Why am I obsessed with my unpredictable lover?

A client once told me of an experiment that made a lot of sense to me. The experiment was carried out using three groups of pigeons. In the first group, the pigeons were fed whenever they pecked a metal plate. In the second group, the pigeons were at first fed whenever they pecked a metal plate and then suddenly this method of feeding stopped and was never resumed. In the third group, the pigeon’s feeding predictability changed in a way where sometimes when they pecked the metal plate food would come out. Other times, it would not.

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With the first group of pigeons, because they trusted they would be fed consistently, they only pecked the mental plate when hungry. With the second group (who stopped receiving food when they pecked a metal plate), these pigeons eventually learned to give up and stop trying. However, with the third group of pigeons (who were fed sporadically), they started to peck the metal plate compulsively. They behaved this way, likely because they lost trust in whether they could be fed consistently or whether feedings would be completely discontinued. So, something about not being able to trust food would be reliable caused this group of pigeons to peck at the metal plate in a more obsessive manner.

We also know that when it comes to our human relationships that it makes sense that when people are in stable and loving relationships (where love is provided consistently) they tend to be more relaxed. Here, I am speaking of people who have always received love in a consistent and stable way throughout their lives and relationships. Even traumatized individuals can benefit from a relationship which is more stable and consistently nurturing, and can potentially learn to feel more relaxed.

People who are in relationships that have a clear beginning and end, or who are with partners who have a consistent non-nurturing style, also seem to receive some benefits when it comes to knowing what to expect in a relationship and/or when it is time to move on. When it comes to being rejected by a partner, they might miss them and grieve for a while, but they may more easily process their feelings of loss or rejection in order that they can pick themselves up and find new love again.

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However, when it comes to people who are in relationships that are unpredictable, it makes sense that it upsets the natural grieving process. It may leave individuals confused whether they are loved or rejected, when they should move on, or if their distracted lover who hasn’t called them in a week is going to pop back around again acting like nothing happened. A dance may begin where there is a wavering back and forth between feelings of hope that a relationship can be nurturing/available and feelings of self-doubt/confusion whether a person was loved at all.

In addition, the idea of being loved only sometimes seems to create a challenge to the psyche. The psyche then wants to keep “trying” to see if it can be successful. Alternatively, a scarcity consciousness can set in which may cause an individual to become a little clingy, obsessive, or start acting out in addicted ways. One client stated to me it was like being “desperate to receive crumbs.”
If you wondered why the Casanovas, romance addicts, and commitment-phobes always seem to have a string of women following them wherever they go, it is likely because they have unconsciously or consciously tapped into the addictive (and obsessive) power of offering women unpredictable rewards. Not to say that men can’t be likewise swept up in the same way by women who are unpredictable or do not know what they truly want.

Some of the scenarios in which relationships can become unpredictable include:

•a lover feels conflicted about or “two ways” about their love interest

•a lover has moved on from wanting a “relationship” with their partner but still wants the occasional comfort or sex.

•a lover likes their love interest only as a friend with benefits, but their “friend” hopes there is a chance for more.

•a lover may be a seductive withholder who create a behavior of breaking up and going back to a relationship.

•a lover refuses to grant closure. Narcissists may do this if they don’t care how you feel or if they hurt you. Others may do this because they are frightened of the power of another person’s emotions when hurt or rejected. Still others may be indecisive and wish to keep the door “open”

•a lover has a personal hardship, wants to focus on work, is recently separated (or back and forth with an ex) and asks for a person to wait for them or to be “patient” while they take time to decide/commit/etc.

If you find yourself in any of the above scenarios, try making a decision for yourself rather than putting all the power in your love interests hands. It’s the feeling of powerlessness, unpredictability or drive to succeed (in a situation there might be hope) that tends to drive obsession. So, try to think toward how you can begin to take that power back through making a decision of what you are truly looking for in a relationship and if you are looking for a relationship with your current love interest for the right reasons (or merely clinging for the wrong reasons). Decide whether you feel brave enough to talk to your partner about what they are able to provide. If you can place yourself in a position of power, you can then make a more empowered and informed decision of whether to wait or move on.

I also sometimes recommend that a person place a timeline on how long they will wait or to keep their options open; any approach that does not leave a person sitting, waiting, or taking on the ‘weaker’ or ‘helpless’ role. Once in this type of role it is hard to move out of it or change the dynamic. It’s also not the most attractive stance to be in and your love interest may have no real incentive or motivation to make a move.

As a last note, sometimes individuals may become confused what group they are in. Sometimes a person may think they are in group three but may really be in group two (their relationship has ended without any indication of it resuming). Some causes of confusion are:

•an individual had prior relationships that were on-and-off and so they have the mind-set that “a breakup is not always a breakup.”

•the “let’s be friends” zone after a serious relationship can make it difficult to fully move on or to decipher what is friendship or what is more. You might need a break from the friendship to sort the energy out. It is important to be able to go through the grieving process without it being interrupted by hope, or from mistaking an ex’s friendly gestures for something more.

•getting false positive “pecks” from other places. For example, friends telling you that they think that your ex will come back around. Alternatively, you may start having dreams of your ex, start thinking he is your twin flame because he “ran” or other “signs” that keep you in group three and wondering if you should hang on.

If any of the above applies to you, I again recommend putting a timeline on how long you will wait. Sometimes, we hang on because we are afraid to miss an opportunity. But if you truly do believe in “fate,” “destiny,” “soulmates,” or “twin flames” then it won’t hurt you to move your life forward trusting that if something is meant to be it will happen whether or not you stop thinking about your ex (or unpredictable lover), allow yourself to grieve (without allowing a state of clinging to hope to interrupt it), and/or to move on with your life. On the plus side, if you should fall in love with someone new, possibly you won’t even want your old love back anymore! Which, this can be a good thing, considering if they could only leave you feeling loved and nurtured in an incomplete or unpredictable way.

If you feel you don’t know what kind of situation you are in, feel free to give me a call and hopefully we can help you to make the best decision for yourself!

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Have a question about your relationship? Need to make a decision whether it is worth your time to hang in or to seek closure? Need to know if there will be a reconnection? Mandy is an empathic love reader who specializes in the emotional psychodynamics within a relationship.

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