Healthy relationships are a rare commodity these days. Relationships can begin with a bang, then quickly lose their appeal. Some relationships that initially seem so harmonious somehow eventually become contentious. Relationships born of great passion and fervor can become dull or devoid of energy. And even relationships that seem founded on positive regard somehow become abusive. How do such things happen? And why do healthy, enduring relationships seem so hard to come by? (These are just a few of the reasons I wrote How Did We End Up Here?)
Healthy relationships depend largely upon character. And, unfortunately, we live in an age marked by varying degrees of character disturbance and dysfunction. You have to possess the right character attributes to afford a relationship partner proper positive regard. Sadly, many of those attributes are in short supply these days. And, as I’ve written about before, the capacity for genuine intimacy is primary among those attributes. (See: Intimacy Capacity Defines Character.)
Healthy vs. Unhealthy Wants and Needs
We are inherently social creatures. So, we naturally crave relationship. But the kinds of wants and needs that draw us to a particular relationship vary. And those wants and needs are often also indicators of our emotional and character health. For example, it’s natural to desire a sense of personal validation. We all want to have a positive sense of self-worth. But our desire for validation can be too intense a craving. And that craving can be rooted in a damaged sense of self. When that is the case, we tend to seek validation externally. And the tendency to look outward for the validation we crave is heart of emotional dependency.
Preying Grounds for Disturbed Characters
Some disturbed characters have a kind of “radar” for emotional dependency. They intuitively know when you need. And when what you crave is affirmation from others, they know just how to give it. Or at least how to appear like they’re giving it. So, they might praise you often. They might flatter you. They might shower you with affirming compliments. But in saying all those things about you, they may only be trying to seduce you. Why? Not necessarily because they really value you. Instead, they might merely see something in you they want to possess. That makes the whole relationship about what benefits them. And if that’s the case, it won’t be long before they begin using, abusing, and exploiting you.
I’ve counseled far too many abusive relationship survivors who mistook someone’s initial passionate interest in them as an indication of positive regard. However, as I’ve written about before, mere interest is not the same as genuine regard. (See: Abuse Victims Mistake Interest for Regard.) Still, some disturbed characters are so skilled in the art of impression management that they can have you believing their interest means they really care for you. Find more about impression management in both Character Disturbance and In Sheep’s Clothing.) Unfortunately, it’s usually time and someone’s repeated behavior toward you that reveals how much they really care or ever really cared.
In the coming weeks I’ll be talking about ways to vet the true character and intentions of a potential relationship partner.