A client, let’s call her Anna, in her 40’s complained to me the other day,
“The only men that are out there are the Peter Pan guys. The ones that don’t want to grow up, get married, settle down, have kids.”
(This topic of the Peter Pan or prince of princess complex in men (and women) is a fascianting one to explore in another blog post but for now, back to Anna. )
Anna would spend all her time, relentlessly trying to “UN-PETER PAN” her partners. How exhausting that must have been!!
Yes, there’s a lot of these “Peter Pan” types out there but Anna wasn’t noticing all the more mature and honest men out there because she was so busy being swept up in another relationship with a Peter Pan and falling in love with their potential rather than accepting who they really were today.
Anna wanted to know what she could do because she was truly starting to despair. It was impacting her sleep, work- everything. My heart went out to Anna.
Anna was intuitive enough to know a few months into dating these men that something was wrong but would then spend her energy trying to ‘fix’ them. She thought if only she could get them to “see the light” they’d awaken and start treating her how she should be treated and mature and grow up. Kind’ve like trying to stop the rain falling out of the sky or making a fish walk on land.
Anna was investing all her energy into the wrong people, the ones that were happy being Peter Pans. They don’t need to get married or have kids, they’re happy as they are. Sure they’re possibly emotionally immature but that’s their choice. Anna would wind up wasting some much time and energy trying to change them. Why should they change? They love living a party lifestyle at the age of 45. They certainly weren’t interested in changing for anyone or in settling down. They’re ruled by their boy-psyche and it’s rather impossible to have a mature relationship with someone like this.
Sure, these men have problems but that’s not the point of this post. Anna was so preoccupied with their problems and how she could fix them she’d forgotten to look inwardly at her own problems and rescue herself.
You cannot have a relationship with someone who isn’t who you thought they were or have a relationship with someone based upon what you hope they will become. You can’t get blood out of a rock and you can’t force someone to become conscious. This a choice someone makes for themselves.
Anna was trying to change them to want the same things she wanted and kept ending up wasting years and years in futile relationships that went nowhere. She was putting her power into someone elses hands and that rested on the crumbling future possibility that maybe one day in the future, not based on any hard evidence, they might change-maybe.
Her issue was HOW she was selecting partners and why was she trying to force them to change or ignore who they were. She’s continually attracted to the unavailable ones and had been repeating this cycle over and over again.
Anna might see a red flag early on but ignore it. Then she might see a combination of red flags but ignore them. Her friends and family might be concerned about this person she’s dating and try to talk to her about it but she’d block them out because she’d be embarrassed.
Why did Anna keep dating people who she knew were cheaters and liars? Why did she think they’d be different with her even though she knew they’d cheated on their exes or refused to commit to any of their previous partners?
Love rules our mind and seems to control the logical and rational part of our mind. The same part of our mind that controls addiction also controls our feelings of love.
There are so many opportunities out there for this woman that she wasn’t noticing. She wasn’t noticing the men that were in touch with their mature masculine sides and were genuinely interested in a committed relationship.
We started with some gentle art therapy and meditation exercises to help Anna get some perspective and look at her relationships with a birds eye view.
Then we started together to help her to open up and really start to look within herself openly and honestly.
During this self review process I got Anna to ask herself these questions; “What am I afraid of? How worthwhile do I think I am? Do I think I’m not worth more and have to settle for these people? “
Anna wasn’t in touch with her own ‘shadow’ and so kept being unconsciously attracted to the shadow in others. Getting in touch with her own dark side helped this pull. Anna also couldn’t see her own self worth.
Anna would go on dates saying, “I hope that they like me.”
Instead she should be saying, “I hope I like them..” And spend that date assessing that person to see if they’re right for her.
Anna thought she should put out everything there that she was looking for in a first person. Sadly there are so not so ethical people out there who will pretend to be that person she’s looking for just for their own short term gains and pleasure.
Instead I encouraged Anna to ask open questions on dates and really find out slowly what someone was like and not rush into anything in a blaze of emotions.
Part of our therapy was relationship education. We discussed healthy relationships versus unhealthy relationships. We talked about what she thought she deserved and worked on identifying her needs. Anna had grown up witnessing her parents violent relationships so wasn’t even sure what a healthy relationship was. Sadly our schools don’t give us much education about this either.
Now Anna has to be really honest with herself about what’s she is looking for and pay attention to red flags appearing in a relationship every single day. She doesn’t cut out her friends and isolate herself if ever they show concern about a partner. As we worked together to help her see her strengths and build her self esteem she gained the courage to leave relationships if she felt she wasn’t being treated well whereas in the past she might stay there for years and years of abuse.
Published by Cat O Dowd
Cat is a clinical sexologist, relationship psychotherapist, certified sex therapist, art therapist, transpersonal counsellor, sex and relationship educator and columnist and award winning, internationally published erotic photographer.
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