Posted by fxckfeelings on June 9, 2011Share This Post
Nuclear meltdowns may poison the air and water for miles around, but, in terms of actual damage done, love is probably the greater environmental hazard because it affects more people, gives no warning, and can’t be doused by heavy water. We should give kids courses on “duck and cover” before exposing them to the seduction of dreamy romances, but until then, there are some ways to avoid the fall out. It’s not easy building a hazmat suit, but there are ways to do it if you still have possession of your personality after the exposure is over.
A year and a half ago, my ex-fiancé died suddenly from a heart attack. He was 38. We had broken up a year earlier, and it was a very messy break-up. He called my boss at work and told her I was trying to have her fired so I could steal her job, I walked away from most of my personal belongings when I moved out, and I walked away from my savings because we had a joint bank account. I went to the funeral and found out that while we were planning our wedding he was pursuing on-line long-distance relationships as well as inappropriate relationships with women in our city. A letter from one of the long-distance women was read out at the funeral. I can’t move past this. I have been dating a man for about 3 months now and he’s wonderful. I have a really hard time thinking positively, and every time we have an argument I think ‘worst case scenario’—that he will leave me. How can I think more positively?
First, begin with the idea that love is dangerous and some people are more vulnerable than others. We’ve called love a virus before, and sadly, your emotional immune system is impaired.
People love to say it’s important to “follow your heart,” but for people like you, that can be deadly; after all, those same people might say that “love is blind,” and when you’re helpless to love, following your blinded heart can lead you right off a cliff.
Maybe a vulnerability to love is a genetic trait that helps people stick together, like the way geese imprint on one another, and it’s a good survival trait under certain circumstances and in moderate doses. Without guidance from your common sense, however, love can overwhelm your ability to think positively, negatively, or at all.
To recover from a love that binds you so powerfully to someone who is nasty, unreliable, and destructive takes lots of time and it hurts. You’re already doing something helpful by dating someone who seems nice, so take it one step further by defining what you mean by nice and checking out whether he fits.
From now on, your definition should never depend on how strongly you love or feel close to someone, because you get love-sick so easily and so quickly that your instincts are shot.
So stop looking to your useless heart for directions and follow the facts. What you want to see is a good track record for reliability in relationships, work, and money management. Then you want to see good evidence that he accepts you when you’re down, prickly, and not terribly responsive. Finally, maybe, you can let yourself start to connect.
Keep working at it until you get it right, and don’t be afraid to ask your friends whether they agree with your findings. The more you practice, the better you’ll get, and the less reactive you’ll be to whether he makes you feel good or your fears make you feel bad.
Along the way, your pain may make you feel needy. Fortunately, however, it sounds like you’ve acquired a healthy sense of self-doubt and wariness and that’s the kind of negative thinking that, in moderation, can be healthy.
Being susceptible to love doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you; just that the world contains bad people, that some are too easy to love, and you’re learning how to protect yourself.
If your heart’s judgment is going to fail you, then train your mind to pick up the slack. It’s not about becoming more positive; it’s about getting real.
“It’s hard to get over feelings of being broken, uncertain, and doomed after loving a psychopathic man, but I learned a lot, and my pain is there to warn me of danger. I will use my fear to think more logically about danger signs and how to spot them. I will remind myself that there are far worse things than being alone. I will become better at identifying people I can really trust.”
My sister keeps going out with the same kind of guy—attractive and sleazy—and, as you might expect, she gets her heart broken regularly. She’s a good kid and I try to tell her she needs to look for love in better places, but she insists that she sees good in these guys and knows what she’s doing. If I push too hard, she tells me I’m jealous of her happiness and unwilling to take the necessary risks to find a love of my own. I’ve learned to shut up, but my goal is to see her happy.
Sometimes love is 100% blinding, just like anger, sex, fear, etc., and getting in its way is useless. In your sister’s case, it isn’t love for a particular person, as in the case above; it’s love in general.
She wants to follow her heart and believes it’s a good thing, regardless of her bad experiences, which she probably rationalizes as something she did wrong. It’s hard to watch, but impossible to stop.
So don’t suffer and watch. Instead, wait until she recognizes that one of these guys is a jerk or that she’s lost something she values by spending time with them.
At that point, you can tell her you told her so, but not in terms of what she did wrong. As satisfying as that might be, sharing your frustration will make her feel bad and push her where you don’t want her to go: self-recrimination and the fantasy that things would go well if she did things right.
Instead, tell her that, as far as you can see, she’s been a great friend and partner to her boyfriends, but that you warned her that that particular jerky boyfriend was unworthy of her love. It’s not her you’re critical of, or her search for love, but the great number of attractive guys out there who can’t be good friends and partners.
Help her separate the idea of her performance from the pain of her loss. She’s not hurting because she fucked up, but because life is hard, her luck sucks (and so does her taste in men, but keep that to yourself).
Then, maybe, if she’s less defensive, she’ll buy into your procedures for screening out sleaze-buckets. Or maybe not, and you’ll just have to accept the fact that some people are fatally blind when it comes to love and the jerks that pretend to offer it.
“It’s no fun watching my sister fall for bad guys time and again, but good people sometimes have blind spots about love and blind spots about their blind spots, and I don’t know she’ll ever do better. If there’s a chance, I’ll help her. If not, I’ll try to have dinner with her when her guy isn’t around.”
More advice from Dr. Lastname