Angie is in a relationship. Well, she used to be in a relationship. with Isaac. They’ve actually been broken up for about a year since Angie found out that not only was Isaac cheating, he was married and still living and sleeping with his wife. The moment Angie found out about this news she gave him a piece of her mind and broke up with him. So why are they still sleeping with each other a year later?
She is a young attractive professional woman who makes her own money and could presumably do a lot better for herself, and Angie knows this. There is something about Isaac that Angie just can’t shake despite her better judgement and even the emotional suffering she faces as a result. This isn’t just something Angie is going through, we all have that person that we call or text and can’t seem to stop. Is this addiction? Infatuation? Obsession? In many cases we don’t even like the person on a social level but it doesn’t keep us from reaching out to them.
Are we gluttons for punishment or is it simply that we have trouble letting of breaking strong attachments. It is not just the simple fact that we are comfortable with a person, because we may not actually be comfortable around them or with the situation. We know the comfort factor can be a strong one but what if what is going on is something deeper than simple familiarity. It could be as important as out identity itself.
We all know that when we meet someone new we start off on best behavior. We put on all the masks and costumes we can find to perform what we think is our ideal selves but we gradually let them fall away as we get to know someone. Whether voluntarily or on accident we become more and more open and intimate with the person we are dating and we allow them to really see us for who we are. This process isn’t often immediate and it isn’t always positive.
Sometimes it is a person who we claim brings out the worst in us, but another way to put it is that we allow ourselves to be our worst around them. Isn’t and important part love invariably the acceptance of a person when they have shown their weakest and worst sides? How many people can you really say know you on that level. Even it if is a version of yourself that you are not proud of, it is a version that is bottled up around every other person you interact with.
We may think that it amounts to a rage filled argument, or the person who makes us the type of person that wants to snoop through their things, or perhaps we become a victim of lust in their presence. What ever the affliction it is something that we so often get to express freely without fear of rejection. Once that side is shown even if the response is negative, it is still an engagement that reinforces some level of concern. Isn’t this why some of us love arguing more than being ignored. There is engagement in the conflict that reminds us this person at least cares enough to argue or treat me poorly and that can be affirming in a counterintuitive way.
Perhaps for Angie the feeling of being seen is so powerful because it is such a rarity for us all to be viewed authentically for who we are for better or worse. Since it is indeed quite rare the risk associated with letting someone go that knows us can be great. There is immense value in having people really know you. Our friends and lovers have a way of reminding us and reflecting who we are. In society at large this expectation can be oppressive but in an intimate setting it can be liberating.
We are allowed to be shallow or sad, or angry, or happy because we are confident that these people are already aware of our limits and, even if they challenge or hurt us it can still be stabilizing. Not all of the mistakes we repeat can make us feel this way, but in cases where we have let our guard down it can be nearly impossible to detach.
Intimacy allows people to get a snapshot of our true selves and in a world where that kind of affirmation is not the easiest thing to come by it can lead to a form of dependency.