the full range of qualities that are likely to lead to success in today's much more complex world (intelligence, inventiveness, social skills, perseverance, behavioral flexibility).

Whatever the reason, bad boys do serve a valuable object lesson for us all. They instruct us that niceness is desirable but generally not sufficient for attracting a potential partner. People of both genders prefer others who are interesting and even exciting -- as well as nice.

Unconventional Wisdom (Jan/Feb 2005)


Regarding being single with or without a boyfriend/girlfriend:

Not only are singles the fastest-growing population group in the country, most of us will spend more of our adult lives single than married. That hard demographic fact is rapidly turning singlehood into a satisfying destination rather than an anxiety-ridden way station, a sign of independence rather than a mark of shame, an opportunity to develop a variety of relationships rather than a demand to stuff all one's emotional eggs into one basket.

"The last great way to keep women in their place is to remind them that they are incomplete. Even if you think you're happy, the messages go, you don't know real happiness." There's a hunger out there for a new view of singles.

The soulmate culture insists that one person can satisfy all your emotional needs, says DePaulo. "But that's like putting all of your money in one stock and hoping it's not Enron." Marriage today forces many people to put their friendships on the back burner.

Lone Stars: Being Single (May/Jun 2006)
 

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