Ouch: Why My Romantic Partners Often Run Like Hell and What I Can’t Do about It
Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Passion to the Third Degree.
Occasionally in my personal archeology, I unearth some new bit of information that leaves me reeling for days. This is one of those times.
I wasn’t even looking for this information, not consciously at least. I was waiting for a coffee date to leave work and call me and I accidentally stumbled across some relationship theory by a psychologist who speaks frequently of transformation in romantic partnerships and how each partner deals (or doesn’t) with such powerfully intense repercussions. It struck a very deep chord. Very. It explains more than I can handle right now.
What I discovered is that most of my romantic relationships have been based on individual vitality. In other words, two powerful people coming together but remaining individuals who put their own interests first and often are locked in power plays where concessions are lose-lose. (My coffee date, by the way, falls into this category, especially since we’re light years apart in politics and religion.) These are transforming relationships for me, but often in a way that feels—and is—oppressive to me. Many of my platonic relationships have been more about mutual development, but of all the dozens of possibilities, my romances have been almost exclusively about maintaining individual vitality, right down to all-out verbal warfare if need be—which I despise—or my giving up my individuality to make the relationship “work.”
Almost exclusively, yes. Not all. A very few have been “special,” what this psychologist calls “enchantments.” She refers to them as dream-like, on a pedestal, high-minded with a lot of chivalry, nobility, and sacrifice inherent in them. These are beautiful relationships that provide both parties with a deep sense of love and security and allow each other to blossom and be more individually together than ever alone. It is an erotic merger on every level from physical to mental to spiritual, and has the power to transform both of us in wonderful and unexpected ways that could never be achieved otherwise. They are incredibly healing relationships if the right balance can be struck. It is truly the relationship of the most idealized romance novel.
The danger in such a relationship, for me, is that if I’m not 100% honest with him about my feelings and allowing my partner to see my flaws and accept them, I might try to be what he expects me to be rather than myself because I don’t want to disappoint my prince. Because there’s such a beautiful tendency to merge, I must remember to remain an individual. Not that I’m fighting to be me, but that it’s so pleasant in the merger that I like being merged in the relationship. But with a lot of honesty and communication and the right balance of living in our mystical love story and in the mundane world at the same time, it’s a phenomenal relationship where I can truly feel I’m ascending and transcending everything around me.
But that’s not why such romantic and chivalrous partners run like hell. In fact, it’s a part of almost every relationship with me that is to some degree difficult for every friend and lover. I am a transformer, whether I want to be or not. There is something in me that causes most people to look deeply, if they’re willing. It works quite well for life coaching but it’s been a miserable failure in my long-term relationships.
Several years ago, a man from my distant past looked me up online and called me. I was married then and no longer interested in what he had to say, and I reminded him that he’d disappeared from my life without ever saying goodbye. Abruptly enough that I’d talked to the police about his vanishing act before finding that the only foul play was my battered feelings.
“I had some issues,” he told me, embarrassed. “I didn’t want to work them, and it was just easier to leave.” He still has the same issues, three marriages later, and still chooses not to work through them, but he’s someone else’s problem now. It makes me sad when I run into him and see how unhappy he is, still repeating the mistakes of 20 years ago.
It’s a reality I’ve seen several times. The lack of courage or fear of their world falling in around them if they dealt with childhood feelings of inadequacy that had lasting ramifications in their adult relationships. The not willing to look at deep issues. I saw it in my marriage. I’ve seen it in other relationships where it was easier for the guy to flee, knowing I would hold him accountable for not facing his shadows.
According to the psychologist, in my relationships that have the most potential for emotional rewards, the relationships tend to bring up unconscious, deep-seated pain in my partner, often things from childhood that he’s not even aware of, things he needs to work through to free himself and reach a place of fulfillment. In other relationships, my guy would normally just adjust to a partner and move ahead, but he can’t with me. He can’t simply “adjust.” He must deal with ancient, intense, emotional pain and process those emotions and achieve an emotional clearing so he can truly find joy. It’s part of the purpose of a relationship with me—for both us to get very clear in our emotions and rid ourselves of the darknesses so we can enjoy each other in light.
Such a partner for me will either immerse himself in the relationship and work through his issues or he’ll detach. Detach. Yeah. And that means either isolating himself to protect himself from dealing with old wounds our relationship unwittingly dredges up or it means he runs away.
Even more unfortunately, in an “enchanted” relationship where my feelings run so intense and mystical, I would give comfort and healing and as much love and aid as he could ever ask in working through such issues, yet there is nothing I can do to make him look at such issues and it’s usually easier for him to ignore any feelings for me and detach from me than to face his shadows and even think of defeating them.
Thus far, both friends and strangers have engaged in transformative relationships with me and have looked at their shadows and worked through them to a point of really loving where they are in their lives—or at least improving some part of it. But thus far, I have never had a romantic partner who was more willing to work for an emotional clearing than he was to run like hell…not from me but from the issues and emotions our relationship dredged up inside him that had nothing to do with me.
Sometimes, that makes me feel as if I’m being punished for something I haven’t done. I can, intellectually, realize that a man’s deep-rooted issues have nothing at all to do with me, but emotionally, it still hurts when a partner can’t trust me enough to let me be a part of his healing.