Single and Dating a Married Man

Single and Dating a Married Man

I was at the bookstore some time back, standing in the self -help/relationship section (yes, we psychologists read these books too) when an interesting thing happened.

A young, very attractive woman walked up with her friend. She was loudly talking about the type of book she was looking for, one to help with her problem of course. Her problem, she was telling her friend, was her boyfriend, he just wouldn’t leave his wife.

Now this woman was attractive and I could tell that she was intelligent by the way she talked. Well, at least she was educated. But smart about relationships? Smart about taking care of herself and looking out for her own best interests? I don’t think so…

I read an article recently (a relationship related article) that said that we are programmed to want what is difficult to get. Somehow this is supposed to make sense as a stand-alone idea. That’s a bit like saying that the sky is blue because it is blue. Perhaps the writer intended to say that we like a challenge, that we try to achieve difficult things because we need to reach, stretch, and grow. I don’t buy it.

So, do people really want what they can’t have? Do we really pursue bad relationships to our own detriment- because we are programmed to seek the things that are hard to get?

First of all, no one in their right mind would pass up an apple within reach just for the challenge of getting the one at the top of the tree, at least no one that really wants to eat an apple. However, if you want to climb a tree, you may choose to go to the top and by the way, get the apple that’s up there too. There are people who do things for the challenge of doing it, but those people are not looking for the fruit, but the challenge of the climb.

Few people who really want a relationship would intentionally seek out one that is so difficult and painful as the young book hunter’s relationship. (I don’t call this a relationship but a self-imposed incarceration-) This woman could have had most any man she wanted but she chose instead to pursue a fool’s mission.

There are actually several reasons what this young lady might be desperately seeking what she can’t have.

She undoubtedly got involved too quickly and without conscious consideration for her own best interests. I call this the instant relationship. Its is easy to allow fantasy to carry one off, only later to have it all come crashing down when the reality hits. What could have been easily ended before, or better yet, never started, now becomes a break up, involving emotional turmoil and pain. Or worse yet, she could have an interminable period of time as a mistress in an unfulfilling and dead end relationship.

Also, it can be exciting and it can feel very safe to go after a person that is unavailable, at least at first. Space is freeing- there is a feeling that there is so much area to fill up, so much excitement to look forward to.

Some people become addicted to the “excitment” of being in a relationship that is like a rollercoaster ride. The excitment and elation of union, the fear of being alone, the rush of planning those secret rendezvous. This excitment can seem like love but is really a kind of addiction to the brain chemistry that is released during the various departure and encounter events.

Most powerful of all, is our tendency to want repair. This is an unconscious process of seeking to heal old wounds and hurts through healing in the present. I would be willing to bet the hair on my head (no great loss given the small quantity) that this lovely young woman has some important person in her life that was unavailable to her, someone for whom she desperately longed. So, as a means of repair, she sought out another unavailable person in the present, hoping to work out what she was not able to work out before.

This is of course an unconscious course of action, but detrimental and incredibly painful nonetheless.Just because there are unconscious forces acting on us doesn’t mean we have to act unconsciously.

In her desparation , this youg lady hoped to find safety and security in a very unsafe and uncertain place (even if exciting at times)  she was hoping that the right book would provide the answer.

I did use a really extreme example to make a point. We tend to put the decision about our life partners in the hands of love and chance.

Love is the feeling that draws us into the relationship and chance (the same as rolling of dice) is often how we choose a prospective life partner.

So, what is the answer? How can we prevent this kind of tragedy before it starts? The answer is really very simple: Get clarity!

First and foremost get to know your vision, know yourself, learn what you want, need, and require in a relationship.

Make goals and take action to achieve these things in your life and your relationships. Be conscious of what limits you and make efforts to change them or at least not act on them. (If you are repeating patterns that are unproductive and self- defeating, learn to identify and avoid repeating them over and over). This means putting significant effort into both choosing your relationships and making your relationship work (if you are in a committed relationship). Spend some time and energy learning about yourself, studying relationships and relationship science. Take chance out of the equation (at least reduce the odds of failure to near zero as possible). This requires that you use both your heart and your head.

If you are seeking the fruit of a good, fulfilling, and lasting relationship, make choices that will lead you to the fruit.



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  7. Great article; this lady’s choices are setting her up for a painful experience. long-term pain in exchange for short-term gain. Self-esteem issues seem so apparent and if she really believed she deserved better, she would make better choices.

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