What I’m about to write is not about me. It’s about you. And you. And you. And the several women I spoke to last week. It’s about everyone who’s ever been through a breakup. It’s about all of us.
When a person feels as though they are unlovable and not worthy of being cared for, they will engineer situations where that attitude is reinforced.
It may not be conscious. It may be sub-conscious. But they will go to lengths to reinforce their internal framework, best summarized as: I am a loser.
These folks will sabotage, will double-deal, will manipulate. Whatever it takes to reinforce their fundamental, underlying belief — I am no good.
They will also tell you whatever you want to hear — just so you pay them some attention, and, perhaps, remind them what a loser they truly are. It’s extremely potent when your healing begins — and they look at you getting stronger. Your strength completely reinforces their underlying belief: “what a loser I am because I can’t do what she’s doing!” Your dawning strength is a threat — and not a motivator for them to step up to the plate and begin their own healing. Oh, it’s so much easier to pretend everything is absolutely hunky-dory than to develop insight into your own behavior and motivations!
After a divorce is an especially vulnerable time for folks, especially when one partner is crushed and the other is the crusher. The crusher may do something like say, “I’m not sure I’ve done the right thing” after he’s married his lover; or, she might pour out her heart after breaking up with her affair partner. Later, you find out the lover is pregnant, or the much touted break up never happened.
It was a lie designed to create connection between crusher and crushed.
Yes, it’s duplicity. Yes, it’s hurtful. And, yes, it happens.
My theory is this: the crusher gets something from his/her relationship with the crushed person. Perhaps the relationship reminds him/her that he is no good. Perhaps watching the crushed one heal is too much. Perhaps the crushed one will grow up and away from the crusher — that can’t happen! Who will remind him/her that he’s a jerk? A loser? A worthless human specimen?
Because, guess what? He is desperately trying to convince his current partner that he’s flawless. Wonderful. Hunky-dory.
So the crusher keeps the crushed one “on a string”, saying just enough to keep him/her involved. Giving just enough clues to keep hope alive, even if the crushed one knows deep down that she’s better off without the crusher in her life.
It’s a tantalizing game of cat and mouse, in which the feelings and needs of the crushed one are of no moment. It’s, once again, all about the crusher.
Crushed people can find themselves in an unenviable position of being the third wheel in the new relationship between the crusher and the lover. Often, the new relationship is balanced by the mere presence of the former spouse. “If it weren’t for (fill in the ex-spouse’s name), everything would be perfect!” This fiction allows the new couple to defer addressing all the issues in their own relationship by focusing on the Evil Former Spouse. It’s more hunky-dory.
If I had a dollar for every new partner who conspiratorially said to me, “Well, you know, her former husband was gay/impotent/an alcoholic/abusive” or “His ex-wife just gave up on sex/is a gold digger/is overprotective of the kids/is lazy and doesn’t want to work”, I would be a wealthy woman living a life of ease. [On an island in the Pacific. With a pina colada in one hand. Laying in a hammock. Swaying in the breeze...Oh -- am I off on a tangent? Pardon me. It's that time of year.]
Carl Jung famously posited that we each have a light and a dark, or “shadow”, side. The shadow is that part of our Self which makes us feel uncomfortable or embarrassed. When a relationship starts as an affair, often the “shadow” of society’s opinion of infidelity is too much for the new couple to bear. So, they ignore it and find plenty of stuff to lay at the feet of the former partner. Which allows the new couple to mosey along, burdenless. Hunky-dory.
Or so they think. Remember: what you resist, persists.
Sometimes crushed people hold out hope against hope that the crusher will “wake up” and come back. Honey, if their fundamental belief remains “I am a worthless loser”, coming back will be no relief to anyone.
In the last week, I’ve had several clients who have allowed themselves to be hurt by staying engaged with their crusher. It’s heartbreaking. And it’s very, very human.
Thinking about how it feels to be manipulated may help crushed people become more resolute. No more studying tea leaves to figure out what’s really going on. No more surmises about his intentions. No more Nancy Drew (or Frank and Joe Hardy). When someone who finds him/herself fundamentally worthless tells you they love someone else — regardless of what comes after that part of a sentence — move on. Take anything else they say with a grain of salt. Or maybe a shaker of salt.