[Two Pronged] Is he in or not?
Dear Dr Holmes and Mr Baer:
I have been worried about this man whom I met online in the summer of 2012. He is separated/divorced and I've been separated since 2002. We chatted and became friends. he came home to the Philippines last Nov. 1, 2013 and we became GF/BF on Nov. 28, 2013.
He introduced his kids and sister to me. He has met my kids and I thought everything was going smoothly. It is my number one rule for a relationship to have open communication lines.
We have had intimate moments together, but since the 2nd week of January 2014, he always has reasons why he cannot text or even leave a message for me, for valid reasons I understand that I need to accept his side – there are moments that he needs to focus on his work.
The worst was that last February 15, he went to a High School reunion, and until Feb 19, he didn't leave any message, nor did he text me. I became so worried thinking about what was going on with him.
Until, in the afternoon of Feb 19, he left an FB message telling me he had gone to a casino ( Feb 18-19). I felt agitated. For 4 days he forgot that I existed. The thought of him having so much fun and excitement made him forget that I am significant.
I'm thinking whether he is really IN this relationship for commitment or just to have the comfort of having a so-called GF.
“Been there, done that.” I can feel that my experience from previous relationship is happening again.
I have no one to talk to – I can't talk to my close friends because of shame. I don’t wanna tell my kids because they are still minors. Please enlighten me on this matter. Please help me.
Thank you for your letter.
To your question "Is he in or not?" I think the answer is a resounding NOT. To have a mutually satisfying relationship requires that each party respect the other's feelings and this man's respect for yours borders on the non-existent. Based on your account, he is self-centered, egocentric and selfish - so how could you possibly want to continue with him? Cut your losses now and move on.
I would however like to mention two other issues arising from your letter. You say that you cannot discuss this relationship with your close friend because of 'shame' nor with your children because they are minors. I fail to see any shame in your story - except as it attaches to your hopefully now ex-boyfriend. You have done nothing shameful, at least that we know about, and if you ensure that this man does not remain in your life, you will exit the relationship with honor intact.
As for your minor children, we don't know how old they are but if you continue introducing boyfriends to them you need to have some sort of dialogue with them. The way you behave as a mother and as a partner is after all likely to be one of their greatest influences in life and explaining things like relationships to them in an age-appropriate way will be a vital element in molding their characters.
All the best,
Thank you very much for your letter. Once again, I feel that Jeremy has covered most of the immediate questions and concerns you’ve had and while I may not have used the words he did ☺ Once again, I agree with him entirely, especially when he talks “good riddance to bad rubbish” as far as your current boyfriend is concerned, and also choosing friends who can go beyond gossip and judging friends who have relationships that fail. After all, who among us have a perfect record in these matters?
What I would like to do is consider your statement “Been there, done that. I can feel that my experience from previous relationship is happening again,” because I feel this is the major reason for your current dilemma.
Yes! At the risk of suggesting an explanation of your behavior based on a single letter, I can’t help feeling you hit the nail on the head. That is good news indeed, because your insight that you have chosen the wrong guy again and again is the first step towards being able to choose the right guy.
The reason is that you have repetition compulsion.
Repetition compulsion has been offered as a reason for constantly choosing the wrong guy from as far back as Sigmund Freud who founded the theory up to the 21st century (Dr Drew, among others). Yes, Dr Drew has been accused of a being “fame junkie” in the recent past, but that doesn’t change the fact that, in my opinion, his analysis regarding people who are constantly attracted to people that hurt them. The link here is spot on.
Think about it, Ida. Among all the men you could’ve chosen to continue your online relationship with, you chose this guy. I am sure there were many other men you could’ve chosen and yet this guy appealed to you the most. But I am not blaming you, dearest Ida.
After all, repetition compulsion is not something we choose to have. It is difficult to avoid if our childhood or romantic experiences affected—and continue to affect—us in a certain way. It is very possible this man knew exactly what to say and do (once he came here) to attract you to him.
In his 1920 essay "Beyond the Pleasure Principle," Dr Freud explored repetition compulsion further by describing four aspects of repetitive behavior…one of which was the so-called "destiny neurosis," manifested in 'the life-histories of men and women...[as] an essential character-trait which remains always the same and which is compelled to find expression in a repetition of the same experience'.
Admittedly, I do not believe in Freud 100%, especially his explanations for homosexuality, child sexual abuse and the difference between clitoral and vaginal orgasm. However, when it comes to Freud’s theory of repetition compulsion, wala akong masabi. (I hardly have anything else to add).
Repetition compulsion is an attempt to rewrite history. The history we try to rewrite is typically the troubled relationship with our parents, particularly the opposite sex parent. But it need not be our parents. And we think that the relationship needs to be repeated because of our mistaken belief that we can soothe the hurt the original relationship caused.
We do this by purposely choosing a person who has similar traits (though they may not be immediately obvious at the time) and set ourselves up for yet another failure. Usually a man attractive because he has the same characteristics as the parent/original partner will disappoint the way the original person did.
As clinical psychologist Dr. Stephen Diamond says: “(The partners chosen are) symbolic stand-ins for the parent” .
Can you ever solve this repetition compulsion that threatens to leave your romantic life constantly in shambles?
Yes!...but with great difficulty, especially since on the basis of a single letter, I am not 100% sure that this might truly be one of the causes of your problem.
For now, I will be happy that you do not necessarily accept, but explore the possibility, that it is repetition compulsion that came into play in your decision. Later you can think about having therapy. Insight is usually not enough to help you.
I will, however, not stop caring about what happens to you, the same way Jeremy will continue to hope you break up with this man whose once shining armor is looking a bit rusty now. If you’re so inclined, let us know how it turns out, ok?
All the very best,
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