Women say to me sometimes, “Marianne why do I always meet emotionally abusive men?” My answer is usually the following: “The problem is not that you met him—the problem is that you gave him your number.” The problem, in other words, is not that we attract a certain kind of person, but rather that we are attracted TO a certain kind of person. Someone who is distant emotionally might remind us, for instance, of one or both of our parents. “His energy is distant and subtly disapproving—I must be home.” The problem, then, is not just that we are offered pain, but that we are COMFORTABLE with that pain. It’s what we have always known.
The flip side of our dangerous attractions to people who have nothing to offer us is our tendency to feel bored by people who do. Nothing that is alien to our system can enter into us and stay there for long. This is true whether we’re talking about something taken into our bodies or into our minds. If I swallow a piece of aluminum foil, my body will regurgitate until the offending object is expelled. If I’m being asked to swallow an idea that doesn’t “agree” with me, then my psychological system will go through the same process of regurgitation in order to expel the offending material.
If I’m convinced that I’m not good enough, I will have a difficult time accepting someone into my life who thinks I am. It’s the Groucho Marx syndrome of not wanting to like anyone who would want me in their club. The only way that I can accept someone’s finding me wonderful, is if I find myself wonderful. But to the ego, self-acceptance IS death.
This is why we’re attracted to people who don’t want us. We know they’re not into it from the gate. We PRETEND to be surprised later when we find ourselves betrayed and they leave after an intense but fairly short stay. They fit perfectly into our ego’s plan: I will not be loved. The reason that nice, available people SEEM boring to us is because they bust us. The ego equates emotional danger with excitement, and claims that the nice, available person isn’t dangerous enough. The irony is that the OPPOSITE is true: available people are the ones who ARE dangerous, because they confront us with the possibility of real intimacy. They might actually hang around long enough to get to know us. They could melt our defenses, not through violence but through love. This is what the ego doesn’t want us to see. Available people are frightening. They threaten the ego’s citadel. The reason we’re not attracted to them is because we’re not available to ourselves.”