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Continuity in relationships
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Continuity in relationships

Hi Dr. P.,

So much of what you have said about Alan is what I had pictured in my mind as the issue(s) - especially the problem with continuity of a relationship. I have read many, many self-help books & find I won't make the same mistakes again.  I just need to 1st work through this, as you put it, "crossroads" with Alan.

He did say at one point with this last break-up, he does have a problem letting go of the fighting we did earlier in the relationship (2 - 2 1/2 yrs. ago).  He also dislikes the "outbursts" of text messages I have sent in the past when trying to get him to answer me about us.  He would usually refer to that as being "unstable".  Not to toot my own horn, but I know my looks weren't an issue with Alan.  I am an attractive person, 5'5", 110 lbs., athletic shape & tend to catch guys looking my way - he would make comments about how great of shape I am in & called me pretty & once "smokin' hot". Lol

I would have to say my "hanging in there" with Alan has been my way of, hopefully, showing him I had patience & was not going to be one of the people to leave him or hurt him, and that I valued him.  I have always taken notice to the fact that he DOES value me, and maybe even more, which, you're right, that completely seduces me into the belief it could work between us - because I have always wanted it to.

I can admit I'm still working on my unfinished business.  I have come a LONG way but still have work to do & always will.  My choices in the past were based on my "need" at that point in my life - Dan helped me financially because I neede to pay off school loans & I saw a good life with him financially; Joe was to fulfill my need for attention, love & closeness which I lacked with Dan; Alan, I thought, was going to be able to fulfill it all because we were so compatible, had so much in common, VERY attracted to each other, plenty of chemistry, etc...

So, will continuity ALWAYS be toxic for Alan or is there a chance some new lady down the road could actually change that for him?  And the issues he has with me, will he or can he NEVER get over them?  Why has he always come back to me if he can't move past the issues he has with me?  Why do YOU think he made contact with again this last time even though it appears things are going very well with his new lady?

(Note: I emailed Alan today asking him what his motives were for asking to be friends this last time & if he wanted me out of his life for good - He answered "No, I don't want you out of my life.  There was no alterior motive in me asking that we remain friends. It was a genuine request. If it's too much I can & will leave you alone."  From what you know about him, is he "keeping me in the wings" because he feels or knows the lady he is currently dating may not work out? Has he shut his feelings off for me since he is dating someone else so we can now just be friends?  What do you think?)


Thank you so much for all of your time, Dr. P.  Again, you don't know how much this means to me...
Susan
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Hi Susan,

First, with due respect, self-help books have their limits. They may help in various ways, but they don’t touch the unconscious stuff, and that’s the stuff that tends to control our actions!

Of course he doesn’t like you probing, and will identify this as you being unstable. What’s really going on, assuming you’re not assaultive or strident in them,  is that you’re cutting off his escape route.

Hanging in there is a natural thing to do, but unfortunately a fool’s errand in those cases where the man is too damaged to respond in any reasonable amount of time. Don’t let someone’s good valuation of you hypnotize you – it’s only one element of a relationship.

In order to understand whether Alan is or is not too damaged to come around, it would be necessary to know not just WHAT happened in his childhood re the divorce and other things, but HOW BADLY he was hurt, and how permanent the damage really was. Can you think about that and provide some guidelines?

Notice that you’ve gotten involved with men largely because they could do something for you, not necessarily because you really connected with them. You need to ask what you were avoiding in doing so. After all, you weren’t in some odd circumstance and needed to be rescued for cultural, wartime, or economic reasons. Look deep on this one. Also, is the need for attention a blind spot of sorts for you?

By the way, were you ever in therapy? If so, did you ever get a sense of your diagnosis? Alan's? This would be helpful info if you have it.

Men usually change, if at all, decade by decade, not year to year. Alan is unlikely to be magically transformed by the lady down the road.  Sometimes it happens, but more often men regress after a while, and repeat a previous scenario. They do change when they were about to anyway, or when the new woman is extremely compatible, far beyond what the old one was. But this doesn’t sound like you and him.

From what you’ve said so far, I don’t think the issues he has with you are substantial. They sound like “red herrings.” That is, if you’re are attractive, and as straightforward and rational with him as you are with me. I’d still bet it’s about the risks of his still being there. Tell me more about the real issues he can’t get over, and it may seem different, but so far they seem relatively trivial.

Why does he come back? Beyond the fact that the two of you really do get on well, maybe you’re the anchor, stable, rational side, the good mother, as it were, and he’s nevertheless driven to keep acting out the other side, the bad relationship, repeating his old unhappiness. Be careful here: it’s tempting to cherish this role ongoing, to your detriment, just as the mother of a grown up kid risks staying beside the phone for the rest of her life, waiting for her darling to call!

Maybe he keeps phoning because, in fact, we have a piece of history with our exes, and if there are also some good feelings there, one wants to come back and enjoy them. Also, dis-entangling requires going back into the tangle from time to time in the course of getting all the wires straight. That’s a generic issue, one many of us have experienced.

He may indeed be keeping you in the wings. This could drive you absolutely nuts and put your life on hold at the very time you need to be active in finding a man who really values you ongoing. DANGER!

There’s an interesting concept in stock market investing. It goes something like “if you want to know whether to sell a stock, ask yourself, ‘if I didn’t own this stock already, WOULD I GO OUT AND BUY IT TODAY?’ “ I’d suggest you think about Alan in the same way. Knowing what you know, would you, fresh, invest in the man?

One of several things in these paragraphs to ponder, down deep. I’d love to hear about the product of your meditation.


Sincerely,

Dr. P.

P.S. Susan, you’ll notice that our solutions at one level lead to more questions at the next. That’s how it works, and is not a sign of a defect in either of us!


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