Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

The Guilty Betrayer

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on October 26, 2011

   Max, eighty-five, just cheated on his girlfriend Beatrice, age eighty-seven. Max says “I just love Sophie (age ninety), so I had to let Beatrice go.” The guilt in Max’s voice is palpable. “Beatrice really loved me,” Max tells me, with what seems like is a mixture of uncomfortable feelings. “It seems like you have never found a woman that meets all your needs,” I say, referring to the fact that Max has never had a monogamous relationship. “I guess that is true,” Max says, with a sad and thoughtful tone. In this interchange, Max becomes sympathetic. He did not set out to hurt Beatrice, although he did hurt her very much. Max is trying to make himself feel whole, and in so doing, he has betrayed Beatrice. Max believes that Sophie is more suitable to him, even though in his lifetime, he has never found anyone who he felt was a good fit. On the one hand, Max gets a lot of credit for trying, despite his advanced age, to find his soul mate. On the other hand, after all these years, one might hope that Max could be more honest in his relationships. Max seems to understand this. He seems both proud of himself for finding a new partner and angry with himself for letting down Beatrice. It is too simple to say that Max is a “bad person” even though he has been consciously hurtful to others. His long life has shown that he repeats the pattern of falling in and out of love, humiliating the previous girlfriend each time. His awareness of his pattern brings up a stew of feelings which makes him alternate between elation and guilt. Max has children, but his love life dominates his mental existence. Maybe Sophie will be the one, he hopes.

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2 Responses to “The Guilty Betrayer”

  1. Shelly said

    It sounds like Max gets bored easily, not that he can never find his “soul mate.” Why can’t he break up with his girlfriends before he cheats on them? This would prevent the guilty feelings and his hurting the women, wouldn’t it? Why should Sophie be “the one?” Does Max think so? As a psychiatrist, what do you make of this situation?

    • It could be that Max gets easily bored, but it could also be that as the relationship deepens, Max gets anxious and has to move on. My guess is that he cheats on his girlfriend, and then feels guilty, as an enactment of his deep feelings of unworthiness. Max wants to think Sophie is “the one” in a way that allows the romantic phase I of the relationship to flourish. The problem is that over time, as in all relationships, there will be minor annoyances which will settle in and cause Max to feel discouraged.
      It is nice to have your comments, Shelly. Thanks, as always. S

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