My mom was so afraid that I would masturbate, that she searched my room every day for porn. She even looked up the history of my internet searches. I had no privacy. She thought nothing of walking in on me when I was going to the bathroom or showering. When I complained, she said: “I diapered you. I’ve seen everything you have before.”
As soon as Burt was old enough to legally leave home, he did. By the time I met him, he was living by himself in a small studio apartment, working from home, and was determined to never let any woman control him again.
The long-term results of being treated like a thing, not a person
It is very common for children who grow up in these types of homes to report that by age seven they had already concluded that they were on their own. It was not safe to depend on other people for anything important. Their basic experience has been that if you let people get close to you, they will try to control you and mistreat you. This conclusion leads them to focus on becoming as independent of other people as possible. It also leaves them with a weak sense of self, no interpersonal trust, and very few useful relationship skills.
For example, most of my schizoid clients enter therapy without knowing that it is possible for two adults to negotiate their differences. Their childhood taught them that whoever has the most power calls all the shots and the other person has to submit or leave.
As teens and adults, most people with schizoid personality disorder long for romance and sex like the rest of us. However, their childhood experiences have left them too frightened to risk being that intimate with other human beings.
The schizoid dilemma and the schizoid compromise
Ralph Klein (1995), an expert on schizoid personality disorder, calls this situation “the schizoid dilemma.” The question at the core of the schizoid dilemma is:
How do I get safe intimacy?
Klein describes the typical solution to this problem as “the schizoid compromise.” The schizoid compromise involves finding a way to get some safe interpersonal contact while maintaining some impediment to full intimacy. Most schizoid compromises involve having some form of a partial relationship with built-in limitations.
Here are some common schizoid relationship compromises:
- Having an internet relationship where almost all your contact is done virtually and not in person.
- Dating someone who lives far away so that you only see them in person for brief periods a few times per year.
- Falling in love with unavailable people and pursuing them.
- Adding a third person to your existing relationship to dilute the intimacy.
- Having a fantasy relationship with someone you barely know. You make up elaborate and satisfying fantasies in your head that substitute for a real relationship.
- Going in and out of a relationship with the same person over and over again. You leave each time because you feel trapped, then come back and try again when you feel safe but lonely or too isolated.
- Only having one-night stands or multiple first dates.
- Getting passionate crushes on celebrities and becoming preoccupied with their life instead of searching for anyone available in your life.
- Diluting the intimacy of your existing relationship by taking a job that requires you to travel for business or otherwise not be home for long periods of time.