Author: George Fragkakis
Psychologist – Children Psychologist, Person-Centred Therapist
Translator: Myrto Gkoka
Browsing Amanda Grace’s book “But I love him”, I was nailed by the following passage “…even when I stop crying, even when we fall asleep and I’m nestled in his arms, this will leave another scar. No one will see it. No one will know. But it will be there. And eventually all of the scars will have scars, and that’s all I’ll be–one big scar of a love gone wrong”.
First, I bent down with devotion into the grief that those lines caused me, and then, with great interest for all those people who suffer that much, I decided to approach this subject in the hope of discovering that mysterious ‘adhesive substance’ that keeps those people pinned in such traumatic relationships.
A plethora of investigations has been conducted about what makes some people remain in truly harsh relationships. But before I go deeper, I would like to explain the condition ‘jagged state’. I am not just referring to heavy conditions like nasty quarreling, cursing, slapping in the face or other unacceptable actions, but also to more ‘common’ ones, like devaluation, ridicule, indifference. All of these attitudes can provoke serious traumas to a partner. Whoever has been in such a relationship knows very well what the phrase ‘It’s complicated’ means.
Scholars of humanity studies attribute the phenomenon above to three factors; the level of commitment, the kind of adhesion and a peculiar ability of representing the future.
Generally, people choose to share their lives with someone who makes them feel full! They usually feel nice and enjoy all of those benefits that they would not have before they met this person. In a healthy relationship, people make their dreams together and also make their own ‘blanket’ that will cover them and keep them warm at night, while in an aggressive relationship, the corresponding level of commitment could probably overcome the obstacles or even distortion. However, the ‘blanket’ could be full of holes through which the cold wind could easily pass at night, so they try by the skin of their teeth to manage their body in a way that they could avoid the bitter cold that comes through.
Nevertheless, it is pretty obvious that the way in which people tend to commit with each other can have more than one shade, shape, or kind of adhesion. For instance, companions who are characterized by safe adhesion (meaning they can give and receive their companion’s care without difficulties), usually remain together for longer time than those who suffer from an insecure adhesion. Thus, Kirkpatrick and Davis’s research (1994) comes to remind us that it is very naive for someone to talk exclusively, because people, as relationships are ductile, changeable, and hide inside them a substantial dynamic, able to alter not only individuals, but also the proceeding of their relationship.
In my personal opinion, labels have not ever helped anyone develop.
More specifically, it has been reported that persons who are probably characterized by the ‘insecure kind of adhesion’, while their partner might not be familiar with the sentimentalism and as a result he or she refuses their needs, they still have many chances of going together in life. This may occur because, despite the labels people have put on them, they can have other characteristics that fit together in a harmonic way (for example two lovers may share the same expectations about how men and women should behave in a relationship, on the basis of stereotypical thought or other experiences of the past). Indeed, Frost and Forrester’s investigation (2013) points out that it is not the level of proximity between the two partners that defines if a relationship will last, but if the level of proximity or distance between them satisfies both. It makes sense, if the two partners perceive the aggressiveness in a relationship as a kind of strategy to maintain a sentimental distance, then if one fears of proximity will adjust to the aggressiveness instead of risking the aggressive intimacy.
In the end, the survey could not ignore the internal insecurity that many people have and, despite the stifling conditions that may experience in a relationship, may stubbornly kick inside them, reminding them that things will get worse after a break up. This disarming thought, which is so powerful in order to subject them in front of it, makes them endure their relationship, even if it causes misery. In the very interesting investigation of Arriaga, Capezza, Goodfriend, Ray and Sands (2013), the writers compared the level of commitment with the participants’ perception of their personal happiness in a bad relationship -even more important- their attitude towards the possibility of a break up. Their finding was really astonishing; people who are being abused in a relationship underestimate how really unhappy they are and overestimate how unhappy they would be if the relationship ended.
In other words, if one of the partners is afraid of being alone, then that person fantasizes that he or she is fine in a relationship. The same one misinterprets the future believing that the single life would be much worse than it is in reality. Nevertheless, each and every one has the internal freedom to decide how or if he will react. This means that, in contrast with the amoeba, man is able to experience an incentive and not react to it only reflexively. It is of great significance how one experience or evaluate things but also, if one could react with mercy and a comprehensive opinion. Paradise and hell are not somewhere else, they unfold in front of one’s eyes, in his ribs or wherever he feels them.
Thus, wherever you may be at the moment, my dear reader, whatever your heart feels, know that I can feel you, understand you, care about you and I wish for you whatever may bring you happiness.
Arriaga, X. B., Capezza, N. M., Goodfriend, W., Ray, E. S., Sands, K. J. (2013). Individual well-being and relationship maintenance at odds. The unexpected perils of maintaining a relationship with an aggressive partner. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 4, 676-684.
Kirkpatrick, L. A., & Davis, K. E. (1994). Attachment style, gender, and relationship stability: A longitudinal analysis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 66, 502-512. doi:10.1037/0022-3518.104.22.1682.
Frost, D. M., & Forrester, C. (2013). Closeness discrepancies in romantic relationships: Implications for relational well-being, stability, and mental health. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 39, 456–469.