A few more members are joining us in the Dance of Love
Like Goldilocks, women (mostly) are all looking for the “three bears,” all in one man. Not too hot (average looking), not too cold (balanced ego) and is just right (financially self-supporting). Goldilocks often fantasizes that her perfect mate has a little bit of the great characteristics from all of her former lovers, such as from former relationship #1, the characteristic of the caring guy that gives her presents, or the handy man-car mechanic from former relationship #2 or the paternal instincts of former relationship #3. When Love Addicts fantasize about someone, they cannot let it go, even if their love interest is emotionally unavailable or toxic. By toxic, I mean their love interests are abusive, controlling, narcissistic or addicted to something.
Love Addicts who obsess for years over one person are called “Torchbearers.” This used to be called unrequited love. This kind of love addiction, more than any other, breeds by fantasies and delusions. Flash to the image of a tween’s bedroom with the current teen idol’s poster on her wall. Torchbearers often believe that their infatuation is reciprocated (returned). However, Torchbearers can develop erotomania — a delusion in which a person believes that another person (typically of higher social status) is in love with them.
The Relationship Addict
If the Love Addict is not in love anymore, but is just hanging in there for the companionship, they are a Relationship Addict. I describe these in a gender description of a woman, however, these characteristics can exist in a man as well. The non-committed, emotionally unavailable man (love avoidant) pairing with an overly attentive female (love addict) who is willing to hang in there, no matter what, is a surprisingly a common type of relationship. Ever wonder about the woman in a fifty-year marriage to an emotionally distant, overly sports-focused male, and ask “Why?”
Today, we might find an “eager to sow their wild oats” young adult, and describe them as a “player.” Is this person unable to commit to an emotionally intimate partner? Perhaps they are fearful of emotional vulnerability and afraid to get involved in a relationship that may challenge them. By being vulnerable to a mate, would that make them less of an independent person? Again, these descriptions apply to any gender, man or woman. Players are really love ambivalents.
The Love Ambivalent
In therapy, ambivalent individuals recall feeling humiliated, at some point, in their young childhood for being too emotional. Parents may have conveyed that “big boys don’t cry” or girls shouldn’t be a “drama queen.” They recall making a silent vow to never display any needs or emotional weaknesses. For them, the sad result is they reject the emotions needed for deep and intimate attachments. They are fearful of chastisement or criticism when they show emotions. They don’t cry at sad movies. They sign birthday cards to their children with a “luv ya.” They are often termed as cold and uncaring. They never share their feelings nor can they ever express their true selves, vulnerable feelings and all. What saves many of these ambivalents, is there is at least one person with whom they can feel safe, a grandfather, an aunt or sometimes a friend.
When the ambivalent reads about the love addict or love avoidant, they identify with them both, feeling somewhat split, personality-wise, between the two. They want love, but turn away when love gets a bit too intimate. When I refer to love addicts and love avoidants being two sides of the same coin, that coin is really the love ambivalent.
The love ambivalent eventually tires of running around, ages out of being a player or sees their love interest maturing to the next level of commitment. Fearing being left alone (yes, abandonment plays a large part in an ambivalents’ life, as well) they will commit to the latest person in their lives. This can bring a feeling of relief to the ambivalent’s partner/love addict/love interest, at first. But as the marriage progresses, unless the ambivalent has worked out a better way to communicate, show vulnerability and understand how to be intimate, the ambivalence continues. The partner finds themselves with an unreadable partner on whom they cannot depend for the plain old logistics of family life, let alone their own emotional needs.
Are you a love ambivalent?
The challenge is not to overly analyze how you feel or think about your ambivalence but rather to reflect on the various decisions that you make after making a commitment to someone. Consider this: decide daily (and I do mean daily) to be faithful, honest, thoughtful, loving, and so forth — or identify if you choose to run away, pick a fight, or turn to an addiction. Obviously, romantic, intimate relationships should be loving and certainly more good than bad, but expect that sometimes you might act in ambivalent ways with your partner or family. Learn from these situations and improve upon them the next time you encounter a similar situation. Being perfect is being just plain unrealistic. So, be ambivalent, but then decide to behave in ways that are consistent with your new values and emotional commitment.