My boyfriend has a woman friend who runs to him every time she breaks up with a guy. Because her rollercoaster relationships only last three months, she runs to him often. I told him she’s using him, but he says she’s had a hard life. I don’t like this woman, and I don’t trust her. My boyfriend once had a thing for her, and I feel that she plays him. She knows that he and I are together, but she generally acts like I don’t exist. She’s quick to try to catch my boyfriend’s eye, though, and loves to engage in inside jokes with him in my presence. Don’t tell me to quit my boyfriend; I love him. Just help me deal.
He thinks she needs him. She thinks she needs him. Your choice is either to accept that or to minimize the importance of their relationship by emphasizing reality to yourself: You are the one he is dating. Enjoy that! Then, have compassion for this woman. It’s likely that her relationship with your boyfriend represents the only sustained relationship she has with a man. So, she clings. Unfortunately, his Dr. Phil routine keeps her away from what she really needs: individual psychotherapy. In her book Anatomy of the Spirit, Caroline Myss, a doctor of philosophy, writes about people who use their wounds to order and control relationships. “Without a schedule for healing, we risk becoming addicted to what we think of as support and compassion. … It becomes extremely difficult to give up the privileges that accompany being wounded.”
So, don’t fret. They don’t have genuine emotional intimacy because no healing is taking place. They have wound intimacy. It provides an emotional charge through dependency, neediness and neurotic cycles of rescuing. Be concerned only if your boyfriend also runs to her with his troubles or if he shares emotional intimacies with her (about himself or you) that he does not share with you.
It’s very third-grade to engage in inside jokes in front of others. In her desperation to cling to him, she is trying to draw a boundary that leaves you outside. Unfortunately, he is so stuck in their pattern that he fails to see their behavior is inappropriate. You’ll have to be the adult by smiling generously and asking your boyfriend for an explanation of the joke (if you ask her, she’s likely to give him a coy look, which will touch off another round of their shared laughter). By doing so, you’ll be including yourself. If they have a modicum of social grace between them, they will eventually include you or stop the secrets.
Can you explain the difference between shame and guilt? When something does not go according to plan, my wife blames and berates herself. I have tried to help, but can’t. Can you give me some resources?
Ernest Kurtz, a doctor of philosophy and author of Shame and Guilt: Characteristics of the Dependency Cycle, describes guilt as “a feeling of wrongdoing, a sense of ‘not good.’” Shame, he says, “is a feeling of inadequacy, sense of worthlessness.” He says the two are closely linked. Guilt is associated with behavior, and shame relates to the essence of the person. A 12-step group like Al-Anon can help. The Complete ACOA Sourcebook: Adult Children of Alcoholics at Home, at Work and in Love by Janet Geringer Woititz, a doctor of education, is also worth reading. These resources are helpful even if her parents were not substance abusers. After all, if she is ill with shame and guilt, her parents may have been drunk on power. The information still applies.