Toxic relationships do not occur without a reason. They occur because you tolerate negative and manipulative behavior. They occur because you engage in manipulative behavior by reacting to it in an unhealthy way. I made the bed of my toxic relationship. I was far more emotionally invested in her value instead of my own, and as a result, I tolerated her manipulative behavior for far too long.
Meet Joe. The boyfriend chameleon.
“I’m independent. If a guy is too clingy or needy, I actually get afraid of hurting him – and I can’t deal with that.” – Ashley Greene
Remember Joe, the Investment Banker who seeks external validation? One night in a local coffee shop, he introduced himself to a beautiful brunette named Sami. She had just graduated from college and was buying tickets for a rock concert. Joe is attracted to her, although he intrinsically feels repelled by her taste in music. He has never liked rock and doesn’t recognize any of the band names she mentions.
He gets her number anyway and they go out on a couple of dates. It turns out that she is quite the wild child. She has multiple tattoos and body piercings that are inappropriate by Joe’s standards. But Joe can’t help but be seduced by her beauty. He has never been with a woman this attractive before.
During the next year of their relationship, Joe attends numerous rock ‘n roll concerts, gets a Prince Albert piercing, and a large tattoo covering his back that says I’m a Devil Without A Cause.
Eventually, Joe’s new personality and attitude get him fired from his job. He hates it anyway by now because it prevents him from rocking out and being a “bad boy.”
Thirteen months into the relationship, Joe finds out that Sami has been sleeping with a few local rock artists, doing drugs he didn’t know she was involved in, and participating in orgies. A month later, Sami stops returning his texts and calls.
He loses his mind. He comes close to killing himself. Joe has been on quite the emotional roller coaster the past few years. From transforming his personality to getting a tattoo, to being fired. All of these transformations and many other subtle changes reinforced Joe’s belief that he was missing something in his life.
A few months later, Joe is looking at himself in the mirror. He has absolutely no idea who he is. He lost the one job he loved, and he lost all of his credibility as one of the top investment bankers in his office.
Joe is what most people call a boyfriend chameleon. He’s the guy who changes his lifestyle to match that of his new girlfriend. This is what I call falling into someone else’s values. We do this because we perceive ourselves as low value, and find someone else’s values and lifestyle more compelling than our own.
You don’t need to change to deserve love
“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love & affection.”- Thanissaro Bhikkhu
Guys with low-self esteem seek people who they consider the higher value and then adapt to that person in hopes of gaining their love and approval. Andre in the TV show The League is a prime example. The motivation for this behavior is not an interest in expanding one’s identity, but rather a fear that one has to perform in order to close the inferiority gap. It’s a belief that one has to change their values and interests to deserve love.