Relationships: They Were Inseparable - What Happened? (Part 3)
When we meet our friends with their boyfriends/girlfriends and can see that there is something unique developing, which has all the potential of a relationship, which suddenly dissolves - it makes us wonder what happened when they seemed so good together? Part of the unexpected heartbreak, I believe has to do with our parental environment and the psychological impact of how our primary and sometimes secondary care giver's relationships, transpire throughout childhood. I shall use the following case study as an example.
Mark and Kim had worked together for several months knowing that there was a strong attraction, and a feeling of connectedness which led them to mutually creating opportunities to spend more and more time together outside of work. Neither were specifically looking for a relationship but Kim was hopeful, Mark appeared very keen, a friend, good company and romantic. She bragged to her friends, as she told them she had finally met her 'soul mate'. He was emotionally available, had told her a lot about his family and invited her into his home and social circle.
But unbeknown to her, Mark despite his thirty seven years had never had a serious relationship. Born into a dysfunctional family and been traumatised by the strained relationship with his family, his utter despair forces him at sixteen to live in a city, thousands of miles away from his home town. Mark was the youngest of three, his siblings considerably older. Both his brother and sister were aware of their parents tempestuous relationship, left home whilst Mark was an infant. Aged ten, his mother had an affair, and left the marital home when he was twelve.
On the brink of puberty Mark was confused, living with a father who spoke of his adulterous ex-wife everyday. But what Mark could not understand was why she had left him behind. Did she leave because of him? Despite his mixed feelings of guilt, self - blame and anger, he felt abandoned by her. Other than his sister, who seldom visits, he has no one to express his distress and contempt to and develops a mistrust of friends. In his early teens, Mark's mother meets him when it is convenient for her and on each occasion he would ask her, why she left? She replies, "I will explain one day, when your old enough to understand", which only adds to his feelings of alienation.
His father dealt with the grief of his subsequent divorce, by throwing himself into his work, and heavy drinking sessions with friends. He was ill equipped to raise a bright teenage truant, who was forced to keep the house in the absence of his mother. As an adult, Mark's boyish wit, charm and intelligence wins him the attention of the ladies, and he flits from one brief affair to the next, until he meets Kim. She is something special, he feels alive in her company, she does not demand or expect anything from him.
But there is a nagging doubt that persists in his mind, as he questions himself, 'Whose to say she won't abandon me like my mother did?' It is an overriding thought, he keeps to himself and begins to fear that he is losing control of his emotions. Kim begins to witness a rapid change in Mark towards her. Whereas before he was demonstrative, generous, tactile and caring, he becomes increasingly evasive, aloof, cold and unreliable.
When Kim asks if there is anything wrong, he has little to say and she begins to feel, increasingly awkward around him. He justifies his behaviour as he says to himself 'I didn't promise anything. I wasn't looking for a relationship, why should she expect more?' His strange, unkind attitude towards her continues, and communication decreases. Somehow she tries to overcompensate for his sudden lack of interest, as she believes that he needs time and space to deal with 'something' and it will only be a matter of time, before he tells her. Until then, at least she wants to show him that she is a loyal, sincere friend, despite her sadness and bewilderment.
Gone are the romantic gestures, emails and telephone calls, and suggestions to meet up. Kim senses that he is slowly extricating her from his life. She wonders if he is seeing someone else, whatever the reason, he has become a 'closed book' and this shatters her confidence and self esteem. Eventually her frustration turns to anger, as she tells him that it would be best to end their friendship. To her surprise he does not try to change her mind, or explain his sudden distance. She reflects on the hurt she feels, and doubts herself - did she ever really know him? Unable to face him at work, she eventually finds another job.
Mark's response is indifferent, refusing to attend her leaving 'do' as he thinks 'Just like my mother, she has rejected me. I thought she would. When it comes down to it, you really cannot trust women'. Several months later Mark admits to himself that he fell in love with Kim, but would never confess his feelings to her. After all, he loved his mother, but that wasn't enough, she still went away and never came back for him. On approaching forty, Mark decides that he wants to address his relationship patterns and seeks professional help. Through counselling he begins to put the jigsaw pieces of his life together, knowing that he had to confront his past, before he could fully engage in his present and ultimately emotionally re-build his future.