Ask Dr. V, Attracting Unavailable Men

Venus Nicolino holds a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology. Her column addresses Love, Life and Relationships.

Dear Dr V.

Help! I feel like I’m trapped in an awful circle. I keep falling for unavailable men. It’s not like I’m trying to lure anyone into an affair, but I keep finding myself falling into these paralyzing crushes. Be it people I meet at work, through mutual friends, etc. I don’t know why it is, but I only feel myself being attracted to either husbands or boyfriends of my friends.

I know this sounds awful, and I would NEVER want to hurt anyone or mess up their relationship. I don’t understand this pattern, and want to break out of it. At the same time, I really don’t like the whole dating/nightclub scene, even dating Web sites turn me off. I feel like I’m doomed to be alone no matter what I do. What’s your opinion?

Jamie H.

Dear Jamie,

First of all, you are not doomed to be alone. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s try and analyze this issue logically, and hopefully devise some sort of plan for you to move beyond your current situation.

It sounds like you’re aware of the potential harm the habit you’ve fallen into could cause others and yourself, so I’ll try to keep my finger wagging to a minimum. However, you should realize that at some level you are making a deliberate choice in fixating on these “unavailable men.” Why is this so? I have a of couple theories.

First, it’s possible that the reason you are feeling attracted to these men is simply because, deep down, you know you can’t have them. It’s a hackneyed cliché, but only because it’s true; “Forbidden fruits are sweetest.” So perhaps the idea of an affair is alluring to you. This is fine in the fantasy world, but completely unacceptable in reality. Sorry to say, but this is just something you’ll have to accept.

However, I think there may be deeper root causes at play here. In a way, these crushes you describe are very safe “relationships” for you to be in, as at least in the front of your mind, you know they’re never going to go anywhere. As such, there is no danger of you truly giving anything of yourself to another person, no risk of leaving yourself to be open and vulnerable. I can’t fault you at all for feeling like this, given the way human beings behave at both the group and individual level. However, and I don’t want to get too saccharine here, this is really the miracle of being in a loving relationship with someone.

When two people share an unconditional trust and empathy with each other, so deep that there is no fear of hurt or betrayal, your mutual faith in each other blots out any other doubt. Your letter reveals much of your strength of character. It’s my belief that the kind of energy that can be generated by such strength can have an effect on our personal situations, but only if we are broadcasting our true selves out into the Universe.

Here’s what I mean by this. From how you describe it, you are forcing yourself to operate on closed emotional circuit. You build up all these strong feelings for men you know you cannot be with, and where do the feelings go? I assume the emotional energy leaves you in frustration, sadness, disappointment, anger and so on. In other words, your emotional energy is leaving you in a negative state. So all the wonderfulness that is uniquely you, rather than shining out like a beacon in the world is instead getting muddled and dissipated. This must be changed before you can really expect to see or feel any improvement, either within or without.

Which leads me to my suggested course of action for you, one that I have suggested to frustrated women in the past: Become more active in your life, but without the intention or expectation of attracting a mate or finding a relationship. I know this sounds counterintuitive, but bear with me. If you make the effort to seek out groups of people who and activities that are engaged in your passions and interests, be it visiting museums, rock climbing, long distance bike riding, theater, film, or whatever; if you put yourself in a situation where you are engaging those passions that activate you as a person, you will begin to operate closer to your “optimum performance.” By this I mean you will begin to define yourself more by who you are and what you do, rather than by what you want and what you don’t have. At its core, you are making a shift from an existence based in negativity to one based in positive action.

I don’t want to mislead you; this may not be an entirely easy task to accomplish. Finding activities that and groups of people who share your interest shouldn’t be too difficult, but releasing all those expectations and heavy feelings might not be such an easy chore.

Don’t get discouraged. Believe in yourself. If you pray, ask for help in letting go of the wants and needless desires that hold you back. Your goal is to achieve what Zen masters call “effortless effort.” Whatever it is you are passionate about, put your focus on this and the pleasure it brings you. I truly believe that in doing so, you will send out a signal to the Universe, kind of a homing beacon for potential, compatible partners. Once this signal’s been beaming out for a while, you may be surprised at who picks up on it, and even better yet, who returns the signal.

With Empathy,

Dr. V

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Note: All information in the Ask Dr. V column is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnosis and treatment, please feel free to email Dr. V, or consult your doctor.

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