You Can’t Help Whom You’re Attracted to But…
A lot to be thankful for! At Grayton Beach State Park (Florida) on Thanksgiving Day, 2008. c by Shannon Bailey
Funny how things happen. My daughter was supposed to be with her dad on this Friday night but he had a date so that meant either she spent the night at my house or got pawned off on a relative. I hadn’t finalized my social plans for the weekend so I postponed my date and decided to stay home, finish my Yule decorations, and maybe finish off the remainder of the bottle of wine from my last date with The Pretty Soldier Boy. To keep my mind from wandering obsessively about other stuff while I did some manual labor, I put on an audiobook that I’d started on a roadtrip, called Actually, It Is Your Parents’ Fault. It’s about how childhood patterns influence relationships. Shannon called it a repeat of one of her college-level Psych classes, and it is but probably with better stories.
Ironic that I would pick that one instead of Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight or an audiobook on ancient plagues or something else as mentally stimulating (to me) to help me through the boredom of housework. But I needed something to take my mind off silly stuff I’d just heard.
What I didn’t want to think about, among other things, was the news today that someone in my past (I’ll call him…Zeus) is involved with a new woman that my family has had some dealings with. My impression was always that she was a money-grubber interested only in the material wealth a man might bestoy on her. I’ve seen her in action and gotten a laugh out of it because of who she’s done it to before (the rat deserved it). But Zeus??? There was probably a twinge of jealousy for me but not much more than just wondering what he could possibly see in this woman. He’s one of the men who went “Poof!” in my past, without a warning, just as we were starting to get very emotional about each other.
But back to my Friday night date with myself…. The tree was up and decorated, things put away, the lights half-way untangled so I can put them out on my lovely new front gardens tomorrow, and me just merrily listening to a book on psychology. Yep, that’s me.
Around the 2nd or 3rd hour of the 6+-hour audiobook, I was quite sure that two of the subjects’ names had been changed to hide the identity of my ex-husband and me. This would be the part about projection and projected identity/identification and why some people stay together instead of walking and why others are attracted to people who are repeats of past relationships so much so that it’s scary.
In all my self-inquiry of the past four years, I feel I’ve broken a lot of patterns. And I’m proud of that. I’m also versed enough in psychology to understand completely that my relationships (as well as anyone else’s) with men all have facets of my father, my first role model for the opposite sex. I know for certain which of the earliest memories of Daddy influenced the kind of man I am absolutely and pathetically attracted to and will fall in love with almost instantly. That’s the part of my dad who was outgoing, flirtatious, social, and doted on me. With a wickedly boyish grin. I still have that image of my dad when he was about 38 or so and loved to show me off around town and flirt. Well, of course. I thought I was the center of his world then. I can think of men now whom I’ve been very passionate about and I see their grinning faces in my mind’s eye and there’s a strong similarity to my earliest memories of Daddy’s boyish grin. Yes, I recognize that that is how we’re wired as humans, whether we like to admit it or not.
But when I got a little older, his interest in making me feel special faded very quickly. It turned more toward making me feel worthless, always questioning my worth and abilities, and giving me repeated expectations of failure–all this before I was in elementary school. From there, it just got worse. There was a sense of emotional abandonment after being his little princess for a few short years. How do you go from being perfect to being not even worth a phone call over the course of one night?
That pattern has played out often for me, either as a relationship with a man who turned very critical and emotionally unavailable or…the man who was emotionally available and full of all that passion I yearned for but physically abandoned me. Maybe not intentionally, but I have a long history of relationships with men who moved away (always out of their control) and I couldn’t follow, and it was rare that I knew that when I fell in love. Trying to keep the relationship going from a distance has been both successful and unsuccessful, depending on the man and my ability to be mobile.
So what’s a girl to do?
I recognize that while there are behaviors we can change, we can’t change our personalities to such a great extent. My experience with personality typing (Myers-Briggs, various Government tests, etc) and with astrology shows that we really don’t change our personality but we can alternate between the higher and lower manifestations of certain personality traits and figure out more positive ways to react to things about that aren’t going to change. Unless we have a brain injury, perhaps, and even then, I’ve had friends with brain injuries who still retained much of their former personality and patterns of choice in mates.
They say that you can’t help who you’re attracted to. I agree. I may not want to be attracted to boyish and flirtatious replicas of my father (egads, you don’t know how much I hate the correlation!), but I am and that’s really not going to change. I can have a relationship with someone who isn’t a clone of his younger dad-self but that’s not very gratifying to me unless I can figure out how to get rid of my need for emotional support and my sex drive–and then I wouldn’t be me! So I resign myself to knowing the kind of men who bring fulfilling relationships to my doorstep and deal with the consequences.
What I can do something about is that I don’t have to be in a relationship with someone who cannot give back emotionally. I know what it’s like to have that, how it feels, and I don’t ever want to go back to being in a relationship with someone who is emotionally unavailable. I’m happier not being in a relationship.
The other thing I can do something about is to make myself more mobile and give myself the wings to go with the next man in my life when his career dictates that he has to move–or find someone who has the career leeway to put down roots where I am. That’s actually harder for me than being with someone who’s not available emotionally. I don’t want to be in that position again to shake my head no, automatically, when a man asks me if I’d consider moving.
So some things can’t be changed, and some things can be altered if I prepare and think proactively.
As for Zeus and his new sweetheart, after listening to the audiobook, I’m finding myself deeply amused. What did I see in Zeus? What I remember most is that he abandoned our relationship just as he got really emotionally involved. He didn’t move away geographically; he moved away emotionally using some family issues as his excuse. According to mutal friends, he still has those family issues as much as ever before. What does Zeus see in her? Ah, exactly what he saw in his ex-wife. I should know…I heard often enough from him how miserable she’d made him by never really caring about him but focusing almost all her interest on his money. Somehow, he’s managed to find his ex’s twin, and I suspect he won’t being the one going “Poof!” in this relationship.