DateGuru ™
THE MOST RECENT ANSWER TO A READER QUESTION ABOUT DATING
-- Updated November 2, 2003 --

   The Question From Hooked on Kathleen.

    Dear Date Guru:  I am a 23-year-old waiter. My current girlfriend started out as a very nice person. She even paid for some of our lunches and dinners together. After a few months of dating, she started criticizing me a lot. I have to admit, I didn't notice it that much until a couple of my friends pointed it out to me. She even convinced me to let her help me shop for clothes and change my appearance. I guess I could have said, "Screw off, I like myself just fine the way I am," but I didn't. I went along with her.

    We are planning on living together, but I found out that she is having sex with another guy. You don't want to know all the details on how I found out. She doesn't know that I know. I don't want to break up. Maybe, when we move in together, she will be different. What should I do? Signed:   Hooked on Kathleen.

   The Answer.

    Dear Hooked on Domination:  Oops, I mean Hooked on Kathleen. I think I made a Freudian Slip, no? (For more on Freudian Slips, go to our All About Freud page.)

    Seriously, Mr. Hooked, I sympathize with you. I have been in a similar place myself. It is a very tough place to be in—to be in love so much, and yet compromising so much. The love feels so good, it almost makes the compromise tolerable. However, unhappiness and hostility are guaranteed to build up. For your own sanity and health, you must talk with Kathleen about your knowledge of her sexual relationship with another man. I don't see any way out of that. To do otherwise would be risking your own health.

    In addition, it is time for you to start working on your contribution to this type of relationship, because you are likely to repeat this scenario over and over until you learn enough about yourself and your programming to create a different balance in your relationships with women. Kathleen is unlikely to change just because you start living together.

    Is it a natural human condition to put up with crap to get what appears to be love? Sort of. We all seek attention. It is a core human trait. A long, long time ago (in the 1940s), researchers such as Rene Spitz proved that physical touch was required for human infant survival. It was also discovered that as we get older, we can get the same "stroking" from verbal feedback.

    So, verbal remarks can substitute for actual, physical strokes. It doesn't matter as much when we are younger whether the verbal stroking is criticism or praise because it is attention. However, if the verbal strokes we receive are primarily "cold pricklies" (a transactional analysis term), then we learn to look for them because we equate cold pricklies with love. The earlier we are programmed to feel that we deserve such put-downs all the time, the harder it is for us to get out of the habit of putting up with unjustified criticism or even seeking it.

    Your dependency equation goes like this -- Someone taught you well that love is cold pricklies. Kathleen gives you cold pricklies. Kathleen must love you.

    By writing to me, you may have started to find a solution to your dependence on disapproval. For a more complete fix, I recommend doing some reading and getting some help. It is time to start looking for "warm fuzzies" (another transactional analysis term).

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