Dealbreakers 2: Stop overanalysis & ‘normalization of deviance’

Our friend Michaela got back to us after the article from a couple of days ago about the man who consistently betrayed her.  (Before you boys tune out, this situation happens all the time to both men and women — ever heard of the expression ‘whipped’ before?  Then read on.)  She’s clarified the situation a bit.  Here’s the abridged version:

he fights very unfairly…he says ‘i forgot’ ‘i define sex differently’ ‘we never agreed to that’ or ‘i never said that’ (he says that about things he said in a clear strong voice less than a minute earlier) and, the hardest for me to understand, he blames me for creating the negative perspective of ‘being betrayed’ instead of ‘boy, isn’t that great for you!’ and avoids the part where he actually betrays me.

i feel i do create my experience, that i am responsible on some level for all that this world/my life is, and am stuck here trying to see how i can grow, forgive and create a new experience. to stay/to go has been framed in the dynamic ‘ending/altering this partnership is a hurtful act of fear’.

i told him i was very unhappy in the relationship and requested a third party be present for a ‘partnership’ conversation… he resists a third party saying it is a step backwards.

i am not asking whether i should stay or go. i am asking:

how do i clearly and lovingly communicate ‘self-love, enlightened self-interest inspires me to protect myself from people who betray me’…to a man who cannot remember what he promised to honor less than a minute earlier?

the other option i see is to just run. it would protect me, for sure. can’t i do better than that? even slightly? …or am i just avoiding the possibility that i do not value my lovely, blooming Goddess self in fact yet?

I always say that in order to accept the filet mignon that the world is offering, you must let go of the Big Mac you’re holding in your hand.  Looks like we have another case of Whitney Houston Syndrome here.

First of all, let me make one thing clear: this is no longer the realm of dating.  I, Dr Alex, aka Dr Ali, aka Captain Obvious, talk about dating — the courtship constituting the buildup to the longer-term relationship.  Once I help you acquire that problem, you’re on your own, babe.  I refer you to the eminently qualified specialists in that area, like John Gottman and Barbara de Angelis.

In the meantime, I can give you some useful hints and guidelines.  Here’s the first question you need to ask yourself:

1) Is this how I want to feel forever?

Fulfillment is a feeling, not a person.  Commitment is a lovely thing; without it, you don’t get depth.  Without deep, loving relationships, lives are empty, like that of Ivan Ilyich on his deathbed.

It’s easy to overanalyze and make excuses for the partner.  Stop that.  Let the way you feel in the relationship be your guide.  Are you flourishing to be the highest expression of you as a result of being with this person, above and beyond what you would attain all by yourself?  Then stay.  If not, go.

However, you need to have boundaries so you know when to cut and run.  Guy smacks you for any reason, you’re done.  Gratuitous, sustained verbal abuse — done.  Consistent lying and untrustworthiness — gone, baby, gone.  Some transgressions are neutralizable only by divine fiat, not you.  If he or she steals your wallet and bugs your computer with keystroke-recording software, you need to split, babe.

You need to have non-negotiables in your life.  This is because of the remarkable adaptability of humans to — to everything really.  You win the lottery, and a year later, you’re about as happy as you were before.  You become quadriplegic — quadriplegic! — and a year later you’re about as happy as you were before.

So what happens in the negative department is this phenomenon called the normalization of deviance.  Basically, your partner commits a peccadillo, and you let it slide.  Then you let a bigger one slide.  And a bigger one.  Next thing you know, you’re robbing banks together and making donkey porn. What was deviant has now become normal.

Strong boundaries are what make you attractive.  Another word for strong boundaries is self-respect.  Super-attractive feature!  So listen to your friends when it seems you’ve lost that.  From within the relationship, you have no perspective.

Enlightened self-interest is about asking yourself: “If this were to go on forever, would I be cool with it — or could I do better?”

Here’s another question to ask yourself:

2) Am I engaging in self-indulgent magical thinking?

Whenever possible, take responsibility for your life.  Stuck in a bad job?  Hey, you applied for it, so you own it.  Moved to Akron?  Picked a bad relationship?  Fine.  Now do something about it.  This is the essence of empowerment. Taking responsibility means acknowledging your response ability — so take action!

This is not the same as blaming yourself.  Self-blame is a prelude to guilt, which is one of the three Utterly Useless Emotions (the others being shame and regret).  Blaming yourself and whining are the opposite of action.

Blaming yourself means thinking “Oh, I’m such a bad person so I deserve bad stuff happening to me.  It’s all my fault!”

This is magical thinking.  Magical thinking is immature and self-indulgent.  Just as there is no tooth fairy or Santa Claus, you are not creating the squirrely, untrustworthy, pathological lying behavior of your partner.  You do not deserve pain.  Get over it, and quit assigning so much power to yourself already.

Here’s a key passage from the letter above:

i feel i do create my experience, that i am responsible on some level for all that this world/my life is, and am stuck here trying to see how i can grow, forgive and create a new experience. to stay/to go has been framed in the dynamic ‘ending/altering this partnership is a hurtful act of fear’.

Yes, Michaela. You do create your own experience.  And right now, you are creating the experience of being mistreated and feeling like crap because you have chosen to stay with an untrustworthy, lying loser whose word isn’t worth a $3 bill, as you tell us.  And you are already engaging in an hurtful act of fear — namely, allowing yourself, a goddess on earth, to be mistreated (hurtful) and being afraid to leave (fear).

So – courage!  These things are hard to do, so ask a friend for help, just like Holly did from the introduction to The Tao of Dating for Women, and scram already.  Granted, if you leave, there are only 3.2 billion men left to choose from, but hey, you just might be able to do better.  And if you’re better off alone, that’s what you need to be, not a Whitney.

What’s in it for Michaela and Whitney, you may ask?  The chance to be a martyr.  Unfortunately, martyrs tend to have short, unhappy lives.  I do not recommend it as a career path.

Anyway.  All of you in relationships need to go read John Gottman’s The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.  It’s a work of genius.  If you’re in a bad relationship, it’ll help you see that.  And if you’re in a good one, it’ll help you make it even better.

Here ends this rant.  Thanks for your attention.

The power is within you, AB

Categories: Dating for Women

9 Comments on “Dealbreakers 2: Stop overanalysis & ‘normalization of deviance’”

  1. Clare

    Thank you so much Alex.

    A fond follower of your teachings and previous replyee; I’ve gained in strength today by listening to myself,using your words to support my beliefs and applying them to my painful situation.

    Perhaps one day you will consider writing more on applying the Tao to relationships. I love the straight talking style, easy for this gal to get no BS love it!

    Much appreciation, Love and peace, Clare

    1. Dr Ali Binazir Post author

      Thanks Clare! Thrilled that you found benefit in there, and will take under advisement your suggestion for more Tao.

  2. A Micheal

    Michaela/Micheal indeed!
    Thanks Ali Alex Captain of the Screaming Obvious, many thanks again from a guy this time for another serendipitous word on the web. Your clarity concerning these struggles, pulling our aspirations and actions higher though our lesser selves protest, you’re one of my heroes, making the world a better place one true self a step at a time. Peace & joy to your heart.

    1. Ali Binazir MD MPhil Post author

      @A Micheal: Thanks for the kind words! One of these keeps me going for a whole week.

  3. Nadia

    Wow, do I smell a rat. Or a red herring. Or something odoriferous. Michaela is holding out on us. She is using the word “betrayed” but not explaining her definition of it. We’re all assuming it means her boyfriend is cheating on her. I have a hunch–and probably because I’ve done similar story telling in my relationships, shame on me–that she is using that word broadly. Has he met an ex girlfriend for coffee and for this she feels betrayed? (By the way, it’s really ok for a person to keep up with their ex’s.) Has she then decided for him that it is betrayal, thus creating a story line that he is a betrayer when it actually might be her jealousy she needs to get in check? I’m just throwing out an example since she is being very elusive in how she is speaking about her boyfriend. I need specifics before I throw him under the bus. He may be doing his best to hang in there with a very insecure woman. But I would agree that if she’s feeling bad all the time, she needs to bail on this relationship.

  4. Regina

    In nature, you must prune a rose bush to get beautiful roses since the plant itself produces more buds than it can sustain. The same theory applies to us. Know when it is time to prune the necessary branches so that you can grow.

  5. Amie

    Think you chose the wrong kindle book. It’s by a different author.

    Btw: you are awesome. I’d marry you. :)

  6. Twinkle

    “Self-blame is a prelude to guilt, which is one of the three Utterly Useless Emotions (the others being shame and regret). Blaming yourself and whining are the opposite of action.”

    Thank u so much! I needed that reminder. :) That is very useful advice not just for love-related matters, but for life in general. I love your advice and writing style!