Chapter OneRISKY ATTRACTIONS: Do You Know One?
Carmen put away her pregnancy test again with a heavy heart. For months now she had been going through this process after her monthly cycle. If she didn't get pregnant shortly, she and Ted knew they would have to get serious about starting infertility treatments. Both of them dreaded it, although Ted wasn't losing any sleep over it. He seemed to go through life with the "easy come/easy go" attitude that Carmen envied.
This trait was definitely what attracted her to him in the first place. Her own dad was a hard-driving executive, rarely home, who had left the entire child rearing responsibilities for her and her sister to their mother. Eventually they divorced; he married a much younger coworker and started another family in another state.
Carmen remembered thinking to herself at an early age that when she started looking for a husband she wanted someone who was more laid-back and easygoing. Sure, she had to take more of the leadership in the home and she had to make more decisions, and at times she even felt more like Ted's mother than an adult partner, but overall she was happy.
Arriving at work a little late one day, she passed her boss's office. Mr. Caldwell looked up, smiled, and waved as she walked by. She felt like a spectacle at work. Everybody knew how much she wanted to have a baby, and she felt as if everybody knew when she took another pregnancy test. She had been back at her desk just a short while when she suddenly became aware that Mr. Caldwell was standing next to her. He asked how things were going, initiating what turned into a long conversation. He was old enough to be her father, was balding, and had a little paunch. He wasn't trim and good-looking like Ted, but he seemed so caring and was easy to confide in. He said he even had a daughter her age who was in the same predicament.
His concern was so very comforting. No wonder all the girls in the office like him so much, she thought as he patted her on the shoulder and reassured her that things were going to get better. Over the next few months his fatherly concern continued. At times Carmen felt he was more like a counselor than a boss. She knew he was on his third marriage and was disappointed to have gotten stuck in this midlevel management job, but for her and the other young women he was a perfect father-boss.
Through the ensuing months, Carmen found herself confiding more and more in Mr. Caldwell. She knew Ted was beginning to have a harder time with the infertility as well, and she just couldn't dump all her feelings on him when he was struggling so much too.
One night Mr. Caldwell asked her to stay late to finish a project. That evening they started talking, and as usual, the conversation turned toward her struggle to get pregnant. She started crying and he held her while she cried on his shoulder. Nothing more happened for a while, and Carmen considered the encounter a show of his fatherly comfort.
In the meantime, she and Ted were becoming more frustrated with each other. All romance was gone from the marriage, and all their energies were focused on one thing: producing a baby.
Finally, pregnancy was achieved and Carmen and Ted could hardly contain their joy. Their family and friends and coworkers rejoiced with their happy announcement. But sadly, Carmen miscarried in the second month.
Carmen took a few days off work, and Mr. Caldwell called her at home to see how she was doing. You can figure out where this is going, can't you? They talked for three hours. Carmen didn't realize she'd been engaging in a close call for months, and that this lengthy, intimate phone conversation was about to tip the relationship one way or the other. It eventually led to an affair that Ted had the hardest time forgiving. He could never understand why his young and beautiful wife would get involved with a "fat old man" who was twice her age.
How indeed could she? Let's explore why this close call happened. Perhaps if Carmen had recognized Mr. Caldwell as a profile of her dangerous partner, this close call would have ended as a close call-and not ruined a marriage.
THE DANGEROUS PARTNER PROFILE
Mr. Caldwell might not have looked like a potential dangerous partner, but for Carmen he was. Not every man holds the same attraction for every woman and vice versa. But with the dangerous partner profile person, the attraction is immediate and passionate. As we began to explore this concept, remember the following concerns:
* The reason you didn't marry someone like your dangerous partner profile person is because you knew intuitively that such a person would not be good for you in the long run.
* Your spouse might be very different from your dangerous partner profile person, but that doesn't mean that he/she is less attractive to you.
* Dangerous partner profile persons are composites of those individuals who appear to meet all of the deficits you bring to your marriage.
* The dangerous partner profile person often defies all of your training, culture, common sense, and values. There is often no apparent logic in the close call or even in the affair with a dangerous partner profile person.
* A dangerous partner profile is lurking in the subconscious of all of us and remains there as a powerful secret until a couple is willing to talk out the composite images that reside in each of them.
Let me share a story about "the bits and pieces," or "composite concept" I mentioned above.
Sally was married to an engineer. She was impressed very early in their dating experience with the thoughtful and calm demeanor Trent displayed. She had grown up in an alcoholic family that was the exact opposite: chaotic, verbally hurtful, full of drama. Every day held unexpected experiences.
However, after marriage to Trent for several years, she found herself yearning for some excitement. Life looked great on the outside, but actually she was bored. As her dissatisfaction continued to grow, she started looking for something to be involved with and eventually started volunteering to provide ESL services to adults from the local Hispanic community.
Over time, she became quite committed to several young men who were fairly recent arrivals from Latin America. She became very involved with their progress and found herself being not only their language teacher, but also their cheerleader, job trainer, surrogate mother. She started bringing them food, coupons, and money that she collected from friends.
Eventually, her favorite in the group got a job and was able to buy a motorcycle. He came by and wanted to take her for a ride. She accepted. Within weeks, they were taking brief secret trips, and this close call was too close to being inappropriate. She knew this was "crazy-making" behavior, called it off, and told Trent.
In talking with Trent, Sally realized that "the bits and pieces" she needed in her marriage were spontaneous getaways, surprises, unexpected, unplanned times together. Trent was the ultimate planner, and his predictability had often drained the excitement from an experience. As they talked about this issue, they both realized they could make their marriage better and more interesting, and they became excited as they saw a shift coming in their relationship.
This is exactly how understanding the dangerous partner profile can make an already good marriage better.
Take some time with your spouse to talk about this concept to understand what kind of person is a dangerous partner for each of you. Making this a conversational topic will likely require grace on both of your parts. Your spouse might even have a better idea of what some of these attractive components are for you than you do! Give a listening ear and consider strongly what he or she observes. Look at the chart below. You'll see a number of areas that cause attraction to a dangerous partner. Keep the page marked; you'll go back to it as you read through the chapter.
Alcoholism or other addictions, chronic debilitating illness, a disability in the family, an absent parent, parental expectations, having too much responsibility, even patterns and values, can all lead to a child aging too quickly. Entire sections of life are skipped. Those missed developmental periods often surface later in life with close call attractions and are definitely a part of the attraction of the dangerous partner.
For instance, a child whose parents or culture put excessive demands on their academic achievement to the exclusion of adolescent dating practices will often revert to those practices as an adult. In fact, entire cultures tolerate males continuing to "date" though married, and wives are expected to look the other way.
Early adolescent drug and alcohol use can also create this kind of developmental lag in an individual.
Not only does developmental lag occur in individuals, it can also occur in relationships. When I teach premarital classes, I often say, "Your relationship is only as old as it is nonsexual. The relationship stops growing once it becomes sexual, because the physical aspect will become the primary focus. It is the sexual tension in a dating relationship that drives you to get to know the other person and that keeps you exploring the difficult subjects that are necessary to establish a long-term, well-matched experience."
Buck and Jill met in a college class and at first had a lot to talk about. Their physical relationship didn't go beyond hand holding, hugging, or kissing, but after about three months, they began sleeping together. Their relationship didn't deepen much beyond that point, as their focus became more on making love than on learning more about each other. In other words, regardless of how long a couple has dated, if their relationship became sexual within three months of the onset of dating, they have a three-month-old relationship. It is more fun to have sex than it is to discuss difficult subjects. Besides (or so the couple thinks), We want to enjoy our time together, so why rock the boat and create unnecessary conflict? To which I say-better now than later!
Consider and write down what development lags you notice in your life. You'll soon see how these could attract you to a dangerous partner.
Very often, an individual marries a spouse with a personality very different from that of the dangerous partner profile. Intuitively, they knew that in the long run their spouse's personality style would be best for them. But the dangerous partner's personality style still holds intrigue for the individual.
Many times this dangerous partner's personality profile mimics that of a significant person from your adolescent history. It can be someone you were personally acquainted with, like an old girlfriend or boyfriend you broke up with; someone you knew from a distance, like a high school or college athlete; or, as is very often the case, someone you never knew, but always dreamed of being with, e.g., a famous teen idol, the star in a movie that you have never forgotten, and so on.
On the other hand, this personality can also reflect a pattern that you have or have not experienced in a close relationship. An illustration might be the woman who stays safe and marries a tradesman like her father, but always wished she could have married an educated, well-traveled, college professor. A young boy lives in chaos with an overwhelmed, very busy, professionally trained single mom. In reaction to what he never had, he decides to marry a woman with a high school education who has no interest in a career and who will be content to be a stay-at-home wife. However, he soon becomes bored with her, and the thought of an exciting, outgoing, independent woman suddenly takes on new appeal.
Whatever the pattern, it is important to remember that invariably the dangerous partner personality is going to be different from that of your spouse. That's what makes them attractive. That's what creates the intrigue.
But just having a different personality is insufficient to create a close call without the other variables in this profile.
Write your own personality style on the chart. You may also write about a personality style to whom you are attracted.
Hobbies and Interests
There often appears to be an automatic connection with an individual who shares interests similar to yours. You immediately have something to talk about, and often this conversation is of little interest to your spouse. You admire their involvement in this activity and they automatically have a higher value in your estimation. Sometimes you have a desire to be more involved in this hobby or activity, but the lack of interest on the part of your spouse inhibits this involvement. The emotional reaction is often a disappointment in the spouse and even anger that you can't be involved to the degree that you would like without upsetting the marriage. Even if you are satisfied with the amount of spousal support you receive, hobbies and interests are still part of the dangerous partner profile.
What are your hobbies and interests? What would you like to share with someone else? To get you thinking: You'll often have an automatic connection with an individual who shares interests similar to yours.... You admire his involvement in this activity and he automatically ... Sometimes you desire to be more involved ... but you're inhibited by your husband's lack of interest.... You wish your wife could enjoy ...
An attachment pattern is one of the many processes through which spouses are initially attracted to each other. They don't always discuss it; in fact, they might not even be aware of these attractions right away, but it refers to that cluster of behaviors that make one individual particularly appealing to the other. Yet men and women I've spoken with tell me that they often find themselves attracted to relationships that have an attraction pattern opposite that of their marriage. For example, in marriage a spouse will sometimes select a partner who is independent, strong, self-contained, and competent. But the close call comes as they are attracted to someone who is clingy, needy, desperate to be rescued, and lost.
In the marriage, some spouses want to be in charge of everything. But when they succumb to an affair, they want to be taken care of. In the marriage, they are dependent. In the affair, they want to be independent. In the marriage, they rarely initiate sex. In the affair, they initiate all the lovemaking. This is often why forgiveness is so difficult on the part of the faithful spouse. They may have wanted their spouse to share in the load they were carrying, but that didn't happen until their spouse was involved with someone else.
Why does this opposite attraction pattern seem almost universal in affairs? I think it has to do with what I've come to call the Moon-Earth Syndrome. When you look at the moon at night from planet Earth, you always see the same "face" or view of the moon. You might see a new quarter, the third quarter, a new moon, or even a full moon, but you always see the same "face." No one ever sees the other side of the moon unless they travel to space.
That is the way most marriages function. Over time, the spouses come to face each other the same way, day in and day out. You come to settle for what you "see." It develops predictability, trust, efficiency, and effectiveness. But what you "see" is just half of what there is to know about your spouse. To settle for this produces boredom, dullness, and even a feeling of being taken for granted-that is, until another person, the "dangerous partner," comes along and touches them on the "dark side." Not the evil side, just the unexplored side that the spouse is not interested in exploring, doesn't value, or doesn't have time to take a look at.
What sort of attachment pattern do you see yourself looking for?
Family of Origin Deficits
Through the years of talking with adulterers, I have long been amazed at how many close call attractions happen when the "dangerous partner" stirs up long forgotten family of origin deficits. Here is the little girl looking for the father lost through divorce, the little boy longing for the emotional nurturance of a warm and loving mother. Here is the child looking for someone to protect them, to provide for them, to see them as special, to admire and look up to them, to care for and understand them in ways that they never experienced in their family of origin. (We'll talk about family of origin in more detail in chapter 2.)
The opposite can also be true in some circumstances. Some children have these needs met in their family of origin but, for a variety of reasons, these basic emotional needs are not met in their marriage. This marital void is the subject of the next part of the "dangerous partner." (Note on the chart which family of origin deficits you might be tempted to make up with someone other than your spouse.)