Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Archive for February 8th, 2010

Conditional Love

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on February 8, 2010

Tom, my 24-year-old patient, the subject of,, and, comes in to my office in tears. He broke up with his girlfriend. She has moved on and she is now dating someone she met with the help of the internet. Tom is devastated. I remind Tom that it was his idea to break up. Tom gets mad at me. “Why don’t you understand that she abandoned me?” he queries. I feel confused. “Wait” I say, “did you not dump her?” I ask. He tells me that yes, he did tell her that he wanted to end the relationship, but she should have understood that he still needed her. I felt partly confused and partly understanding. I know that break-ups are never one-sided. Although Tom told his girlfriend that he wanted to move on, this was the last straw of a complicated dynamic. Tom has trouble being alone. He felt that this break-up would allow him to find other people to be close to, but at the same time, he would always have his girlfriend, or now his ex-girlfriend to turn to. He was wrong and he felt horrible. In further exploration, Tom felt entitled to unconditional love, love which comes his way, regardless of his behavior. I took the bold move and told him that in mature relationships, ¬†unconditional love was a myth. All adult relationships are give and take. Tom looked stunned. Children, I explained, need unconditional love, but adults have to understand reciprocity. Relationships are hard work, on both sides of the street. Tom left, angry at me, but he gave me a look at the end of the session which I took to mean that he had a lot to think about. So did I.

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