Saturday, June 24, 2017


Again, the letter the frustrated woman writes to therapist Lori Gottlieb is far more interesting than anything Gottlieb has to say. 

As often happens in these letters, we are deprived of most relevant information, condition that makes up prey to Gottlieb’s efforts to shoehorn the woman’s life into a psycho narrative. And thus, to ignore the woman's question?

For your edification, I provide the letter written by a woman who calls herself Frustrated:

I am divorced with two kids, and trying to date in the age of “swiping.” It’s hard. But for the first time in years I fell for someone … hard. The feelings had been intense from the beginning but also very recognizably mutual. All the basics you could hope to check off in the list of desirable dating traits were checked. Prior to this guy I had “dated” guys that would really just consist of a month or so of texting with about three dates total. None of them ignited an emotional connection like this last guy. But with the other guys, I could always tell when the guy was about to call it quits. I learn people and read people’s behaviors so I can tell when something is off and the level of interest has dissolved. My gut has never failed me when it comes to this stuff.

With the most recent guy, I started getting a bad feeling about a friend that he used to date, but he swore they were just buddies. He was forthcoming about his friendship with this girl, but I found it very strange that he would talk all the time to this person and hang out quite frequently. It made me uneasy. I have severe trust issues. He knew this. And he put a lot of effort into reassuring me that there’s nothing going on between them. I tried very hard to trust him. I wanted to trust him.

But I couldn’t shake my suspicions about their friendship. And so I became (secretly) obsessive about trying to figure out if they’re hanging out and how often they’re talking.  It was like I knew deep down that maybe there was unfinished business between them and I was looking for any evidence to prove myself right.  It caused me so much stress and anxiety. There very well could have been nothing going on, but my gut was telling me otherwise.  I had that feeling you just can’t shake that something isn’t adding up.  I think ultimately he sensed that this would probably be an ongoing issue, so he ended things stating that feelings weren’t mutual, which is contradictory to everything he had been saying to me and how he treated me until that moment he broke up with me. 

I think my biggest concern is that I don’t know how to get over the urge to read into everything to “prove myself right” when I think I’m being wronged.  It worries me that I will self-sabotage any future relationship.

We are all impressed to see that Frustrated has already bought the psycho narrative about self-sabotage. Apparently, she has already had some experience of therapy and has learned to blame it all on herself, on her tendency to self-sabotage.

We will note, for the record, that we do not know how old she is, how old her children are, what she does for a living, how old her paramour was, whether or not he had children and what he did for a living. We do not know what she brings to a relationship and what the man in question was bringing. Without knowing any of this we are flying blind. It does not bother Gottlieb, who flings a blizzard of psychobabble about self-sabotage. 

Again, by the terms of the letter we are not dealing with a human being who has a life. Nevertheless we ought to respect her question and address it directly. 

Frustrated was dating a man and became suspicious of his relationship with an ex--. The man was open and upfront about the ex--. He talked with her all the time and told Frustrated about her all the time. So, Frustrated became suspicious. Her instincts told her that something was off, that he was not over his ex--.  Would any sensible adult have drawn a different conclusion?

True enough, Frustrated says, nothing might have been going on, but her “gut” told her otherwise. I am not a fan of going with your gut, but I confess that I respect her intuition. We do not know whether her ex— and his ex— were making the beast with two backs, but that is not the point. The man was obviously unavailable. He might have been pining away for his ex--. His ex—might have been married or engaged. She might have rejected him. At the least, he was not fully engaged in his relationship with Frustrated. His level of commitment was not the same as hers. To anyone who is not a therapist, this is almost self-evident.

For all we know, his distance might have had nothing to do with Frustrated. Since we do not know whether he was married or not, whether he had children or not, how old he was, what he did for a living, we cannot judge whether he had other reasons for his distance.

On one point I do agree with Gottlieb. We would like it if Frustrated trusted her instincts. Failed relationships, relationship traumas will certainly undermine one's ability to trust and one's reliance on instinct. Under the circumstances it’s best to consult someone who is more objective. She would do better to indulge in endless bouts of introspection or exercises in overpriced storytelling. She ought to learn how to look at the situation objectively, with all relevant facts in hand. This will tell her whether she is judging the situation correctly or is distorting it. Of course, being suspicious seems perfectly reasonable here. It tells us that she is not willing to rely solely on her gut.

In this case, I think that Frustrated was right. I think that her suspicions were giving her a sense of the reality of the situation. As a rule, women have very good intuitions about such matters. But, how does it happen that a female therapist does not respect Frustrated’s intuition, her take on the situation? It’s a sad state of affairs when a woman, pretending to offer therapy, disrespects another woman.


James said...

"LOVE, n.
A temporary insanity curable by marriage or by removal of the patient from the influences under which he incurred the disorder. This disease, like caries and many other ailments, is prevalent only among civilized races living under artificial conditions; barbarous nations breathing pure air and eating simple food enjoy immunity from its ravages. It is sometimes fatal, but more frequently to the physician than to the patient."
Again Bierce

Ares Olympus said...

I'd never speak against trying to see a situation objectively, although obviously it is hard when you're interested in a certain outcome. And in any "negotiation" when you want something more than the other party, you're always at a disadvantage.

I agree in situations like this, intuition looks very powerful, although it still doesn't tell you what to do. It can't tell you whether to back off, or cut things off, or set ultimatums on a still new relationship.

A good answer can be to equalize things, and continue finding other dates, or hang out with your own "friendly" exs, if any interesting ones are available, and that also can add some perspective. And it's possible another guy will appear who will be even better for her, and want to be with her more.

Of course, if she meets someone new who is "okay", and they start getting serious, this original guy might suddenly show more interest again, and then she'll be in a situation reversal, where she might want to be "won back" with her original preference. And her new guy will have his turn with his intuition to decide what to do next.

Well, at least love triangles pass the time while everyone is confused what they have and what they want. And I'm sure such games are more interesting to a childless 24 year old divorcee than a 42 year old mother divorcee.