Is Your Valentine
Mr. Right or Mr. Wrong?
~ by dr. greg cason ~
He’s hot, he’s hung and he’s hooked on you. Finally, it seems the stars have aligned and you’ve landed a great guy just in time for Valentine’s Day. But you’re wondering, is this just a convenient infatuation or is he really “the one?”
Most of us have had the experience of meeting what we thought was Mr. Right, only to find out he was really Mr. Wrong—sometimes Mr. Really, Really Wrong—leaving one to wonder how we fell into the trap in the first place?
Fear not: First, I am going to explain to you why you fall for the guys you do. Second, I am going to explain how to separate the wheat from the chaff.
Let’s start with the Why:
Look, I know you’re not a dummy. You have eyes and can see the same guy who everyone else sees. But, like the classic song says, “When your heart’s on fire, smoke gets in your eyes…” Blame the blurry vision on evolution. Lots of unseen factors that go into a budding romance are put there by nature. We have a romantic coding that exists inside of us that leads us to want to be with certain guys and not with others. I call it “Relationship DNA.”
In some cases, this can work out very well. You meet someone with similar values, who supports you in your dreams and who you are attracted to physically, emotionally and even spiritually. Sometimes it just all falls into place…Mr. Right’s place. Sometimes however, it leads you into the Mr. Wrong trap and will end up bringing out some of your worst qualities and his as well, leading you to a life of soul-crushing arguments and fully-awake nightmares.
How do you tell which is going to be which? First, let me tell you a little bit about you. Despite your belief that you are in charge of who you fall for and who you don’t, the truth is that you are following a pattern that was set for you long ago with a combination of nature and nurture. You were born with a certain temperament—your animal “nature”—that acts as the clay on which the lessons of life are molded. Primarily, the family in which you grew up, along with other life experiences with friends, school, media, society and an oddball or two along the way creates those lessons, or “nurture.”
This nature/nurture combo forms your personal set of desires and guidelines about what you want in your relationship and what you want in a man. That makes up one’s Relationship DNA. Let’s figure out yours.
Try to transport your mind back to when you were a child and think about how you were at nine or ten-years-old. Now, we are going to focus on qualities of those caregivers you had when you were that age, usually mom and dad.
Then, while putting yourself in that frame mind, write down all of the positive qualities about your mother and then your father, as you would see them as that nine or ten-year-old child. Then write down all of the negative qualities for your mother and then your father. Again, see them as a nine or ten-year-old child (not as you would see them today after both of you have hopefully grown up).
1. Positive Words That Describe Your Mom:
2. Positive Words That Describe Your Dad:
3. Negative Words That Describe Your Mom:
4. Negative Words That Describe Your Dad:
Now, take that list and compare the qualities to your current, love obsession. If you don’t have one, think about the last one. Look familiar? You unconsciously pick someone with a selection of your primary caregiver’s characteristics, both good and bad. Hopefully not everything, but some things. Freaky, isn’t it?
This is not some sort of mumbo-jumbo, it is based on “Imago” work popularized by Harville Hendrix. Imago is a psychoanalytic term that means an unconscious, idealized, mental image of someone, especially a parent that influences your behavior. And though I’m a behavioral guy (for those who know the psychological difference), this work still holds water. There are still many more aspects to explore, but if you want to look into this more, ask your therapist about it or pick up, Getting the Love You Want by Harville Hendrix, himself.
All of this, is really just the first part. Your “Relationship DNA” just makes you attracted to your man…It doesn’t promise success. To have things succeed past a spring fling, you will need to recognize when you have a good one on your hands, or when you need to toss one back into the “Scruff” sea.
Although you may see his rockin’ body, your Relationship DNA will blind you to the bad things about your man during the first few months of the relationship. This is often called the “Limerence period” and refers to that feeling of being in love and feeling high, as if on a drug. Limerence, is the smoke that gets in your eyes, when your heart’s on fire.
The problem is that during this physiological limerence storm that takes over your brain in the name of love, you become blind to its objects. Love is a drug that takes over your brain and forces you to focus on everything that is right and wonderful about your new guy and turn a blind eye to everything that is wrong and wretched. This can be especially difficult because people are on their best behavior in the beginning phases of a relationship.
Well, I am here to tell you that it is possible to navigate through your love-induced brain fog, without losing the high that’s better than White Party weekend. Consider me your “Dating-Eye Dog.” I can help you steer clear of what is wrong so that you can finally get Mr. Right.
There are lots of potholes and warning flags that should let you know you are headed in the wrong direction.
Here are the three, big areas to let you know you may need to put that relationship in reverse:
1. Past Relationship Length
Sometimes, your new beau does not deliver on all of the facts about his previous relationships. He may even try to portray his ex as a terrible person in an attempt to save your feelings, or make himself look like the good guy. But, chances are your new beau was just as bad. So, rather than asking a lot of pesky questions, just ask about how long they were together.
If he has never had a relationship over a year long, there might be a good reason (like he’s young or coming out late in life) but you had better find it. But the older he is, the less likely it’s going to happen. You might be his first, but if he’s over 40…I would hold off on picking a china pattern.
If he has had relationships over one year in the past but none over five years, then he’s in the gray zone. He may be young and just not have had the time on the planet to have a long relationship. But if he’s not, then he may have some rough edges that need to be worked out. Proceed with caution.
If he has a history of one or more relationships over five years in length, then he’s a relationship-oriented guy. Signs point to “yes.” This one is good for the long haul.
2. How He Treats Others
This is your secret weapon. You never have to ask a single question, simply watch every time he interacts with another person who is not you. How does he treat his family? His ex? His friends? Better yet, how does he treat service staff? Uber drivers? How about strangers? Does he react differently to people based on age, ethnicity, or gender? How does he act in bars? On business? How your beau treats others, is one day how he will also treat you. Guaranteed.
If you happen to get sick while you are dating your guy, pay attention to how he treats you. Illness can bring out the beauty in others, but it can also bring out the ugly.
3. Values, Values, Values
This is for the long haul. What your partner wants out of life and what you want out of life need to line up or you are in for a very rocky future. Are you both career oriented? Socializers? Loners? Love the outdoors? Family-oriented? Love attention? Love children and animals? Love working out? Want sexual experimentation? Crave intellectual stimulation?
There really is no end to the list of things that bind a couple together. It is not necessary to have your values perfectly aligned, but what’s important is that none conflict – such as one wanting to live in the city and one in the countryside (Seriously, I had that one in therapy and it tore the couple apart). Then, support your partner in achieving his dreams. That’s probably the single best thing you can do to strengthen that bond between the two of you.
So, if you have found what you hope to be “Mr. Right,” remember the words from above. First, acknowledge that when your heart is on fire, smoke gets in your eyes and you are not likely to see everything so clearly. Rather than proceeding blindly and falling prey to a “Mr. Wrong,” consider his past relationships, how he treats others and his values. If it all seems great, make this guy’s Valentine’s Day a special one because this may just lead to something big. If it doesn’t all check out, get him a box of chocolates and have a
Might as well have some fun!
Dr. Greg Cason is best known as “Dr. Greg” from the Bravo series L.A. Shrinks. He appeared regularly as a psychological expert on The Nancy Grace Show and has also appeared in a variety of other TV programs. His expertise was also featured in documentaries such as The Butch Factor, The Adonis Factor and most recently The Secret Tapes of the O.J. Case. He was featured writer for Frontiers magazine’s psychology column and has also appeared in The Huffington Post, The Advocate, People as well as several others. Dr. Cason currently teaches at UCLA and is a licensed psychologist in Los Angeles, specializing in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and LGBT issues.