1. Manipulation and Blame
Someone stuck in the Victim, Rescuer, Persecutor game, someone who is obsessed with manipulating others, or is an active addict is really always looking for an audience. (Note how the main character is manipulated by the wealthiest woman in town in Empire Falls by Richard Russo).

Stay on the lookout for those who never make statements of responsibility, or those who find comfort blaming everyone else. These are NOT people of substance. Stay alert to your own willingness to be a target for blame.

2. Charm

Run because underneath charm is emptiness and narcissism. Your role will be the boring one of the constant audience; not very engaging for an entire lifetime. Rent the movie Mansfield Park (by a British Female Director of Jane Austen’s Novel) which illustrates this point. People allow themselves to be seduced by charm because it’s glorious to leap over awkward beginnings in relationships. In the long run, you will be disappointed.

3. Desperation
No one will be attracted to desperate neediness if they are in their right mind. Give up the Rescuer role, thinking that you will be a good person by fixing them up. Let them hire a therapist instead, where relationship boundaries require them to do 50% of the work. Rescuing is you doing 60-98% of the work-bad idea. A client informed me that Dr. Phil says put out an “I want to be with you” vibe instead of “I need to be with you.”

4. If  Heterosexual – Determine their relationship with their opposite sex parent (Freud had a few things right). If a person is gay, it may have more to do with the same sex parent. Check out both relationships to be on the safe side. Extremes such as excessive adoration, disgust, or indifference in parental relationships can be trouble. Basically you want someone who gets along with their parents. The point being that if a son had a hateful relationship with his mother, you may take her place in the future. A good book to teach you how your childhood experience leaks into the present in your partnership is: Couples Getting the Love You Want: A Guide For Couples by Harville Hendrix.

5. Never Feel Sorry for Anybody
Nothing good comes from this, erase it from your emotional vocabulary. Feeling sorry for someone is a treacherous place to be because it lacks respect. Respect is more important than love in keeping a long term relationship working. Respect offers more room to not like aspects of someone, it offers the respect of being different. Love too often disguises a desire for a clone.

6. Women, Stop the Myth
Stop the myth that any man is better than none. With or Without a Man by Karen Gail Lewis, is about single women taking control of their lives.

7. Expectations

The problems with expectations are twofold; you can have too few or too many. It is important to strike a balance. Either of these polarities can get you into trouble. There are three wonderful books that illustrate the problem of too few expectations: Disappearing Acts, by Terry McMillan; The Wife, by Megan Wollitzer; and The Rules of Engagement, by Anita Brookner.
Don’t bury the other person in all your unmet childhood needs. Try to keep your list of expectations from erasing all the possibilities. If the man has a good heart, a good mind, keeps game playing to a minimum and has a decent relationship with his mother, what more could you want?

8. Isolating Behavior
If your new love interest maneuvers you into leaving all your friends behind instead of being interested in meeting them, be careful, something is amiss.

9. Self-destructiveness
It’s simple, if you smell it stay away. Often accompanies active addictions or dry drunks.

10. Emotional Sadism or Masochism
Examine your own masochism if you are in a relationship you know is unhealthy and you stay anyway. Those who enjoy being sadistic do not try to examine themselves, so they will not be on this web site.

11. Remember Nice is Not the Same as Good
Why do people find it so easy to confuse these two? The big bad wolf was really nice to Little Red Riding Hood.

12. Don’t Become “Enchanted”
The role of rescuer to a lost boy/girl can be enchanting. In reality you will come to feel like a mother or father instead of a lover. Consider the well-known relationship of Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln. who addressed each other as mother and father. It doesn’t require a lot of imagination to suspect that their marriage was not warm and wonderful.

13. Serious Mental Illness
Everyone deserves love. Water seeks its own level in couples; don’t point the finger at someone else unless you are willing to look at yourself. Blame is so convenient. Rather than blaming, take responsibility. For example, if either of you requires medication, it is that person’s duty to explore this option. Spilling all over people you love is not a birthright. Remember the tragic life of Van Gogh. Imagine the burden Vincent Van Gogh’s brother, Theo, must have carried for Vincent’s entire life.

14. Survival Conclusions or Personal Myths
We all more or less grow up unfinished. We often fill in the gaps with ways to cope or ways to believe about life and relationships that are twisted up to fill in the gaps. Work to be more self-aware. One example might be having a mother or father who abandoned you growing up, which is not grounds for entitlement to drown your lover in neediness. Survival conclusions have an expiration date.

15. Cope Instead of Persuade
Reality really is your best friend. So you risked the question, “Do you love me?” and got the answer you didn’t want. Instead of insisting that the other person deny his or her reality just to reassure you falsely, deal with the truth. It is better to know than to go on pretending.

16. The Enmeshment of Codependency is not Love
Learn what codependency is, because it often travels with anxiety, as well as addictions.

17. “Love me no matter what”
This is an extremely emotionally dangerous requirement. This is a set up for the drama triangle. This is a crazy thing to demand of another adult if you are 18 or over.

18. Mirroring the system
An example of this would be the person you date is a problem drinker and your alcohol intake increases when you are with them. It’s important to maintain your own boundaries, to recognize when you’ve lost track of your own values or sense of self in loving somebody else.

19. No Remorse
Someone without this quality is dangerous to be around. It’s someone who doesn’t have a heart.

20. Beware the Distancer
There are many who make an art of never really sharing their heart, who only feel safe buried in distance. Don’t make the mistake of believing you’ll be the one special enough to break through.

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About the Rhoda Mills Sommer

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