The vicious circle
You love him, he loves her, she loves . . . etc.
by Kris Frieswick
My friends and I, who form an elite, nationwide Emotional Disaster Recovery
Team (EDRT), have been at DefCon Three readiness status for the past three
months. We are standing by to rescue our friend Paula, who has gotten trapped
in the Vicious Circle.
We've all been in the Vicious Circle. You meet someone and fall madly in love.
But your love interest isn't ready for a commitment, or he just doesn't find
you nearly as interesting as you find him, so he dumps you -- or worse, he
doesn't dump you, but keeps you hanging on. And you, sap that you are, stick
with it because you are convinced that he's everything you ever wanted in a
mate and if he could just get to know you better, he would see how perfect you
two are for each other.
But the desired one won't ever see this perfection, because he is himself
freshly sprung from a relationship, one in which his heart was crushed to
smithereens by someone else who just couldn't make a commitment. And as you
pine for your beloved, mooning and fawning and trotting around after him,
waiting for whatever table scraps of affection he may toss down to you, some
fabulous guy crosses your path and falls madly in love with you, but you are
too blinded by your love for Mr. Emotionally Unavailable (Mr. EU) to see that
you have just met your potential perfect match. So you treat Mr. Potential
Perfect Match (Mr. PPM) like dog doo-doo, and you resent it when he looks at
you with those big eyes and tells you that you're the best thing that ever
happened to him. You return his calls, maybe, and cancel dates at the last
minute, but you don't dump him. In fact, you keep him hanging on because you're
bound and determined to get on with our life, even if it's with someone you
don't want to kiss, and before you know it, you are treating Mr. PPM exactly
the way Mr. EU is treating you. Voilà -- the Vicious Circle, or VC as we
call it in the emotional-disaster-recovery biz.
Paula has been stuck for three months in a particularly nasty VC, the likes of
which I haven't seen in all my days in the recovery racket. Her love for Mr. EU
is so strong, so all-consuming, that the sight of deliriously happy couples
makes her sick to her stomach. (Okay, it makes a lot of people sick to their
stomachs, but that's not the point.) For Paula, everything good and beautiful
and happy in the world reminds her of what she does not have, and she sees the
entire world as one big yellow Post-it note that says, "He doesn't want you,
and you'll never fully understand why."
Meanwhile, faithfully by her side, driving her slowly out of her mind with his
unquestioning love and attention, is Mr. PPM, a sweet guy who wants only to
spend time with Paula and make her happy and build her a house and sire her
children. It's maddening to see, because it's all so damned predictable. As the
weeks pass, you can almost see Paula's Mr. PPM warming up to start dating some
poor girl who has been worshipping him from afar for months, and whom he will
treat like dirt while waiting for Paula to come around, which will never
happen, and thus the circle will remain unbroken.
As a member of the recovery team, it is my job to talk Paula down from the
ledge. We've instituted the daily sanity-check calls to make sure she's not
preparing to do anything stupid, like call Mr. EU. We ask for details about Mr.
PPM, each time asking her to enumerate the specific things that make him an
undesirable date and, when she can't think of anything, gently suggesting the
possibility that he might be a good guy worthy of consideration. We walk her
down Memory Lane, recounting all the reasons why Mr. EU was a cad and not at
all appropriate for her. None of it really helps, but it keeps us busy and
feeling useful. Eventually, we will wear Paula down to the point where she will
finally get over Mr. EU, or stop taking our calls.
The good news about the Vicious Circle is that every single one of us has
played both roles in it, so technically we all have the insight to stop this
particularly ugly brand of nastiness that we visit upon one another with
alarming regularity. We know how it feels to pine and ache for someone, and
we've all cringed inside when a person we're dating in order to get over Mr. EU
looks at us with that teary, lovelorn gleam in his eyes. It is simultaneously
heartbreaking and horrifying. Once we recognize that we're in a VC, it makes it
a little easier to understand why we turn into a slobbering puppy in the
presence of Guy A and a cold, heartless bitch with Guy B, often in
the same day. But it doesn't make it easier to stop it. Because like the sun
and the moon and the dust that collects in the corner of your bedroom, the
Vicious Circle just is.
I've been trying to figure out what enables the Vicious Circle to continue,
relatively unbroken, passing unrequited love along like a rock-hard fruitcake
from one unwilling recipient to the next. I think it comes down to two basic
factors: 1) we want most what we know we cannot have; and 2) we
take for granted those things that are handed to us on a silver platter.
If we were smart, we would heed the wise advice of our mothers and fathers, who
tell us that a one-sided relationship is not a relationship. As hard as it is
to walk away from someone we love but who doesn't love us, it must be done.
It'll hurt, oh yes, it'll sting real bad. But don't worry. The Emotional
Disaster Recovery Team is on call 24/7. And on the day when you find true love,
as opposed to that terribly unpleasant unrequited variety, you'll look at your
Perfect Match and wonder what could have possessed you to give your love to
someone who couldn't distinguish you from the doormat. At that moment, you and
your Perfect Match will be spun right out of the Vicious Circle, and then you
two, you lucky kids, can go on to make others sick to their stomachs.
Kris Frieswick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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