Jerry Davich: Has your romantic relationship gone from soul mates to cell mates?
JERRY DAVICH June 9, 2013 11:06PM
Updated: July 11, 2013 6:07AM
Have you ever been in a romantic relationship that went from a “soul mate” dream to a “cell mate” reality?
Have you been reflexively drawn through the years to the same type of person, but only with different faces, or so it seems in hindsight?
And why are patient, giving and selfless people predictably — and magnetically — attracted to selfish, self-centered, controlling and even toxic partners?
An insightful new book explores this timeless topic, prompting “light bulb” moments in readers who immediately knew the answers to these questions. However, this is one pop quiz you’d rather fail.
The book, “The Human Magnet Syndrome: Why We Love People Who Hurt Us,” is about real-life, everyday relationships that many of us have experienced — but wish we hadn’t. After reading it, a few light bulbs of my own turned on, prompteing me to better understand dysfunctional relationships.
“The book is creating quite a buzz,” explained its author Ross Rosenberg, an Arlington Heights, Ill.-based psychotherapist, counseling agency owner, and national seminar speaker.
“For the last 18 months, I have been traveling around the country giving the seminar that the book is based on, titled ‘Codependents and Emotional Manipulators: Understanding the Attraction,’ ” he told me.
“The book approaches dysfunctional relationships from a distinctly intuitive angle. It speaks for most of us who have dabbled in dysfunctional relationships. It also explains what many of us or our loved ones have experienced, but have not yet figured out.”
Yes, even though Rosenberg is a psychotherapist with 25 years of professional experience, he too was a life-long victim of being repeatedly drawn to narcissistic romantic partners.
“By a magnet-like force from which it will seem impossible to break free,” he writes in his book. “This magnetic force, or the Human Magnet Syndrome, has the raw power to bring codependents and narcissists together in a perfect storm of love and dysfunction.”
Ring any bells in your life? Turn on any light bulbs? Raise any red flags?
“The magnetic power of this dysfunctional love will keep these seemingly opposite lovers together despite their shared misery and eager hopes of changing each other,” he writes.
Definition of insanity
Isn’t that the initial hope and ultimate curse of such relationships? That we will “change” the other person?
“The dream of perfect and everlasting love will sadly never come to fruition,” Rosenberg writes. “The soul mate dream will inevitably morph into the cellmate reality.”
Albert Einstein once famously said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” He must have understood our rollercoaster experiences with romantic partners, including the author’s history of two failed marriages and many more failed relationships before finally finding the love of his life.
“Writing the book required me to tap into my own personal and transformative journey,” he told me on my “Casual Fridays” radio show. (To listen to the entire interview, visit www.lakeshorepublic.media.org, under Casual Fridays.)
“Why was I continuing with my dysfunctional relationship follies if I knew something was wrong? Was this my own form of insanity?” he writes in the 180-page book, which dissects co-dependency, emotional manipulation, and narcissistic personality disorder.
The word “co-dependency” has been overused, misused, and misunderstood through the decades, becoming a caricature of its original meaning, he told me.
Narcissus, of course, was the handsome and charming son of the river god Cephissus from Greek mythology who died while trying to obtain the love of the one person he was completely unable to love — himself.
Rosenberg writes: “To fulfill my promise to myself, my first move was to figure out why I was habitually attracted to women who, despite my attentiveness and generosity, would harm me.”
I initially assumed that men comprised the large majority of emotional manipulation narcissists in relationships. But Rosenberg told me that men comprise only 60 percent of this “me-me-me” demographic.
Hard habit to break
Rosenberg’s own “major turning point” came in 2006, when he participated in a retreat sponsored by a men’s organization called “Victories” (formerly “Victories of the Heart,” a not-for-profit organization formed in 1985).
The retreat rocked his life, with an inevitable breakthrough and epiphany. But only after he hit rock bottom by catching himself flirting with yet another woman who had fit the same human-magnet description as his previous lovers.
Deep down, he knew the hot flames of passion would yet again transform into frustration, impatience, resentment and a wreckage of regrets. His fantasy lover, before his very eyes, would morph into an angry, controlling, narcissistic person who would hurt him while insisting she loved him.
Emotional manipulator “dancers” are drawn to co-dependent partners because they are allowed to feel strong, secure, in control and dominant in an activity that brings them love, praise and attention.
“They habitually choose co-dependent dance partners because with them they are allowed to maintain the center focus, lead the direction of the dance, and ultimately determine where, when and how the dance will proceed,” he writes.
History is littered with examples of romantic couples who were irresistibly attracted to each other, such as Anthony and Cleopatra (co-dependent-narcissist), John and Jacqueline Kennedy (narcissist-co-dependent), and Elvis and Priscilla Presley (narcissist-co-dependent), to name a few.
“When such couples first meet, they are enveloped in a magnetic and seductive energy force that initially fulfills their fantasy for true love, but later devolves into a painful seesaw of love and pain and hope and disappointment,” Rosenberg said.
His first piece of advice to chronic victims of such tortured relationships, even before seeking professional therapy, echoes my favorite aphorism dating back centuries: “Know thyself.” Too many of us know everything else in this world – from TV trivia and work duties to local politics and global solutions. But not ourselves.
To those of you who may feel it’s too late to better know yourself and change your human-magnet habits, Rosenberg points to another favorite quote of mine.
“It’s never too late to become who you might have been,” wrote English novelist George Eliot (a pen name for Mary Ann Evans).
For more info or to purchase the book, visit http://humanmagnetsyndrome.com or contact Rosenberg at email@example.com or (847) 749-0514 Ext. 12.
Connect with Jerry via email, at firstname.lastname@example.org, voicemail, at 713-7237, or Facebook, Twitter and his blog, at jerrydavich.wordpress.com.