Is the man you’re dating a mirror of you?

by singlemomseeking on June 23, 2008

Wendy Merrill, author of the new memoir, Falling into Manholes, says that he is.

I know Wendy in person and she’s just as hot, genuine, and honest in person as she is in her book. No, she’s not a single mom. Yes, she is so open and revealing about life and love — that I had to have her on the blog. You’ll see why.

While dating, in hopes of finding a parter, Wendy keeps falling into manholes. (Sound familiar?) After losing herself in an endless series of attachments, she comes to see how her relationships with men are emblematic of all of her relationships — with alcohol, food, drugs, family, friends and, most of all, herself. (Still sound familiar?)

Falling into Manholes is about looking for love in all the wrong places — and then finding yourself. I laughed and cried. I especially related to the bad girl/good girl paradox that Wendy describes oh-so-honestly.

Q: You write in Falling into Manholes that “if these men were all mirrors, what did that say about me?” “Do you think that the men we choose are mirrors of who we really are?

Wendy: “You know the saying “Water seeks its own level?” It seems that as long as I have been unwilling or unable to look directly at my own issues, I’ve always drawn men into my life that would somehow mirror those issues back at me.

When I drank, I picked men that drank more than me so that I could focus on their drinking and not my own. This is a very codependent trait: focusing on others problems instead of my own. After I stopped drinking (19 years ago), my codependency issues ramped up even more (like dishonesty with myself, denying my own wants and needs, focusing on pleasing others in order to get what I wanted, and so on!) which is at the heart of my love addiction.

This played out with the men that I dated. Big fun!”

Q: You write about how one boyfriend wouldn’t kiss — but he held you. That’s what “hooked” you. I really get it. I don’t know if being held goes way back in my psyche, to early abandonment… but it’s a hook for me, too.

Wendy: “My girlfriend Kaye said something really funny the other day. ‘I could never date a suicide bomber, because of my abandonment issues!’ She was totally serious!

But yeah, the answer for me comes in complete and radical self acceptance… When someone leaves, it’s not about me, but I make it about me and then I get to relive all my past trauma. I am definitely a post traumatic stress survivor.”

Q: You write that “In my mind, sex would lead to happiness.” How many times have I believed one? My last sexual experience led to a kidney infection

Wendy: “Dating a sex addict sort of cured me of that, at least conceptually! I had four UTIs in as many months with that guy. My body is so much smarter than me!

This is not to say that I don’t want a sex life, but now my mantra is “Love (and sex) is a thoughtful and committed decision, not a feeling by which I am overwhelmed.”

Your turn:
How has your most recent relationship been a mirror of you? What did this relationship reflect back to you? Did you have to stand there and stare for a long, long time until you saw it?

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Susan June 23, 2008 at 8:29 am

The person I dated earlier this year struggled with balance. He had so many people and pressures pulling on him; he couldn’t focus on anything, and it was clear he needed to drop some things from his life to achieve any semblance of balance. I didn’t think I had the same problem, but it turns out I did…the other side of the same coin. When we were together, I was SO focused on him and his issues that I dropped practically everything else in my life. One person not dropping enough, one dropping too much. Not so balanced, eh?

It wasn’t really clear to me, though, until we had been apart for about a month. I’m making progress on my end and I hope he is, too.

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Krystal June 23, 2008 at 9:13 am

Nice & interesting post, I can certainly relate as well. I’ve dated guy after guy, who I would claim had commitment issues, abandonment issues, jealousy issues… until I realized I picked these men up so I could focus on their issues which turned out to be the exact ones I had.

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Heidi June 23, 2008 at 9:14 am

This is definitely food for thought. I’d like to think that my relationship with my ex doesn’t mirror me at all, but I’m sure there are ways that it does.

I am eager to read this book!

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Andrea June 23, 2008 at 10:39 am

I couldn’t agree more. We end up drawing people into our lives who reflect where we are.

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singlemomseeking June 23, 2008 at 1:22 pm

Wow, fascinating, Susan! “The other side of the coin…” Most recently, I’ve noticed that I’m attracted to men who also experience abandonment early in their lives. I need to look closely at this one.

Krystal: Yes, it’s amazing how we “choose” boyfriends.

Heidi: Let us know what you find out… I highly recommend the book.

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Jim Everson June 23, 2008 at 3:07 pm

This is a great topic. I think it is definitely worth the time and effort to ask yourself this question. As for me, a part-time single dad, my last serious relationship certainly reflected the darkest parts of myself. I’ve had some success with addressing some of those issues and here is how I did it. I found that once I took responsibility for my own behaviors that I did not like, I needed a program for changing them (rather than demanding that my partner change). I would typically find someone who had succeeded with those same issues in the past and make them my hero. Of course, it is dangerous to idealize your romantic partners, but it seems perfectly reasonable (to me at least) to idealize your heroes and people you want to emulate (at least for a while). I would then set out to emulate by their example and try to make the changes in myself. It is easier for me to learn from real world examples instead of trying to suddenly become something “I want to be.”

I suspect that is why Singlemomseeking is such a great resource for single mothers (and fathers). Rachel is such an amazing example of so many positive qualities and she is so considerate of the topics she chooses to address and challenge in herself. I consider her one of my role models and I have certainly benefited by her example.

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mc June 24, 2008 at 3:07 am

Hmmnm, I’ll have to buy her book and read it, but I think this is mostly really true.

In myself, I’ve recently realized a variation: I tend to get involved with men who are *not* AT ALL like me (and of course they end up driving me crazy)—instead, they are more similar to an imaginary image about myself that I’ve put together, something that I now realize is a way to try to subconsciously counter what I think of as my negative traits.

For example, I’ve dated a series of emotional artists and musicians. (I even married 2! Yes, how dumb, I know, I know.) Which would be fine, except that I’m actually a practical, type-A overachiever with kids and a demanding job.

Apparently, I still like to think of myself as, at heart, the same starving artist that I was 25 yrs ago. And I guess I have a problem thinking that I’ve turned into a soccer mom/yuppie (arggg!). But of course, this happened because I’ve been raising 2 kids and working at a career I enjoy, and I wouldn’t actually be happy any other way, I think.

So of course I’ve ended up irritated with the emo artists’ irresponsible (and drugged-up) lifestyles, and their inability to make plans or even to understand that I need to go to work every day. But it’s really not *their* problem–it’s mine, for thinking that I’m a different person that who I really am.

So the past year I’ve been consciously trying to date men who are *more* like me. It’s been tough, since I’m not immediately attracted to this type of man. But I’ve found that actually we have much more to talk about and I enjoy being with them much more than any of my emo musicians, and the attraction grows as I get to know them better.

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VJ June 24, 2008 at 11:20 pm

Some scientific thoughts on Mate choice…

[http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg19826614.100-bad-guys-really-do-get-the-most-girls.html?DCMP=ILC-tabView&nsref=mg19826614.100]

From: issue 2661 of New Scientist magazine, 18 June 2008, page 12

[http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg19826614.100-bad-guys-really-do-get-the-most-girls.html?DCMP=ILC-tabView&nsref=mg19826614.100]

Bad guys really do get the most girls

* 18 June 2008
* NewScientist.com news service
* Mason Inman

“NICE guys knew it, now two studies have confirmed it: bad boys get the most girls. The finding may help explain why a nasty suite of antisocial personality traits known as the “dark triad” persists in the human population, despite their potentially grave cultural costs.

The traits are the self-obsession of narcissism; the impulsive, thrill-seeking and callous behaviour of psychopaths; and the deceitful and exploitative nature of Machiavellianism. At their extreme, these traits would be highly detrimental for life in traditional human societies. People with these personalities risk being shunned by others and shut out of relationships, leaving them without a mate, hungry and vulnerable to predators…”

Yeah, I’m the only one I know who regularly does cites for blogs. Go figure. Cheers & Good Luck! ‘VJ’

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Cynthia June 26, 2008 at 8:25 pm

What a wonderful, thought-provoking post! As I look back on my past relationships, I have come to this simple analogy: I think of myself as a puzzle piece, with my own distinctive shape resulting from my thoughts and beliefs and past experiences. As with any puzzle piece, there will only be a couple of other puzzle pieces that would be a fit to my piece. My shape, energetically speaking, can only attract a vibrational match to myself… good, bad or ugly. Yes, a mirror of sorts. Therefore, all of my relationships have served as lessons for me and the only way for me to have a different type of relationship is to continue to work on myself and heal the thoughts/beliefs that do not serve me.

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VJ June 29, 2008 at 6:27 pm

I come away with thinking a lot like Cynthia. If the vibrational ‘sympathy’ is not there, it’s just not going to work out well. At all. Even with plenty of sex thrown in for good measure.

Some people are waltzes together. Some foxtrots. Some a heady grunge mix, some a smooth jazz vibe. Whatever it is, they work together, and it fits for them, and they know it. Sometimes this works out for the long term, sometimes not. But without it, you’re just constantly working and running uphill. It’s possible to do that, but it’s tiring for all concerned. Cheers, ‘VJ’

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