Today I’m going to talk to you on a very grounded, human level about one of the most common and fatal relationship dynamics that occurs in today’s world. I am going to describe this dynamic in its most usual form, where a woman plays one part and a man plays the other part. Keep in mind though that it is possible for the roles to be reversed and keep in mind that this same dynamic occurs in same sex couples. I am going to call this dynamic the “please love me” dynamic. Usually in the please love me dynamic, the woman is continuously trying to capture and keep a man’s attention (and therefore love). And a man feels like he can’t please the woman (and therefore be loved by her) so he withdraws.
Let’s start with the woman’s part. This is a widespread epidemic. We have all seen those movies, movies like Romeo and Juliet or The Notebook. We crave that level of intimacy. We crave the connection. We are jealous to the point of rage of those women who somehow manage to manifest men who are crazy about them; men who would climb walls and forge oceans and be there for them through thick and thin. We want men who are masculine enough to not be threatened by us, and who are masculine enough to take the lead; men who appreciate us for exactly who we are here and now. But what’s the reality? The reality is that we find men who are never “all in”. We find men who are apathetic towards us. We spend every minute of our lives trying to come up with ways to entice them into the center of the relationship. We try to inspire them to put effort into us. We feel like we have to do backbends to try to capture their interest and keep it. We end up exhausted. We end up feeling lonely. We may be in the same room, but we are alone and in the same room. We start to feel desperate. Desperate becomes the emotional status quo. This desperation for love and attention, this desperation for energy to come towards us, makes us feel utterly powerless to our partner. We start to get angry. We start to criticize. As a result, the men in our lives feel unloved. They feel like we have made a turnabout from loving to hating and as a result, they withdraw. They find ways to distance themselves from the relationship, which makes us angrier, which makes them withdraw more, which makes us angrier, which makes them withdraw more. It is essentially a snowball headed for hell.
And now for the man’s part, men dream of being with a woman who is vivacious and carefree, who can enjoy loving and enlivening moments without stress. They want a deep connection with a woman who is self assured enough to let them be what they are and do what they want to do yet feminine enough to let them take the lead. They want a woman who can love and appreciate them exactly as they are here and now. But what’s the reality? The reality is that you find women who are constantly displeased with something about you. You find women who nag and you find women who criticize. Your life is riddled with stress, a stress that doesn’t exist when you are away from her. You feel like whatever you do isn’t good enough and you can’t figure out what she does want. It’s like you are communicating in different languages. You start to feel trapped in a situation where you can’t win. You don’t know how to make the other person happy. So you start to withdraw. And you start to build a silent resentment. And where does your pent up frustration and energy go? It goes into fantasies, into drugs, into pornography or into other women. As a result, the women in your lives feel more unloved. They start to criticize you more. They start to beg for love in the only way they know how. They pull on you and that makes you want to withdraw more which makes them criticize and pull you towards them more, which makes you withdraw more and like I said before, this is a snowball headed straight for hell. This vibrational dance can be visualized easily by imagining that intimacy and a committed relationship is like a kitty pool between two people. In this dynamic, one partner (usually the female) is trying to entice and pull the other into the kitty pool with her. The other (usually male) is trying to exit the kitty pool. When it comes to what created this dynamic, we must look to childhood. Keep in mind that yet again, there are exceptions to the scenario I’m going to put forward. For example, the same sex parent may have been the offender instead of the opposite sex parent. It just so happens that it is usually the opposite sex parent that sets the vibrational stage for our expectation of romantic partners.
We begin with the girls. As girls we had fathers who could not develop intimacy and emotional closeness with us. We had fathers who always had something more important to do. They were always working at the office or working on a project around the house or engaging in a hobby or lavishing their attention on our mothers. Our fathers did not initiate quality time with us. They did not get to know who we were or what we liked and disliked. We had to literally do backbends to get their attention. They did not extend their energy towards us in any way. Instead, they made us feel like we had to capture and earn their attention and then work doubly hard to keep that attention. As much as we wanted to be, we were not daddy’s girls. This feeling is compounded if our fathers were also not protectors and did not keep us safe from physical or emotional harm as children. People outside the family or people inside the family, like siblings or our mothers, could have inflicted this harm. This feeling is also compounded if our relationship with our mothers was bad because they did not love us well either. If we did not have an unconditionally loving mother either, our desperation for our father’s love increases because we are trying to escape loneliness and also fear through gaining his attention and energy. It is quite common that if we felt like we had to compete with our mother or another sibling for our father’s attention, we will find ourselves involved with an apathetic mate, whose affections stray towards other women. It is also quite common that if we had to compete with a career or a hobby for our father’s attention, we will find ourselves involved with an apathetic mate whose attention will be taken up with work or a hobby. It is hard for us to recognize that the exact same feeling we had in our relationship with our fathers is the exact same feeling we have in our romantic relationships because we have buried this pain of desperation for attention and love from our fathers deeply beneath our craving and wanting of them. We glorified them in our minds and so we cannot admit to how much they hurt us.
Now for the boys, as boys you had mothers who were so enmeshed that they could not let you be free. Your mothers smothered you with closeness, but not a kind of closeness that felt good. You had mothers who mistook worry for love. They nagged you and criticized you. It was a closeness that came with judgment. You had mothers who had a vested interest in how you would turn out, what you would wear and how you would behave. You had mothers who guilted you for making them unhappy. You had mothers who were controlling. Their love felt like poison because it wasn’t given freely. It was only given in response to pleasing them. And it never seemed like you could please them enough. Your mother was unpleasable. She approved of only what you did for her. She loved you only for what she wanted you to be, not for who you actually were. Your relationship with her was stressful. Your mothers made you responsible for their happiness and so; you learned that the only way to survive her was to shut down to her emotionally. You learned that intimacy was dangerous. You want it, but you also see it as an open door for entrapment. You may have been momma’s boys. But the truth is, you didn’t want to be. It didn’t feel good to be a momma’s boy with this mother. This feeling is compounded if you had an overly passive, escapist or addicted father figure who did not fulfill the role of supportive husband when you were young. When this is the case, mothers often use their sons as substitute husbands. Which saddles the son with having to provide emotional support for their mother. This adds even more fuel to the fire of this particular condition.
It is hard for you to recognize that the exact same feeling you had in your relationship with our mothers is the exact same feeling we have in your romantic relationships because you feel guilty for seeing your mother in this light. You feel sorry for her or you feel disloyal to her. To some degree, you are still committed to her wellbeing and so you cannot let yourself see the relationship for what it was. This is one of the most common dynamics in relationships today. We develop the same dynamic with our boyfriends and husbands that we felt with our father. We develop the same dynamic with our girlfriends and wives that we felt with our mother. So what do we do about it? First, we have to recognize that we are trying desperately to heal from our suppressed past pain with our parents by recreating it in our adult lives. Just realizing that you are doing the same thing and are feeling the exact same feeling goes a long, long way. This helps you to pull your energy back from feeding the dynamic. Ask yourself this question, am I trying to turn my apathetic father into the involved, loving, protective father figure that I wanted by trying to turn my apathetic partner into the involved, committed, protective and intimate lover that I want? Am I trying to turn my unpleasable mother into the unconditionally loving, approving, carefree mother figure that I always wanted by trying to turn my impossible to please, critical, clingy partner into the self assured, unconditionally loving, approving partner that I want? As women we have to be willing to let the relationship end and stop pulling at his energy or begging for attention. Our number one fear is that if we stop pulling a man towards us, that he will not come toward us of his own volition. And I am here to tell you that it may just be true. But it is better to not be with a man at all than to spend your time pulling him towards you. There are a great many programs for women that teach you how to train a man to love you like you need him to. One of the number one techniques is called mirroring. You withdraw when he withdraws. You come close when he comes close. And it may work yes. But it also guarantees that you will spend your life living on your toes. Instead of relaxing into a supportive intimate relationship with a man who WANTS to and is WILLING to be committed to a relationship and invest energy in you, your relationship will turn into a highly manipulative game. And you will be doing nothing more than you were doing with your father. You will be doing nothing more than trying to structure your behavior so you can get the reaction you want from him. Pour all the energy you would pour into trying to get him to want to be present with you, into yourself instead. Tell him what you need and want and if he doesn’t follow through, live your own life as if he is not present. If he fades out of your life, that is your indication that he wasn’t supposed to be in it. To some degree you need to accept that if he wanted to be there, he would be.
As men, you need to decide if you really do want to be in the relationship or not. There is no wrong answer to this question. If the answer is no, then cut it off. If the answer is yes, then you’ve got to be brave enough to learn how to initiate and show love. You’ve got to be brave enough to come to the center of the kitty pool and not withdraw. There are people who can teach you how to love someone. There are so many suggestions about how to show love to someone else on the internet alone. Go looking for them. Ask your friends and ask Google how to show love for someone, research romantic ideas. If you can’t figure it out, ask your partner. They will be able to tell you what kinds of things make them feel loved. And you also have to pay enough attention to your emotions to recognize when you are withdrawing and choose to do the opposite. It is a choice that you are making to withdraw and prioritize other things. If you wanted to be with her, you would be. So make that decision.
We also need to do inner child work to rescue the inner children who are actually still stuck in these fatal relationship dynamics with our parents. Girls, you need to mentally create better fathers for your inner children. You need to validate your inner children and give them unconditional attention. Boys, you need to mentally defend your inner children against their mothers controlling and critical behavior. Defend them against the guilt. Mentally create better husbands for your mothers and let your inner children be free. Validate them for who they are and help them to feel loved and seen for who they really are.
Another thing we need to do, is to be clear and brutally honest with our partners about what we want and need from them and we need to be brutally and severely honest about whether we can provide those things for our partners. If not, we need to end the relationships instead of trying for years to force ourselves sideways. We need to let ourselves find people who want to meet those needs. This next tip goes hand in hand with the last. Both partners need to learn how to value themselves. When we do not feel loved because our partner is apathetic towards us or our partner criticizes us, that is our indication that we are not valuing ourselves enough.
The only sure fire way of ending this relationship dynamic so that it does not continue to be a staple of adult relationships in future generations is to parent differently. Mothers, we need to stop nagging and criticizing our children. We cannot make them the substitute for our absentee husbands. We need to separate our fear of how other people will think of us from our children so we can stop controlling them or trying to turn them into what we want them to be. Pretend that your children are unique flowers, you have no idea what they are going to turn into and that is the fun of it. Your job is to unconditionally be present with them. Let them be free. They do not belong to you. They are not extensions of you. Practice positive focus towards them. They are individual beings with their own destinies, their own wants and their own needs. You are setting them up for what to expect from a girlfriend or wife in the future. You are setting them up to be with women who nag and criticize and who are never pleased with them. Fathers, you need to start taking an active role in your daughter’s life. Let go of the apathy. Get to know who she is. Show her that you value and love her. Spend time with her. Let her know that you will keep her safe. Put your energy into her and put effort towards her. Don’t expect her to know that you love her because you are her dad. Intimacy is more than sexuality. Do not be afraid that by being close with your daughter you are crossing a line with her. You can have an intimate relationship with someone that doesn’t involve sex at all. Let your heart touch hers. Intimacy can be broken up into “into me see”.
Intimacy means seeing into someone completely. And showing them that you love them as a result of seeing them completely. You are setting them up for what to expect from a boyfriend or husband in the future. You are setting them up to be with men who are apathetic towards them who do not value them and who withdraw from them. You are setting them up to desperately run after men who do not really love them. This dynamic is so common in today’s world (because of the common dynamic between parents and children) that one could say it is a vibrational epidemic. But the good news is we have the power to end it. And the road to ending it, as always begins with recognizing it.