The time was August, 1979, right after college–a natural time to go and find a job. After sending out numerous resumes, I received a reply from AC Nielson. They are a marketing research firm that works with businesses. With my quantitative methods background, this would be an ideal place for me to go. So I accepted the position –with some reservations. Those reservations would mean relocating to lovely Mason City, Iowa. This is a community about thirty miles from my birthplace, and not a particularly great town. It is noted for being not too far from Clear Lake, which is the place where Buddy Holly’s plane went down.
After accepting their officer, my first objective was finding a place to live. I looked into the roommate section of the local paper and found a dump that called for $200 a month, utilities included. My roommate was beginner sports broadcaster with the local news station who later turned into something up in the Twin Cities, and more after that. He was an avid Iowa Hawkeyes fan and a couple of years older than I was.
While employed at AC Nielson, I made some immediate friends–one of whom I will call Mike. We would go lounging around at one of the other discos in the area. While we hated disco, that seemed to be where all the women would go. I met what I thought was my first love at one of these discos. She was a nurse at Mercy Hospital, and very attractive. Little did I know that she was probably just as mixed up as I was. She had her own issues with depression and anxiety.
It was interesting that this woman only lived four blocks from my house on Adams Street. Our relationship became intimate immediately. We started discussing marriage within a week. She came from a family of devout Lutherans and had a lot of guilt and shame about the intimacy of our relationship. She also told me that she had been raped the year prior–she had issues.
Because I absolutely hated my job, within four months I left Mason City and headed back to Minneapolis,. I remember packing up my Pinto wagon and heading back. Even though I decided to leave Mason City, I had no intention of letting go of this relationship. But long-distance relationships usually do not work, and I guess I figured that out the hard way. Being an attractive nurse, she quickly moved on with an engineer. So here I was, basically, thrown out on the curb in April of 1980. I had this strong feeling of abandonment, which was accompanied by a keen sense of fear. While I was dating her I had always been afraid that I would lose her–and fear has a way of showing itself. I was fearful. The first impressions that I had given her were that I was solid and put together. But she was looking to be take care of, so when I sent signals to the contrary, this drove her away.
I spent many night calling and pleading–I made a complete ass out of myself making all these attempts. I developed a sense of shame over it, and the cycle was difficult to break. After a while, she simply stopped returning my phone calls. I felt the same kind of desperation that I had felt before going to the hospital a couple of years before. I thought this was love. But is was something else–it was not love. While terms like codependency were starting to come into vogue, I do not really think you can become love addicted. My grandfather used to say that the question was not “whether you can live with the person, but whether you cannot.” His point was that if you cannot, then it must be love.
My depression and anxiety got bad enough that I talked to a psychiatrist at Lake Minnetonka Mental Health Center, an out-patient deal. I was prescribed Pamelor, which is another tricyclic antidepressant similar to Elavil. Here again, I was being prescribed an antidepressant while I was suffering from an emotional problem. There was talk therapy at the hospital; it could be conducted by psychologists or social workers for individuals or families. Same deal here but once a week. I attended both mixed and men-only group sessions. I got the feeling that it was assumed that the patient was a victim of some sort of abuse. Parents were presumed guilty until proven innocent. I was supposedly the victim of a “smother-mother.” The conclusion for me was that I was looking for that same type of attention–and perhaps there was some trust issues to that as well.
Back then, the courts were obviously far more lenient than they are now. As I recall, a number of child abusers ended up in the same men’s group that I was in. At least two men, I recall, were on probation for incestuous actions. They would talk about their actions in group. It was really creepy stuff–not something to be talking about with other men who would not choose to relate to this kind of behaviors or these type of individuals.
My feelings of abandonment got so bad that all of my suicidal ideation returned with a vengeance. Looking back at this round of depression, I was obviously not ready for any kind of serious relationship. This particular woman and I had the same needs—we were each looking for the other to take care of us. So when I moved away, she found another person to hook up with. Two wrongs do not make a right.
Thankfully, I had some good male friends who looked out for each other. I was involved in a men’s group for some time too, and that also seemed to help. This group had been started by two male psychologists who had left Lake Minnetonka Mental Health–obviously some politics involved there, and possibly a little bit of discomfort with their peers there. AS I remember, that had some really strange therapists. But, at about this time, I got my first job in the surety business, the profession that I am still in. I also became aware that I was very attuned to my sexual desires–and that there were plenty of women around.
Through this, my depression never really lifted. It was always there. But having a woman in my life seemed to help. Even if it was just a one-night stand, it was a basis of excitement. Being sexual was a way of making a connection. But once you past that part, then what? If you are comfortable in your own skin, things seem natural. I was not comfortable with myself, so it was not natural. Being sexual is not love. Love is more than that, but it is easy to confuse the two. Love is ether there or it is not. I understand not that once you breach that point of intimacy, there is nothing more than that if there is not love. There is nothing to look forward but yourselves and the baggage that you bring to the relationship.
Many say that me look for women who are like their mothers. Well, my mother was overprotective. I was looking for someone to tell me, to reassure me, that I was all right. That is what mothers do. This what wives have a tendency to do. In a way, both parties, are looking to be taken care of. They both have needs, and the look for the other to take care of these needs. The question I have I is multi-folded: What is love and what is not love? Is there such a thing as love addiction or codependency? How do you measure the difference between codependency, love addiction, and sex addiction?
For many, these issues go hand in hand under the so-called umbrella of love. I am aware that men and women think differently. And this yin and yang may be the basis of the mutual attraction. We all have needs, and we all have boundaries, and from time to time we all need space. Love demands respect for all of these. Love addiction, or codependency, or sex addiction crashes into them.