Hogging The Wanting II: There’s No Such Thing as “The Right One”

The Hog is stopped in his tracks when the other wants something too. This is the time to work through feelings of ambivalence. People who aren’t fairly self-incisive don’t tend to want to look at their own motives. But ambivalence is the nature of all human relationships. It’s just that people are frightened by it when it occurs early. But if there’s any intensity to an early relationship, ambivalence will indeed rear its head.

By definition, the hog only sees an idealized person when the chase is on. But when the other person comes to possibly want you as well, she becomes a real being; she’s now just standing there, ready to begin developing some closeness. But for the hog, closeness and intimacy are anxiety-provoking, the reasons for which are based on the idiosyncrasies of the hog’s relationship dynamics growing up. For all of us, our relationship-learning differs, largely depending upon how we saw our parents (and siblings/significant others) behave toward each other and toward us. These are our attachment styles. And the hog is a mixture of an ‘anxious’ and ‘avoidant’ attachment (described elsewhere).

So the hog thinks at this point: “I’m just not into him/her anymore”.  I hear this frequently. But there’s no such thing. That is, although I do believe people when they say they feel nothing anymore, it’s simply that they don’t have the emotional lexicon to identify it for what it truly is. We’re not such dichotomous beings; it’s not that we’re ‘on’ or ‘off’ about someone (though it can feel that way). We’re really mixed/confused/afraid/annoyed and/or a host of other reactions. What’s happening is that certain triggers are setting off uncomfortable sensations. So when you’ve liked and been attracted to someone and then it seems to disappear, you can be sure that ambivalence (reflecting avoidance and anxiety) is at play. While the other is still at a distance, you needn’t see the flaws. Once s/he stops and is right in front of you, you may be dismayed by the very realness.

Wendy would pursue men who were generally avoidant. She’d be the one texting and calling to make sure they were still on for some date she believed they’d made. And even though the ‘plans’ were fairly noncommittal (“hey, maybe we’ll catch each other on Saturday night”), in her mind they were real, and she was going to make them happen. Yet he was never initiating plans. He’d only give ‘place holders’ – quick texts telling her what he was doing that weekend; and, as an afterthought, asking what she was up to as well.  But she’d jump on the second part of the text (the “what are you doing?”) and decide that meant he was hinting at wanting to see her. Progress only began one day when I asked Wendy what she hoped to get out of guys like this. She responded that it would feel triumphant to get a reluctant guy to finally like her. The point for her was in ‘achieving’ the other person – because it was a means to prove herself worthy and to (believe she’d have) more control over how he treated her. Being with a person long-term felt too much like the dismal relationship she’d had with a father who was depressed and angry. As she came to see the futility of what she was trying to accomplish, she had an opportunity to change this ultimately self-sabotaging technique.

Lawrence (from an earlier post) struggled with his self-image as the child who grew up in a marginal town and then had to ‘measure up’ to other financial types with whom he began to work. Thus, being with a woman who’d be glamorous, desirable and whip smart was key for him. So the women he went after were the “not-me” types – someone who was not insecure like he was and who didn’t question her smarts and capabilities as he did. But the nature of closeness is that we we will indeed come to see their insecurities and imperfections. With work, he finally did learn to tolerate these. In fact, we’d come to joke about his earlier period in therapy when he’d begin some sessions focusing on how large Kelly’s hips seemed to appear on that particular day; it became laughable because he understood that seeing her as human had been terrifying. He also learned that suddenly focusing on the ‘large hips’ was generally a way of looking at her imperfections when what he really felt was a sense of hurt or upset with her – usually about some way in which he felt she’d been insensitive to him or not having lived up to some ideal way in which he’d wanted to see her behave. As he came to understand more about his own misgivings about himself he was less likely to have to project them onto Kendall. As well, he came to identify more quickly when he was feeling hurt or unimportant and, instead, learned ways to either work through these feelings himself, or to talk with Kelly more productively about how he might like her to do something differently.

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As people come to identify and understand these reactions and ambivalences more clearly they don’t have to automatically pull back and decide the other person isn’t ‘right’ for them. They may actually come to truly love the other. But if they simply tend to ‘move on’, they’re much more likely to continue to replicate this reaction with someone else, and so on… and never make headway beyond this.

Seeing the other in a more real way – vs how you want the person to fill up your life – is key to altering the hog/chaser stance:

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