As we have seen the continuum of love enables people to diagnose the relationships they have had in the past or have at the moment. They can then decide whether what they have, in terms of relationships, is what they want. It can then assist them to decide to have more satisfying relationships in the future and achieve this by developing themselves.
The first stage on the continuum is impoverished love. This is characterised by among other things.
- Game playing
- Controlling behaviour
- Rows and drama feeling normal
- Carrying around old wounds
- A lack of clear boundaries
- Excessive neediness
- Poor communication
- Little sense of self
- The dance of approach and avoidance
- A lack of strategies to resolve conflict.
- Two underdeveloped people coming together
- Sapping the energy out of the each other and the people around them.
- Difficulties in the relationship over spilling into all aspects of life
In this case both partners will have low self esteem, significant gaps in their personal development and unresolved wounds.
They would have selected few of the qualities and traits on the psychological bingo board and will have tended to select the more negative ones for example sad, loud, victim, persecutor, rescuer, critical, obstructive, failure, scapegoat, dishonest, aggressive, weak, angry, chaotic.
As I have mentioned the psychological bingo board can be used to predict the type of person that someone will be attracted to, but in this instance so few of the qualities on the psychological bingo board have been chosen that virtually anyone will appear to move them further towards completion.
This level of ‘love’ is characterised by a lack of discrimination in chosen partners. The worst examples of this behaviour can be seen on programmes like Jeremy Kyle or Jerry Springer. When people go on these shows they have often met through social media, got pregnant within weeks or even days of meeting, switch partners when they are on ‘a break’, which might just be overnight, and seem to enjoy the attention they get from arguing about their partner and the relationship on national television.
What fascinates me about this type of relationship is that when warring couples are asked why they are still together often whilst being held back by the security staff, they say ‘ but we love each other’. This is because they are used to an impoverished template of love.
One of the best descriptions of impoverished love is outlined in the classic book ‘Women who loved to much’ by Robin Norwood. In this book she talks about women who are seeking the love that eluded them in childhood by trying to rescue and change their partners.
“It requires a hard look at what is, rather than what you hope will be. As you let go of managing and controlling, you must also let go of the idea that “when he changes I’ll be happy.” He may never change. You must stop trying to make him. And you must learn to be happy anyway.”
Another book that had a profound effect on me was ‘Men Who Hate Women And The Women Who Love Them’ by Dr Susan Forward.
I remember reading it in the car and not being able to put it down as she was describing my life. It sent a shiver down my spine and I didn’t want to go home because I thought that my new perspective might be instantly detectable. Some questions that Dr Forward asks women to consider about their partners if they suspect that they might be involved in this type of relationship are:
- Does the man you love assume the right to control how you live and behave?
- Have you given up important activities or people to keep him happy?
- Is he extremely jealous and possessive?
- Does he switch from charm to anger without warning?
- Does he belittle your opinions, your feelings, or your accomplishments?
- Does he withdraw love, money, approval, or sex to punish you?
- Does he blame you for everything that goes wrong in the relationship?
- Do you find yourself “walking on eggs” and apologizing all the time?
If you are a woman and in a difficult, controlling or violent relationship reading Women Who Love Too Much will be like someone has drawn back the curtain on your relationship with numerous ‘light bulb’ moments.
This situation will only change if one of the parties makes the decision to step out of the drama and make different choices about themselves and their behaviour.
Otherwise whether they stay with their partner or leave them they will continually find themselves in relationships, which result in game playing, manipulation and control.
As Neil Strauss says in The Truth
‘In a big connected world, it’s easy to find enough people with the same trauma profile to agree with you, then simply discount, ignore or attack all evidence to the contrary’.
Years ago, when I went to a therapist to help me with my dysfunctional relationship, she said something that I will never forget and believe is very true. She said:
‘Look after yourself and the relationship will take care of itself, one way or the other’.
Throughout my life I have always thought of this phrase when I have been in difficulty. So if you are in a relationship and you wonder if you should stay in it, I would advise you to read these two classic books and then get some professional help to move your forward if you decide to do so.
Impoverished love comes from not learning how to love and accept love in a direct and honest way when we were children. I am not going to focus, specifically on this type of love because if you are prepared to change, the ideas and strategies described later in the book will help you to reconnect with yourself and in the process reconnect with others.
Before going on to the other levels of love, I want to talk about three twentieth century phenomenons which are subsection of impoverished love and have a major effect on relationships today. They are the rise of ‘fun’, the rise of porn and internet dating scams.
Thank you to Stella Pitman for permission to use her photographs
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