You’ve all known people (or yourself) who, early on, begin finding things wrong with a person they’ve met
-”he’s only a second-tier musician”
-”she laughs too loudly”
-”her hips are too big”
-”he tells me he misses me too often”
– the funniest: “he hardly has any apps”
-”he’s not smart enough because he didn’t go to a good school”
Disqualifying is different than simply not being attracted to someone for various reasons. It’s more reactive and a little too automatic. In fact, most people (including the examples ahead) aren’t at all aware that they’re disqualifying; they think they’re simply selecting. I’d hazard the guess that those who disqualify are even more unaware than others that 1) there are psychological factors at play and 2) that there’s a pattern they keep playing out. The interrelated fears getting silently triggered usually run along the following internalized beliefs* (all of which are inaccurate in that they place too much control of our lives in the other person’s hands):
*I need to Buttress My Self-Worth by Having this Person Want Me (but once she does, she’s no longer valuable)
*He’ll Burden (and Pressure) Me
*What Will I Have To Do or Be for Her (I’m going to get trapped into being what she needs)
*I Won’t Get to Have the Life I Want (I’ll never get what I need)
*He Won’t Compensate for My Own Inadequacies (he’ll reflect badly on me)
*I’ll Feel too Lonely with Him
When Soldana decides the guy isn’t good enough b/c “he’s only a second tier musician”, she can’t see that, from most perspectives, his talent on the saxophone is pretty formidable. But she had a mother who ‘confided’ in her (psychologically speaking, she was venting to her daughter rather than problem-solving her own conflicts) about all the things she found lacking in Soldana’s father and how she’d wished she’d married another (more charismatic) man. Much as Soldana loved her father, her mom’s constant disparaging of him made the mundane aspects of Dad frightening to her. Some part of her learned that she’d be forever yearning for something more if she didn’t find a more ‘glittery’ man. She never verbalized seeing her father in a negative light, but she behaved it in her choices in men. If she didn’t get to be with a glittery guy, it had to mean she herself wasn’t good enough as well (not unimportantly, Soldana had been socially awkward and isolated in high school – and something she felt she needed to live down). (*He Won’t Compensate for My Own Inadequacy, *I Need to Buttress My Self-Worth by Having this Person Want Me, *I Won’t Get To Have The Life I Want)
Luc is always turned off by William, his boyfriend of several years, whenever William expresses that he loves or misses Luc. This is the reactivity: in and of itself, without our historic meanings attached, being loved is essentially positive. But for Luc who grew up being put in the position of dad’s ‘companion’ or ‘go to’ person while mom was pulling away from the father and having an affair, being missed or loved now smack of a sense of claustrophobic need that he can’t tolerate. (*What Will I Have To Do or Be for Him, *I’ll Feel too Lonely with Him )
Sanjay’s disqualifier is essentially anyone who becomes interested in him and who doesn’t run away when he’s interested back. That is, if the woman stays without being hard to get, she’s weak and not ‘compelling enough’ – and thus, disqualified. In fact, the only relationships he can maintain are those in which the woman is generally arrogant, narcissistic and unable to be close. He’ll start relationships with women who are already involved with other men or who are moody and angry and thus don’t spend much time with him. He grew up experiencing his parents as completely isolated from each other. The.father would pawn the mother off on anyone else who was around while he, himself, rarely engaged with her. So as soon as his mom would arrive home each day, his dad would pressure the kids to be with her because he, himself, didn’t want to. Sanjay, to this day, is unable to recognize how difficult and smothering that was for him. The mother had bipolar disorder as well – often accompanied by pressured speech – ensnaring people in conversations in which she’d talk at them, often senselessly. So feeling trapped with her was a likely experience.
Importantly, and common in people who can’t grow and change, not only can Sanjay hardly remember that these interactions occurred (though his sister who joined him in some therapy sessions remembered them vividly), but he’s uninterested – and dismissive that these factors have any bearing on who and how he chooses. And as long as he can’t/won’t identify that he’s selecting poorly – based on historic relationship lessons he learned – he has no choice but to keep re-living it.
(*What Will I Have to Do or Be for Her, *She’ll Burden Me, *I Need to Buttress My Self-Worth by Having this Person Want Me)
People usually ask “Well, what do I do about this once I recognize it in myself?” One example, briefly described, is that of Soldana.
One task, if she finally wants to have a long-term relationship, is to start accepting that her mother’s unhappiness wasn’t intrinsically about Dad being too ‘ordinary’, but rather about her own aborted sense of identity. Had she found a way to identify and work through those issues, she wouldn’t have had to 1. denigrate the father and 2. involve her daughter – and would also have ultimately come to figure out on her own whether she could be with Soldana’s father (in a non-complaining way). Most critically, Soldana has to work with how anxious she gets whenever a man is just human – and to discern humanity from a lack of will and substance. After all, no matter how fascinating a person may be, once we know them, we also recognize the part of them – and us – that’s kind of, well, mundane.
Though Soldana had ‘achieved’ status in her life by becoming a model, hanging with all the ‘right people’, reveling as she’d walk easily into all the hard-to-get-into clubs and restaurants , the threat of a partner being anything other than glamourous was too frightening because she didn’t truly believe in the grandiose myth she’d created about herself. As long as she was a ‘fraud’, any man she’d be with was suspect as well. Coming to manage her anxieties (and also make changes in) her own weaknesses, fears of failure, her constant loneliness, her deep insecurities in areas she’s never acknowledged – and recognizing that these things aren’t hateful – is critical in learning to accept a man that is human and fallible as well.
Finding the right person is a matter of our own (flexibility of) perception, not waiting for someone who divinely emerges as ‘the one’. (see the upcoming post)