Maggie's issue somehow relates to her focus on really attractive men. They are interested in her, but not one has yet to follow through with a desire to commit. Could it be that Maggie is drawn to men like this for a reason? This is an issue that I've come across before.
I can't tell you THE reason that Maggie hasn't 'settled down' but I'll share what I've observed in our sessions. For starters, Maggie has repeated several times that men are intimidated by her. Why? It's not her professional success that puts them off. Rather, she says it's because she lets them know exactly where they stand and how she feels. "I'm not shy. I tell them that 'I don't put up with any nonsense'," Maggie boasts.
But, in the next sentence, Maggie will start to share a ton of nonsense that she does put up with. Men will string her along. Dates that fail to show up. And then there are the texts which indicate interest, sexual usually, but with no substance to them. Yet, Maggie counts on them.
So, simultaneously Maggie has a strong sense of morals and expectations while she sets herself up to be played with. Why would she entangle herself like this? I suspect that Maggie has a strong need to attract men that she knows won't commit? One of the reasons that this seems likely to me is that she so enjoys talking about the men in her life, but she has very little interest in seeking any kind of clarity about her life.
I really don't think this is an issue of Maggie just not having found her Mr. Right. I suspect that she would run away from such a man and maybe even say that she's not interested in that type.
How then do you have an intelligent woman who seeks commitment while pursuing the opposite course in her dating strategy? I don't know. Perhaps she needs to enter therapy to work this through. I could throw out some possibilities:
- Maggie never had a solid connection with her father. As such she seeks men who will not commit so that she can win them over.
- Maggie may be afraid of losing control of her life. The pursuit of men who won't commit permits Maggie to feel that she is busy trying to build a successful relationship. Meanwhile, deep down, she knows that she is escaping having to share control of her life with someone else.
Let's look for some more clues.
As I got to know Maggie a bit more, I found out that she has been living a kind of self-contradiction. Despite relatively strong ethnoreligious leanings, she doesn't want to embrace them. Instead, she often mocks their importance and conveys an attitude of rebellion. Not surprisingly, the men that she is most often drawn to come from other religious backgrounds. And if you were to ask Maggie if there is a contradiction between what she believes in and who she wants to build a life with, she'll tell you matter-of-factly that she is open to a lifestyle of compromise. Yet, Maggie simultaneously expects these men to adapt their lifestyle to match her non-commitment. "I would be OK with x in 'my' house' but not y", she would say. Indeed, "why" is the question?
In other words, Maggie comes across as being open to meeting people of pretty much any background. And her behavior supports this. She is incredibly friendly with pretty much everyone she comes in contact with. It's as if she wants to be the center of attention. Yet, she has clarified that she is not flirting.
Additionally, it turns out that Maggie is a gym rat. Yes, even we chubbier people who are dealing with our lifelong, adult 'baby fat' would love to look better. Exercise and smart food choices are definitely what the doctor recommends. But, the gym is home to a few types of members. Some people like to be gym members even though they don't do much there. Others exercise very strenuously, corresponding to their level of fitness. But, the gym is a great place for another kind of very committed person, too.
Maggie happens to be a recovering anorexic who remains hyper-focused on her weight. Achieving perfection is really difficult, at least without the special effects that movies provide. Maintaining it is even more challenging. But what happens when your definition of perfection is skewed? In such a case the gym can play an incredibly important role. In Maggie's life, it's where she self-medicates.
Do you see a pattern? I'm suggesting that Maggie needs to maintain a lot of self-defeating control in her life.
- The men she chooses to date are the type who will not give her what she needs. She will end up pushing all of them that remain away. Could it be that even they sense something is amiss? Maybe they consider her a challenge to see who wins.
- She is after physical goals that any physician would say are unhealthy.
It seems to me that Maggie's underlying motivation is to protect herself from having to deal with rejection. You may say that she is making rejection inevitable. And, I agree with this. But, who is being rejected? It's not the inner Maggie. I suspect that she has locked her away a very long time ago. In one session, Maggie told me that she has an "on/off switch" with her heart. That sounds like the description of someone who has very active defense mechanisms in place.
I would think that the real Maggie wants to be loved whether she has achieved a thigh gap or not. A fat pregnant Maggie should also feel lovable. And a Maggie who has reconciled her disappointments with a loving God will want to stand for something.
Unfortunately, until Maggie is willing to be honest with herself, she will continue to go through this dance of finding and rejecting men.
I've researched the underlying factors that are linked to the development of anorexia. Suggestions run the gamut from hormonal changes to personality factors to being teased about one's weight. There doesn't seem to be a consensus.
I'm no expert on anorexia. So, I looked up stories written by men who are in relationships with anorexic women. See Christianity Today and The Guardian for two very interesting articles. These men consistently report that anorexia is not a temporary issue. Their wife or girlfriend can still be triggered into becoming obsessed with food and relapse into another anorexic episode.
Men with anorexic partners can be very caring and really want what is best for their partners. Unfortunately, they can also get pulled into the illness that their beloved is suffering from and over focus on their eating habits. The men end up becoming a part of the problem.
A challenge that the male partners of anorexic women face is to restrain themselves from trying to be a hero and fix problems. One of the recurring themes of what I read was that male partners of anorexics need to let go. The professionals are there to handle treatment. As partners, the responsibility of the men is to see the full person before them and not just the eating disorder.
So, where does all of this take us?
When someone says that they haven't found their beloved, we may be tempted to think that the solution is simple.
- You haven't met that special person yet.
- Maybe you're not spending time in the right circles.
- You're too picky.
The reality can be more complex. So, we all need to be less judgemental and more caring. It might also not hurt to take a look at what society is presenting to us as models to emulate. There may be some causative links in the way the media expresses its preferences and the casualties that result.
If you suspect that you may be suffering from an eating disorder you can find some information below.
To everyone looking for their love, including Maggie, God bless you to find your match so that will continue to grow and become part of a healthy giving marriage. But, remember that the search for a partner often begins by looking inside.