A client writes:
I was thinking more about why I stay in unhappy relationships. If you ask most women why they continue to be with men who don’t want a relationship or who are abusive, aside from fear of being alone, “I love him” is the usual answer. Logically, the reality is you may love him, but you don’t get along. So why stay?
I have a sense that the addiction is to the feeling of love…or closeness and excitement. When things are good, they are very good, when they are bad they are horrid. I notice a reluctance on my part to be honest about the man’s weakness. I make excuses, I give up sleep in order to have cuddles or sex, I give up time with my children, I do all sorts of crazy things. And I think…well, if I love him, I must accept his faults, I must be faithful even if he is not.
I can’t tell you how many women I know who love men who couldn’t be less attentive, or who yell or threaten or check their phone conversations and so on. I guess we call it co-dependence.
How about we call it “primitive animal behavior” instead, and forgive ourselves for being a part of the animal kingdom?
I appreciate you sharing your thoughts on your own experience and what you observe in other women. I’m not a mental health professional; I am not sure I could even define co-dependence. But I am interested in how primitive behaviors manifest in modern society.
I see this scene in my mind: Brutus is in a camp with his females and children. He achieved control of this group through his dominance. He is aggressive, mean, violent. He takes what he wants and mates when he wants. The females accept this because they don’t really have a choice and also have a biological openness to round-the-calendar mating that is quite different from other animals. It is the way of things, and the more strong and warrior-like the man, the more protected the clan. The kind, sensitive, Mr. Mom types were dead meat… literally!
Eventually, men started sharing community with other warriors, but if we look at most cultures the women were still controlled and dominated by the men. (We see that pattern even in the past 100 years, as women didn’t receive the privilege to even vote in the “democratic” U.S. until the last century! We have a ways to go until we as a world community express balanced masculine and feminine energies in a holistic way.)
From the time we are born, we are a combination of both nature and nurture. We have a nature that has violent, possessive, controlling roots that go back to the first hominids. Men have been allowed to control their women through violence and intimidation for a long, long time. I don’t find it at all surprising if there exists, within females, a primitive animal behavior that very naturally accepts (maybe even expects…) real hardship, even abuse, as part of having a mate. And if we look at our core drives for food and sex—both needed for survival, and pleasurable to boot!—they are so intimately tied with our primitive instincts that we know just by observing that we are not “rational” when it comes to either.
I believe we’re in the midst of an extremely important evolutionary shift in perception and human behavior. We have the opportunity to acknowledge both how our energy is rooted in primitive urges as well as how our energy can be uplifted to a spiritual perspective. I believe that energy therapies including EFT can help balance and uplift primitive impulses so that they become more heart-centered and healthy for both women and men (which will be healthy for society). We can do that best, I feel, by not overanalyzing these primitive emotions; I suggest just acknowledging them and tapping until we feel balanced, strong, and can make a CHOICE that best serves us.
You mentioned also that you and other women “love” men who are not attentive, who are unfaithful, and worse. On one level, the answer is “Of course you love them!” From a spiritual perspective, we are all connected, and we can love anyone and everyone regardless of their distressing disguises.
From a primitive level, I do think it is useful to be precise in our language. Is it unconditional love that you’re talking about, or a sense of need? When we say “I love you” if we replace the word “love” with “need,” is the statement even more true? “I need you!” If that is the case, then we acknowledge that and do the work on ourselves so that we don’t need energy from outside. Then we can attract to us individuals who are all generous with their energy… because we know there is enough, and that we are enough.
All that said, there also seems to me to be a greater mystery in how and who we couple with and becomes friends with. My early relationships taught me a great deal about what I did and did not want. If these past relationships you’ve had can be used to help you grow in personal strength and self-awareness, then perhaps they are just the right mix of “gross stuff” that with churning and time turn into the rich compost from which a beautiful life may grow and flourish. That’s my prayer for you.