The Disappearing Act
In each case things start out swimmingly, perfectly, and for awhile, maybe even a long while, it's magic, and there's attention and love, and that face I see on the leather sofa two feet away from me is pretty happy.
And the cynic in me waits for the other shoe to drop. Far be it from me to burst anyone's bubble. I'm not your mother. Let the fantasy last. We all need a little hope, and when someone is kind, when someone is attentive, when someone is flirtatious, well, it feels pretty good.
This is the new relationship paradigm, you know, love without commitment. With a divorce rate holding steady at one out of two, what is the point of the crystal and china? Why register at all? Surely weddings are expensive, and happiness a toss of the dice. I'd prefer to think, actually, that it's not. But that's something to talk about another day, not now.
So you're in this relationship and your lover is extremely attentive initially, professes adoration and ever-lasting love, and this feels ever-so-good, and the sex, whoa, is amazing, and you're thinking, I Could Live Like This, and your lover has told you that no one has ever made him/her feel this way before, no one has touched this part of him/her before, and as the song goes,
This May Be an Ever Lasting Love.
I've Finally Found Someone.
And then it disappears. No fights, no drama. No calls. No response.
"I text him. I call him. I leave voicemail. I email. Nada."
There are so many ways to do this, communicate.
There's no such thing as nothing. Nothing is something. We have this phrase, "You can't not communicate. No communication is communication."
From the Life Stinks, department, that's for sure. So unfair. It was so good. Where did it go? Where did he go? She?
It's called the disappearing act, and if you know anything about behavior modification, then you know that some people actually are masters at this thing, modifying the behavior of others to accommodate long absences. They can stretch the rubberband, as we family therapists like to say, like nobody's business. They have an uncanny sense of knowing how long a relationship can linger in nomans land, before sparking it up again, lighting up life, just to disappear again.
Read that post on rubberband, if you haven't already, on emotional distancing and psychological space. Meanwhile, a short if not complete list of where people go when they take an intermission.
(a) back to his/her committed partner, aka, wife/husband
(b) back to life before you, shooting pool, arguing cases, building bridges, whatever a person with a life does
(c) is dating someone else, carrying on more than one relationship at a time.
(d) is getting stoned.
(e) is really angry about something you said, the way you said it
(f) is beginning to see you as much less than perfect, and wants perfect
(g) is doing just fine, actually.
(Help me here. Add to the list)
You, however, are the problem, assuming you're uncomfortable with the situation. You signed up for the problem, friends with benefits it's called. You're a giving person. More-so than your friend. You want more, you have greater intimacy needs. But there never was any kind of deal that referred to intimacy needs when you hooked up. The two of you didn't go over that part of your collective psychologies before becoming involved, before one of you unconsciously committed to the other.
And you can't say they didn't warn you.
So how does a person avoid the manipulation, the bad deal? Is it so outrageous to have this talk about intimacy, about needs, about sharing, about time, about the triggers we have, things that make us angry, all that before we get totally lovey dovey and out of control? Or maybe just get used to being rejected. Maybe that's the ticket. Haven't found that this works, gotta' say.
But since I'm on a roll, can't we talk about having missed someone to talk to as a kid, or having had to share a room with six siblings? These ditties about our upbringing makes us either reticent or more communicative, depending.
Can't people talk about what it meant, being verbally abused, or physically abused, and how that experience likely affected how they interpret things that happen to them, things that are communicated by a partner, i.e., criticism? Probably not, because all that is likely to be unconscious without therapy. We aren't all that in touch with how we distance, why we check out, or why we take things personally.
These are the things that really matter in relationships, you know, intimacy needs, our sensitivities. Just putting it out there. Something to think about.