By meeting with thousands of men and women struggling to make their relationships work, I have identified five psychological love profiles—roles that people adopt in relationships—that can spell big trouble for the people who fit them.
The first type is the healer.
The healer mistakes the feeling of being important to a broken person for true love. He or she luxuriates in the notion that the object of his or her affection is someone who has wonderful qualities, but needs support or motivation or special understanding in order to express them.
Very often, the healer’s “match” is a person addicted to alcohol or drugs, or someone who has been repeatedly “unlucky” (although luck actually has nothing to do with it) in the workplace or in business, leading to financial instability.
The healer often comes from a home in which she felt little control—for example, a chaotic family of origin or growing up with a very domineering parent. The fact that her romantic partner is broken “guarantees” her that he is not in a position to take control.
Other “healers” experienced abandonment early in life and unconsciously believe that their partners are in no position to ever leave them, because they are too flawed to move on independently.
Part of the trouble with being a “healer” romantically is that it doesn’t work. Talented therapists might be able to help the objects of a romantic healer’s affections, but doing so requires lots of experience and objectivity. Romantic healers, in fact, will often share with me a history of one relationship after another (even one marriage after another) that has ended when their “loved one” became even weaker—becoming even more hobbled by alcohol or drugs, breaking the law again, lying again about critical matters, becoming profoundly depressed or going bankrupt.
Very often, romantic healers will also share with me stories about their partners having become enraged with them. This is because the broken people whom romantic healers “love” actually realize at some unconscious level that the relationships are based on their weaknesses, not their strengths. They intuit that their “romantic healers” are invested in them being broken. And, ultimately, no one likes to be undermined.
To find true love, “romantic healers” need to resist their instincts. They literally need to second-guess themselves when they feel attracted to someone. They need to be on the lookout for whether they are actually being attracted to people with very significant flaws—and to the notion that they will be invaluable to such partners. They need to find strong and capable partners, instead, who initially make them feel vaguely uncomfortable, uncertain whether they’re really needed at all. Because that might just mean they’re truly loved (often, a very new experience for them), not just “needed.”
Keith Ablow, MD is a psychiatrist, and was host of the nationally-syndicated "Dr. Keith Ablow Show." He is a former member of the Fox News Medical A Team.