I was starting a romantic relationship a while back with a guy I liked a lot. I was talking to a friend about it and the friend said “how does he get along with your dog?” This was a striking question at the time because the guy, as nice as he seemed, didn’t relate to the dog at all! As it turned out I should have trusted my friend– and the dog.
People often swear they will never take up with an addict ever again only to discover that the person they are seeing is an addict of some sort.
Also I have frequently noticed that people tend to pick one sex addict after another, especially if they have a history of sex addiction somewhere in their own family. It is clear to them, and me, that the choices they are making arise out of patterns that are as unconscious as they are persistent.
Beware of the high that blinds
Simply put, the more intensely you are attracted to someone, the more likely you are to repeat an old pattern. This is kind of bad news if you want to be swept off your feet. It’s fun to be swept away, madly in love, but let’s say you have decided to try it a different way.
You are being cautious, you are only relating to people who seem sincere, responsible, grown up. And yet here comes someone who is all those things and wildly attractive too! The problem here is that we really do tend to mistake intensity for intimacy. Furthermore, romantic intensity can distort our judgment.
It is easiest to be instantly attracted to someone when they are “your type”. Your type is whatever is most likely to “hook” you. You instantly know your type when you see it, whether it’s quiet, outgoing, shy, athletic, nerdy, flighty, funny, brooding, intense, unpredictable, short, tall, etc. etc.
Once you have spotted someone who is your type it may feel both exciting and, at the same time, wonderfully familiar. That feeling of familiarity is the first clue that you may be about to repeat an old pattern.
Ask the right questions
When you pick an addict, you are usually picking someone who is intimacy disabled. Even an addict in pretty good recovery can have some serious unresolved intimacy issues. This means that although they may seem quite sincere about their intention to find a relationship, they may not be able to turn that intention into practice.
In order to make your own assessment of someone you are interested in, it is absolutely essential that you ask them to tell you their entire relationship history. If they are in recovery from addiction it will be important to know the entire history of that as well. This will entail asking a lot of pushy questions, but it is crucial.
Addict or not, it will be important to know if the person has ever been able to be serious about anyone before, how their relationships progressed, and why/how they ended.
Get them to be clear on what they are looking for
If you are feeling confused it could be a problem. Addicts are great at mixed messages because they often know the right things to say without being able to grasp what those things mean in terms of actions.
If you are looking for a lasting commitment with someone, an exclusive relationship, a family or whatever, you need to ask the other person what they want. Do NOT feel that it is too soon to do this or that you are exerting too much pressure. Someone who cannot say whether they are ready to settle down, or want to live with someone (or not) is either (a) being dishonest, or (b) is unable to form an intention or idea about relationships. Neither bodes well.
In my experience adults, even young adults, can usually say how they envision their future. If someone is “playing it by ear” or wants a relationship “if the right person comes along” then they may have a problem with intimacy.
Get outside input
When we first get involved with a lover, we tend to lose perspective. In order not to repeat an unsuccessful pattern you will need to gather outside opinions and collateral data. This means
- Meeting the person’s friends and family
- Talking to your trusted friends about the person and getting their input (and taking it in)
- If necessary, talking to a therapist
It is a red flag if the person has a seriously dysfunctional family such as a family with a lot of addiction in it. If the person has functional friendships with functional people whom you feel good about that is a good indicator. And your trusted friends and/or therapist can usually give you enough perspective to keep you from getting too far down the wrong road.
So what about the guy who didn’t relate to my dog? Well let’s just say that I’ve been happily married for the last five years and he is still single and confused. I don’t claim that everything’s perfect, just better than before. I think my stepdaughter’s refrigerator magnet about sums it up. It says: “Always make different mistakes.”