At one of my three-day workshops (at Breitenbush Hot Springs in Oregon – beautiful place!), one of the participants said he played the caretaker role in his relationship. He’d hoped that attending to her needs might insure that she would never want to ever leave him because he’d made himself so very valuable in her life – but she left him anyway.
At least half of the group could identify with this. One member said, “You were looking for “love insurance.”
A lot of people find someone who is in a one-down position to them – someone discrepant with regard to educational background, financial means, emotional stability, or overall functionality. In a Beauty and the Beast relationship, Beauty can hope to feel secure.
When the strategy doesn’t work, the abandonment pain can be excruciating (as if it’s ever anything less). Having someone you were care-taking wind up rejecting you in the end can feel something like this: “Even when I’m at my best and doing everything right – even when I’m overcompensating – the person still finds me unacceptable and disposable.” Nothing creates greater feelings of worthlessness during the “internalizing stage” of abandonment grief.
Is there a way to gain love insurance? If so, what is it? If there could be a hard and fast answer to this question, we could all just relax and go home.
But that doesn’t mean there’s no way to avoid heartbreak.
How do you avoid a broken heart?
There are certainly ways to minimize the risk of being left. Choosing someone who has a history of being emotionally unavailable is certainly going to increase your risk, and yet so many people are particularly attracted to the unavailable.
Likewise, choosing someone who is not commitment phobic but is looking for a type of person which is not your type, is certainly not a safe bet, and yet so many people get caught up in the painfully exciting emotional challenge of trying to convert an unwilling partner into a willing one – usually to no avail. People out there are addicted to these patterns. I call them abandoholics.
In searching for love-insurance, what about choosing someone who is less-than? Doesn’t this guarantee that you will be adored and admired forever?
Well, it can work out that way, but it can also backfire. The person can start out by feeling flattered, but in comparing him/herself to you can come to feel inadequate, out-ranked and therefore not in full control of his-her own life (even though you are acquiescing to his/her every whim). The person can feel pressured by your expectations since you are the “stronger” person. The person may realize he/she feels more comfortable with a true peer or even a less-than.
There is no safe bet, but one of the mistakes I see people making is the tendency to choose partners who are not realistic matches. They choose someone who is a narcissistic extension – someone from whom to gain self-esteem by proxy. Maybe the lover has a bigger ego than they do, and therefore if they are accepted by this lover, it may help them feel elevated. This is usually a prescription for disaster – because the lover with the bigger ego is often “looking to trade up.”
The key is to pick someone who is realistic match – someone who is more at eye-level rather than less-than or more-than. This involves having a realistic self-assessment – something most people need to work on. Most people not only have low self-esteem, but to compensate, have overblown ideas about how they match up to the criterion of prospective partners. Low self-esteem breeds lots of denial and self-delusion. Yes, you’re wonderful, but a potential mutual partner might look and be a lot different than the people you have been pursuing.
– Susan Anderson