The come hither, go to hell dance

I used to date men who were unavailable emotionally and treated me poorly. My last relationship sent me into such a spin that I spent over a year in a deep depression. It was actually a lifesaver because I learned so much. After being single for five years, I began dating a wonderful man six months ago. He is totally in love with me and it appears that he’s lost himself and is somewhat co-dependent. He reacts to all my moods and tries to please me constantly. Why does it bother me that he’s so giving and wrapped up in me? You’d think that, after years of unavailable men, I’d welcome him. I find myself treating him poorly (like I used to be treated) and disrespecting him. He’s so kind and loving that I’m afraid to lose him, but is it possible I’m just not in love? I’d like to be. Help!

It’s possible that you’re not in love with you enough to believe that someone could love you that much. Many of us have learned, through our families or American pop culture, to criticize what’s at hand and value whatever is missing. In romantic relationships this “not good enough” perspective inspires avoidance of intimacy. After all, if he gets too close he’ll realize what you’re really like and leave. Or if he gets too close you worry that you’ll be stuck and thus miss the (supposedly) more perfect partner who you haven’t met yet and who is, you fear, out there somewhere waiting for you. You might also have bought into the belief that anyone who would want you isn’t worth having. So when a man who is lovingly attentive to you appears, you tear him apart to find out what is wrong with him.

What you need is balance. Without it, you’ll be “compulsively attracted to the unavailable,” writes psychologist Helen Palmer. “Balance is the resolution of the suffering caused by being pulled to what you cannot have and repelled by what has come to hand. It is the recognition of having enough of what you really need. Like all of the higher impulses, balance is an embodiment, rather than a thought or an idea about what it would be like to be fully satisfied. It depends on being able to stabilize attention in the present and feel the satisfaction of having enough.”

Remember that the “come hither, go to hell” dance is simply a reflection of the internal conflict within you. That’s why it is appearing again. Of course, your partner may have issues, too. But if you change your patterns, you’ll know whether he is really the problem or not.

My 81-year-old mother was active and interesting until a recent spate of health problems. She could not get out to visit friends, so I bought her a computer to keep her company. She has always been a painter and became so interested in the basic paint program that I purchased a better program for her to enjoy. She never learned it. Instead, she spends her days playing solitaire and eating junk food that my stepfather buys at her request. She is now about 50 pounds overweight, which does not bode well for her health. I mention that it’s not good for her, but she keeps doing it. Any ideas?

I think that you’re grieving the loss of the mother you knew. Her age and string of illnesses seem to signal death. Her choices could hasten that transition. I wonder: how do you feel about your own aging process? A self-investigation will allow you to talk to her directly with more compassion and less supervision.

Meditation of the Week

What would you carry out of your house if it were burning? What would you carry out of your heart if it were burning? Ah yes, the flame of the heart. Do you let it burn wildly enough to melt the part of you that is terrified of fire?