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False Forms of Love: Shadow Side Attachments

Too often bad guys and gals seem to win in the love arena, and good girls and nice guys seem to lose.  Why is that?  The considerate gentleman gets dropped for the brute.  The ‘girl next door’ type loses out to the girl with the bad reputation.

Sometimes the examples get a bit extreme.  Ruth dropped out of her seminary’s Sacred Music and Choir Director degree program and ran off with a guy in an outlaw, motorcycle gang.  Wallace abandoned his very sweet wife for a woman with an obvious ‘slut pride’ tattoo.

Jen used to be her upscale, suburban neighborhood’s popular ‘princess perfect’.  Now she flashes her intimate piercings jewelry and only goes out with misogynist, tough guys who play in bad boy bands.  After 20 years with his socially acceptable, almost ‘trophy wife’ Marvin left her and now lives with a Goth girl whose main fashion accessory is a whip.

Many shadow side relationships are not so extreme.  The wife of a popular and successful husband leaves him for a seemingly ordinary, so-so guy.  The single guy turns down the popular, ex- beauty queen and instead goes out with chubby, plain looking, social isolates.  The preacher would be better off with the polished, socially adept woman who really wants him but he hooks up with a nonconformist, political rebel whose abrasive ways are bound to cause trouble in his church.  The examples of the shadow side romance phenomenon are nearly endless.

To explain all this let’s look at one of Dr. Carl Jung’s postulates.  He was the most famous pupil of Dr. Sigmund Freud and he put forth the concept of the shadow side personality.  According to Jung’s thinking our shadow side can be that part of our personality which is the opposite of our more socially acceptable self and our more usual, overt way of presenting our self.  The shadow side self can yearn to break free from having to be ‘good’, proper, constrained, and ‘fitting in’.

In the depths of many people the shadow side secretly desires not to live up to anyone else’s expectations, not to conform to standards or live by society’s rules.  The shadow side is repressed but it wishes to break free of that repression, to go wild, to try everything forbidden and to live a ‘who cares what anybody thinks or says’ existence.  The freedom to have low standards of conduct, run on impulse and not have to repress or suppress the usually unacceptable can be powerfully attractive.  Sometimes the shadow side self breaks out and takes over.

It is thought one of the most common ways the shadow side self emerges is through a particular form of romantic attraction and attachment.  It seems to work something like this.  The conformist, repressed, good girl meets someone who represents all her repressed desires and characteristics, and it is ‘fascination at first sight’.  The ‘live by the rules’, always a nice guy meets someone who helps him bring out his selfish, lust driven, secretly barbarian inner self, and off he goes to a life of wild abandon.  Miss (seemingly) ‘prim and proper’ can only indulge her masochistic side after finding just the right dominating and sufficiently sadistic lover.Mr. ‘Upstanding Citizen’ can only let out his ‘down and dirty’, hidden self after he hooks up with a blatantly naughty and nasty femme fatale.

Sometimes things work the other way around.  The ‘outlaw’ rebel becomes intensely attracted to the ‘good to everybody’ nurse.  The outcast, loner prostitute falls for the popular and proper priest.  The ‘bad boy’ converts himself into acting good so he can be with the ‘good girl’.  These examples and similar others happen less often but they do happen.  Which ever way it emerges a shadow side attraction offers a reversal of the usual, and an overt exploration of what was previously covert and perhaps even was entirely out of conscious awareness.

Shadow side false love brings up many questions.  Do these relationships really work?  Do they last?  Why do seemingly reasonable, balanced, OK people reject the ‘good ones’ for the bad?  Is there the possibility of real, spouse type love in these relationships?  What’s the probability of healthy love developing in a shadow side romance?

To help answer these questions let’s take a look at what a shadow side romance is thought to do for a person.  When we get involved in a shadow side romance we give our self the chance to travel into our own unexplored regions.  Shadow side, false love really may be about learning to discover, to know and to love the rest of one’s self.  By way of the intimacies of romance and lust we can tap into our own worst, weirdest and sometimes most wonderful traits, tendencies and talents.  Shadow side, false love attachments are frequently filled with uninhibited actions, some of which are great fun, and occasionally quite creative, as well as frequently awful.  They also often are filled with episodes of spontaneous, emotional combustion and near total abandonment of restraints.

Therefore, shadow side lovers feel more free to explore and experiment with many more ways of being themselves than is true for the usual common and correct couple.  Shadow side, false love is frequently exciting, adventurous and sometimes quite dangerous.  When your shadow side lover manipulates you into addictions, crime, a cult, radical politics, crazy religion, violence, etc. the results can be negatively life altering and even life ending.

Shadow side romance also can be life changing in very positive ways.  Think about these quotes:  “My bad boy lover got me into music and he’s ‘over and done’, but today music is how I make my living, so I’m thankful for that escapade in my life”.  “I would never have known what real, sexual pleasure was if I had not gone across the tracks and lived on the wild side for a while.”  “She was both the worst thing and the best thing that ever happened to me; and, thank God, the good ended up out-weighing the bad, but oh what a trip it was.”  “I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for what you call my shadow side lovers.

They are part of what makes me who I am today, so I’m glad for everything we did and, no, I don’t ever want to do any of it again!”  “First, I was too good and my lovers were bland and blah.  Then I rebelled and was far too bad and my lovers were beasts and bozos.  Then I chose a third way, not too good and not too bad, and my lover now seems to be just right.  I see that it took all three to get where I am today, and life feels good and right”.

Sometimes a person feels drawn to a shadow side lover only to spend a brief time ‘visiting’ in that dark and difficult world.  Then they return to their regular life, often more worldly-wise, stronger and more mature.  At other times a person is caught up in shadow side, false love and takes up life-long residence in a sort of slavery to the opposite of what they knew or how they behaved before.  When that happens they usually seem to go from one shadow side lover to the next in an endless string.
The best outcomes usually occur when a person synthesizes their two opposing sides and creates an integration of both, keeping the best and jettisoning the rest.

Then they find a lover or spouse compatible with their new, integrated self.  The results of this kind of synthesis and integration sometimes are spectacular.  Of particular help in achieving integrated synthesis is a form of psychotherapy popular in Europe and South America called Psychosynthesis.  It uses specialized techniques for bringing opposing parts of the self into healthy integration and it works well with Dr. Carl Jung’s conceptualizations and form of psychotherapy.

Once in a while shadow side, false love gives rise to healthy, real, lasting love with a shadow side lover but most think this is extremely rare.  More often shadow side, false love can be a prerequisite to a later lover who is more compatible for growing a new lasting love.

One appeal of shadow side romance has to do with relaxing inhibitions.  Tiffany said, “It was always easier to go naked and do crazy things when I was around Smittey because he was scum.  I could act like a crazy bitch around him because I knew he was worse than me and if I lost him, so what.  If he stayed around I could abuse him as much as I wanted.  It was great!  Then I got tired of all that, and went into therapy and learned to love myself.  Then I had to find somebody really fine because I learned I was worthy of real love.  I’m not so carefree as I was, but my life is way better now.”

Shadow side, elicit affairs are thought to be one of the more common kinds of extramarital involvements that married people sometimes get into.  It’s not uncommon for some marriage counselors and relational therapists to hear things like, “I can’t understand why my wife picked such a loser to have an affair with” or, “My husband’s choice in lovers is so low class.  I just don’t get what he sees in those women” and “It’s so embarrassing to discover my lover wants those trashy freaks more often than he wants me.”

The people who say these sort of things don’t understand that dealing with difference and deviance, without having to live up to higher standards, is the attraction.  The wayward mate can find out what their bad side is and get, if not real love, acceptance and participation.  Living up to higher standards is not required and that is such a freedom for many, especially heavily repressed individuals.  When love is done ‘in the light’ the presence or absence of quality becomes important because it easily can be seen.  Affairs ‘in the shadows’ can hide a lot and that is exactly what the shadow side lover sometimes hopes to do, hide from the glaring quality issues and, therefore, be free to not care.

The shadow side dynamic is a false love because it is not lasting and it does not provide several of the major functions of healthy, real love (see “A More Ample Definition of Love” entry).  Nurturing love, protective love and healing love usually are not much a part of shadow side love involvements and, therefore, shadow side attempts at love usually come to an end with a fair amount of agony.  The good news is that quite often the agony is not very long lasting because the love was false.
One of the benefits of exploring your own shadow side (often with the help of a knowledgeable, love-oriented therapist) is you may come to acknowledge and integrate deep parts of yourself and consequently may be able to avoid the entanglements and problems that can come from having a shadow side, false love experience with another.

As always – Grow and Go with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question
What do you know about your own shadow side and where it might lead you in affairs of the heart?
False Forms of Love: Limerence and Its Alluring Lies
False Forms of Love: Meta Lust
False Forms of Love: Shadow Side Attachments
False Forms of Love: The Devastating IFD Syndrome
False Forms of Love: Unresolved Conflict Attraction Syndrome

Previous Comments:
  • EyeLean5280
    April 8th, 2015 at 09:59 | #1

    Goodness, Tiffany’s not very appealing is she? She still views Smitty as “scum”? After her own terrible behavior? Wow.
  • EyeLean5280
    April 8th, 2015 at 10:06 | #2

    Also, I’m not sure about this description of “false love”. How long does a nurturing relationship have to last to be considered “real”? A certain number of weeks? Months? Years? What about abusive relationships that last a lifetime? Are they more “real” than good ones that only last a year or two? What about a relationship that includes both wonderful and hurtful qualities? Is that sort of love “half real”?

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