My son was dating a young woman who met his ideals: intelligent, fun, good looking. They were friends at first, but my son realized that he wanted more. She said she was not over an abusive relationship. My son assumed over time she would see how good they were for each other. After a few months, he realized that she would not.
He took someone else out and heard through the grapevine that his love interest was jealous. They started hanging out again, but once more, she decided she wanted to be friends. He didn’t, so they agreed to be out of contact.
A month later she asked for another chance. That’s when I met her. She would get high marks on the parental measuring stick, except she jerks my son around. She recently returned from an extended trip and said she didn’t miss him. To her, that meant she wasn’t into him. To him, it meant she was enjoying her trip. He is very upset. It’s only been a week, but he says he is over her. What should I say if he calls and is upset about the breakup? Or worse, if they get back together?
If your son calls to chat about the breakup, take a deep breath, open your ears and listen without taking sides. That way, if they do reconcile, you are not relegated to the “I can’t talk to my mother about this” department. And seek his permission before providing comments about his story: “Do you want my thoughts about that?” It will interrupt his drama and subtly remind him that he has the right to say “yes” or “no” to many of the experiences surrounding his romantic life.
Now, let’s examine the back story: A young woman accustomed to the adrenaline-fueled rollercoaster of an abusive relationship will have a love-hate relationship with the ride. A part of her screams “Never again!” while the other part sings “Whee! So this is love!” When that relationship screeches to a stop and she meets a guy like your son, who offers a steady, consistent, reliable connection and with whom she has an emotional bond, it proves confusing. In her mind, love rises to unbearable heights, but then, when you least expect it, crashes so hard your stomach hits the roof of your mouth. Yes, she associates love with pain, more than pleasure. The only way she can recreate that (sick) pattern is by playing push-you-pull-me with your son. She pulls him in and then when he’s hooked, she pushes him away. The pattern will continue as long as he will tolerate it.
My concern is that he has already tolerated it too long. Why? I think that there is a primal insecurity in him that believes he has to sell a woman on liking him and appreciating what he has to offer. He imagines, at an unconscious level, that he must convince, cajole, induce, encourage and persuade a woman into seeing how wonderful he is and what an amazing life they can have together. It’s another kind of script, culled from the ancient fairy tales and myths of heroes that still permeate our culture. Your son imagines his path is to rescue the damaged damsel and show her what love really is. Then she will see his good and pure heart, realize how good they are together and fall madly into arms. And they will live happily ever after. Hmm, my Magic 8-Ball says: “Not unless she goes to therapy.” I suggest that your son learn to accept a woman’s honest assessment of herself (“just out of a bad relationship, not ready yet to date”) and move on to a woman who can meet him as an equal in a healthy, romantic relationship.