[Two Pronged] 10 years later, I'm only just a friend
Rappler's Life and Style section runs an advice column by couple Jeremy Baer and clinical psychologist Dr Margarita Holmes.
Jeremy has a master's degree in law from Oxford University. A banker of 37 years who worked in 3 continents, he has been training with Dr Holmes for the last 10 years as co-lecturer and, occasionally, as co-therapist, especially with clients whose financial concerns intrude into their daily lives
Together, they have written two books: Love Triangles: Understanding the Macho-Mistress Mentality and Imported Love: Filipino-Foreign Liaisons.
Dear Dr Holmes and Mr Baer,
I just realized (and this is not the first time) that my friend does not really see me as a woman.
He doesn't like me. He just doesn't.
This is not the first time I realized this but the pain is just so familiar. I can just shrug it off and sleep it off and wake up with a heavy heart full of expectations and hope that he will like me maybe not now, but soon.
I have invested a lot of my time and emotions in him. For more than ten years, I really thought there was something and that he was just waiting for "the right time" which I thought was when I graduated from college or maybe after I pass the board exam or maybe when I land a stable job.
But I have already been through those.
So have I been just fooling myself all this time or am I just thinking of myself? I still have my hopes up because he still wasn't able to pass the board exam and he's been unemployed after failing 1 complete set of board examination. Maybe the "right time" for him is not the time I become someone I want to be but the time he becomes someone he has hoped he could be.
But does how we define "the right time" matter when what really matters is the "Lord's time?" I don't know if I'm just getting my hopes up or I don't know anymore.
The truth is, I like him too much to just move on. I'm writing this just to get this off my chest.
I want to move on but I also don't want to. I don't know anymore.
Thank you for your email.
You tell us that you have been carrying a torch for this man (let’s call him Adam) for more than ten years but have known for some time that your feelings for him are not reciprocated. You have expected that various milestones in your life would lead to a change in Adam’s attitude but this hasn’t happened.
Now you are hoping that milestones in his life will prove to be the game changer — and as a last hope you suggest that maybe the "Lord’s time" is actually what matters.
Unrequited love has traditionally been the stuff of the Middle Ages and romantic novels. Unrequited love can combine romance, purity of spirit, devotion to a lost cause (and much else, particularly in fiction) and when seen in a certain light can be considered worthy of admiration, even if a little old fashioned in today’s world of dating apps and hookups.
However, unrequited love can have a dark side, replete with obsession, delusion and even paranoia.
The nature of your love for Adam is unclear from your email. To be interested in a man for ten years when you know he is not interested in you could suggest inter alia an obsession or alternatively a lack of self confidence (your devotion to Adam enables you to avoid having to try to find a real boyfriend) and/or a touch of masochism.
Yet perhaps a question you should be asking yourself is why you are prepared to spend so much time, effort and emotion on a man who gives you nothing in return.
Einstein is reputed to have said "the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results." You have shown devotion to Adam for 10 years and gotten nowhere, despite reaching a series of supposedly significant milestones. Even now, with these milestones in the past, you are invoking the influence on your non-existent relationship with Adam of "God’s time," which sounds very much like an attempt to outsource responsibility for the development of this relationship to a supreme being who will somehow wave a magic wand over the two of you and then all will be well in (your) paradise.
Some might call this a humble submission to God’s will; others might prefer to characterize it as an abnegation of responsibility. And if this is the same god that brought us the parable of the talents, you bear a singular similarity to the man who buried his single talent in the ground and you may recall that that was not well received.
So perhaps it is now time for you to look for someone who will value and respect you for who you actually are. All the best,
Thank you very much for your letter. Mr. Baer did an excellent job of reframing your dilemma so you might take a look at your situation more objectively. Thus, I shall no longer weigh in about whether you should or shouldn’t (move on).
Among other reasons, I worry that, if I offer any more than Mr Baer already has, I will merely encourage you to continue thinking in false-dichotomy terms.
Sometimes, people convince themselves that not to move on from a fantasy relationship of over 10 years proves the depth of their love. Is this what is fueling your feelings, Eva? I ask because of statements like: “The truth is, I like him too much to just move on.”
You seem to want to convince yourself that holding on is a good move, despite all evidence to the contrary.
In 1966, Dr. Eric Berne wrote a phenomenal book Games People Play: The Psychology of Human relationships which, to my then 16-year old mind, was THE instruction book for anything about relationships.
Since its publication, it has sold more than five million copies. The book describes both functional and dysfunctional social interactions, and introduced transactional analysis which, to this day, is often used in therapy.
Dr. Berne discussed the "mind games" people interact through — patterned series of conversations which are superficially plausible but which actually conceal motivations, include private significance to the parties involved, and lead to a well-defined predictable outcome, usually counterproductive.
In many ways, it seems like you are engaging in what is considered the one of the most popular games called in Why don’t you-yes but (YDYB).
A detailed description of YDYB can be found in the above blog.
Here is an abbreviated version:
The scenario: The agent (the person instigating the game - in this case, you) starts by presenting a problem.
Person B responds with "Why don’t you [insert suggestion here]?" to which person A replies "yes, but…" or "The problem is…" or something similar.
This can go on for hours.
What’s really happening: It’s important to remember that the unconscious purpose of the agent is not to get useful suggestions, but to reject them. That’s why they keep… rejecting them.
The solution: "That does sound like a difficult situation, what are you going to do about it?"
On the one hand, I apologize to you profusely for implying that you purposely wrote your letter with the juxtaposition that “I should move on…and yet” but I cannot help thinking that this is what it can lead to… which can result in your going round and round an ever repeating loop.
This might lead you to wrongly interpret what is going on as proof that you should not move on.
Please remember, dearest Eva, that someone may do things unconsciously or unintentionally, and yet, it does not mean that that someone means it to be a game. That someone may be earnest about finding out what’s truly going on inside her, but until she is willing to formulate her problem in different terms, I am afraid further game playing will all it will result in.
So please, please write us again when you are ready for a real "heart to heart" instead of a mere ‘thought to thought’. We will be here waiting to help you in any way we can.
Be kind to yourself, but don’t let this kindness mollycoddle you into believing holding on to a nonstarter relationship is the way to go.
All the best,
Need advice from our Two Pronged duo? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with subject heading TWO PRONGED. Unfortunately, the volume of correspondence precludes a personal response.