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May 20 2010

Have You Been Dating a Werewolf?

Published by at 4:14 am under Knowing Relationships BLOG

Remember “The Wolf Man”? It was old silver screen horror story that may seem pretty tame by today’s standards, but lately I find myself thinking about it as I work with people struggling to create good, intimate relationships.

Here’s a plot summary: The lead character is warm and easy to be with — that is, except during full moons, when he grows long teeth and hair, gets angry and rips people apart. He can’t help it; he is a good person, but with a curse.

OK, so maybe your current flame isn’t sporting the wild hair and teeth, but something about the werewolf does remind me of certain stories I hear about people on the dating scene. Here are some of the distinguishing characteristics of psychological “werewolves”:

  1. They seem to have two personalities; one is glamorous, charming, vulnerable and winning, while and the other may be spoiled, envious, vindictive, petty or mean.
  2. They want to believe — and want you to believe — that only the nice personality is who they really are. That other part? That is just a curse, a condition or a product of a disturbed childhood.
  3. Behind their words, you will hear and be moved by this emotional howl: “Love me. I am lonely! Save me. I am suffering! Be careful. I am dangerous!” The bottom-line message? “Be with me but be willing to make some sacrifices for love.”
  4. They like you. They do. They appreciate your company. Yet they have an addiction — whether it’s gambling, drinking, flirting, shopping — and they want you to ignore it.

The worst part about werewolf types — addictive, self-centered, charming and exhausting — is that they believe their own lies. This makes them hard to figure out because you can’t depend on them to act in their best interest (or yours, for that matter). The main lie they believe is that the mean things they do to others don’t really count. “That’s not the real me,” they insist. “The real me would never hurt a fly.”

You have to be a little crazy yourself to love a werewolf. You have to say to yourself, “The person I’m in love with is a much nicer person than the person I’m in love with.” It doesn’t make sense, yet you believe it. It’s a spell.

It is a crisis for both partners, but that’s how these relationships work. He wants not just any love, but a love that can heal him. At the same time, his girlfriend is trapped by her own ambition. She wants to think that her love is powerful enough that it will save him.

In the movie, it is only after the woman has given her love to the werewolf that he lets her know of the terrible bargain she’s made. She then learns that the only way the werewolf can be freed of his curse is by being shot through the heart with a silver bullet by one who loves him enough to do it. This is her test.

Similarly, in the real-life dating world, it is only after two people fall in love that they learn what that love will require of them. To pass the test and break the curse with a “werewolf,” you have to be willing to deliver an ultimatum. That’s the silver bullet, an ultimatum.

In a loving relationship, you ordinarily don’t give ultimatums. But loving a werewolf demands it. You have to be prepared to end the relationship in order to save it. It’s paradoxical, but it’s usually the only thing that works.

An ultimatum is a non-negotiable demand. You have to communicate clearly and precisely: “Wolfie, either stop the (name the specific behavior) and take responsibility for it, or we have to part. It’s that simple.”

This is a difficult process, yet the only way some relationships can work is if you are utterly clear that you will leave if things don’t change. And often, you have to walk right up to that edge. You may have to get outside support to help you. If you succeed, you both win. If you don’t succeed and the relationship ends, … well, ultimately you’ll have won then, too

by Philip Belove, Ed.D.

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