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i
i

Kinds of lovers

(from the previously mentioned essay)

There are many kinds of lovers. Love is expressed and felt in many ways. Falling in love can be frightening, as we become vulnerable. It can also be ego-boosting, reassuring (that we are OK), and fun. So, courtship becomes a complex combination of approaches and avoidances, of come ons and defenses. The specific ways we protect ourselves often determines what kind of lover we are.

A prime example is the dance-away lover (Goldstine, et al., 1977) who is an expert at wooing but fears permanence so he/she fades away after a few months. This lover, although initially successful, assumes the relationship will fail and he/she will be rejected in due time.

The anxious ingenue or beginner is also so insecure he/she rushes into romances without honestly evaluating the partner. Later, when the relationship settles down, he/she begins to see the mistakes he/she has made.

The disarmer is warm and understanding, he/she tries to protect the lover from all stress and pain, often denying his/her own rights and emotional needs in order to please the lover. This self-sacrifice may get tiresome in time.

The provider is more action than words, more tactile than verbal. Because of underlying insecurity, he/she takes care of the loved one, provides well, and thinks this is the way to show love. When the partner says, "you never tell me you love me," he/she is taken aback.

The prize winner seems to do everything right. He/she is "the best," doing well at work, a great lover, and a good parent. However, the self-confidence and emotional security may gradually change into a callousness towards the spouse.

The fragile lover is so scared of life's problems he/she feels helpless and seeks a partner whom he/she can depend on, who will protect him/her. Since the fragile one feels unworthy of attention with minor concerns, he/she develops big problems and "falls apart" repeatedly for attention. Such helpless dependency creates serious problems in the relationship (chapters 6 & 8).

Like the fragile lover, the victim suffers much trouble but the purpose is to arouse guilt in the partner. Each problem is a statement blaming someone, e.g. "I'm unhappy because you don't care." Few partners will tolerate that for long.

The pleaser is different--he/she lives to please others and asks for nothing in return (seemingly). This may originate in a fear of failure or in needs to be a martyr. Eventually the pleaser may get tired of being taken for granted and try to change the "rules of the game."

The ragabash is a rebel and wants to be different, different from his/her parents and ordinary people. He/she doesn't like to lose or win; he/she frequently runs away from trouble and does poorly at work. In relationships, which are often plagued with financial problems, he/she avoids dealing with problems and may seek another partner.

The tough-fragile appears strong, assertive, confident, and adventuresome on the outside. Inside he/she is self-doubting and needs an even stronger partner for support (but this capable partner threatens his/her self-esteem). Such a person is hard to live with; they act like they need no one; if support is given, it is resented. The tough-fragile inexplicably shifts from being a warm, delightful companion to being an angry, demanding, critical, competitive, and temperamental partner. Therefore, the tough-fragile's lover may "walk on eggs" and anxiously try to please, but this weak knuckling under only results in disdain and hostility. There is no way to win with a tough-fragile unless he/she learns to recognize his/her own internal fears and controls the anger.

From the above descriptions it is obvious that most of these lovers change as the romance develops. Also, these descriptions are very "clinical," many of these lovers are surely destined for Goldstine's and Zucherman's couch. It would be a mistake to assume that all of us as lovers have such serious problems, but it would be wise to look for some of these tendencies in each of us. Each lover has his/her "favorite" emotion--anger, helplessness, blame, etc.--and emotions he/she carefully avoids. Each of us might be better off if we controlled certain emotions, usually our dominant feeling, and expressed other emotions more, usually feelings we avoid.
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