Winning at Love Without Losing Yourself
- 2005 6 May
Perhaps the cruelest of relationship lies is believed by the person who is seeking someone simply to win. Operating out of a vacuum of personal identity and self-worth, they want a relationship with someone-anyone-who will build up their weak ego. They aren't interested in commitment, only conquest. And the more conquests, the better.
For the believer of this lie, a person becomes an object to acquire, like a shiny prize with bragging rights. What they feel about the person they are dating doesn't matter as much as what they feel about themselves when they are with their date. It's hedonism at its height, and it shows little respect for others.
We recently attended a play at the Seattle Repertory Theater to see Rex Harrison reprise his famous role in the classic musical My Fair Lady. The play begins with Professor Henry Higgins standing on a London street. Next to him is his old friend Col. Pickering, and they're looking at the third character, Liza, a flower girl who is a street urchin.
The two men talk back and forth and make a gentleman's wager to see if Professor Higgins can turn the flower girl into a princess. Higgins spends long hours teaching Liza proper English and proper mannerisms. The test of his teaching comes on the night of a large social event. Liza, in a fancy gown, is presented as a princess -- and people believe it.
Later that night, at home, Professor Higgins is out of the room, and Liza is sitting with Col. Pickering. She's reflecting on what's happened in her life. "I've finally figured out the difference between a flower girl and a princess," she says. "It's the way people treat you. And 'enry 'iggins treats me like a flower girl. For him, I'll always be a flower girl."
The person buying into this second lie -- "If this person needs me, I'll be complete" -- is like Professor Higgins. For them, a person is just another project; an accomplishment to put on their relationship resume. They don't have to respect the person -- just being needed by the person is enough to make them feel better about themselves, at least for the moment.
And if you're thinking the believer of this lie is simply shopping around for a person to care for, they're not. What they really care about is the dream of having others care for them. It's just that they don't realize that in trying to make their dream come true, they have to make huge compromises. Let's face it, when your goal is to be needed, you're not going to attract the healthiest of people. Any generic boyfriend or girlfriend will do.
At 29 years of age, Rick, a meticulous dresser with a healthy physique and an easy smile, had dated more women than he could count. He was active in two different singles groups at local churches, and his reputation as a "lady's man" was wearing thin. By the time I (Les) met him, he was exploring the idea of "settling down."
The setting was a picnic table at a retreat where Leslie and I were the speakers. Rick was telling me about Tina, his most recent catch. "I don't know what to do," he said. "She's nice and everything, but she's not-oh, I don't know."
"She's not what?" I prodded.
Rick was struggling to find the words. "It's time for me to get serious and all, but Tina?" he asked as he rolled his eyes. "I don't think so."
"You mean she's not ready to get serious?"
"No, no, no," Rick laughed. "She'd get serious in a second. It's just that I don't think she's the one."
"That's the thing, I don't know why not."
We continued to talk for a while at that picnic table and later in the dining hall. We never did reach a resolution. I'm not sure Rick ever will, at least until he figures out that another woman, no matter how much she needs him, cannot complete him.
Rick, like every other believer of this lie, will be stymied by true love until a sturdy sense of self-worth and wholeness is established. And that's an inside job that depends on nobody but oneself.
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