It’s funny how you come across terms that fit your life, especially when you are experiencing something unpleasant, a situation. The last several years of my life have been full of relationship strife, what with the departure of my narcissistic wife four and a half years ago, and then the on again off again two plus year relationship with my now ex-avoidant girlfriend. I want to place blame somewhere so I don’t have to accept responsibility. I blame it on “parataxic distortion”.
What is Parataxic distortion you may ask? According to Wikipedia, it is a psychiatric term used to describe the inclination to skew perceptions of others based on fantasy. We create an image of someone based not on reality but rather on a fantasy that we create. We essentially take who we are with and we build them into something they are not. We create our soulmate.
I believe that I have found something that I am expert at. I most certainly did this with my ex-N. She was the most magical person on the planet. Where is she now? She is long gone (for the fourth and final time) and we haven’t spoken a word to each other in over two years even though we pass one another within inches quite frequently. How’s that for a soulmate connection? I never would have or could have imagined it in the throes of the awesome parts of the relationship, but it is FACT, and I cannot dispute it at this point. What I thought was in fact wasn’t. Yep, sure sounds like it fits the Parataxic distortion definition.
Same thing with my ex-avoidant girlfriend Suzy, only this one was even worse. I knew from the second date there was something not quite right, but I hung in there, convincing myself that it wasn’t that big a deal, or that we could work through it, or that I was just imagining things. Wrong! This last breakup is the fourth and final time that we have split up in a little over two years, and I have had NO contact with her for nearly fourteen weeks now. And let’s not forget that she clearly told me that everything wrong in the relationship was MY fault. Yessiree, I know how to pick a soulmate (or at least create one in my mind).
The problem, for me at least, is that I want to have that incredibly close relationship so bad that I am willing to do almost anything to have it. Sadly, I end up creating something in my mind that simply isn’t real. Even worse, I consciously know that it isn’t real, but I stuff it down, convincing myself that it is okay, that it will get better, that I just have to keep trying harder and to just keep being “the better person”. At some point, my significant other will recognize how great I am and that they could never want to lose me. The issue with that is I cannot control or dictate their thoughts and they are unaware of the fantasy.
The result is my current life. I sit here alone with an iPad recording my thoughts, wondering when that will ever change. As you are probably thinking, I know the first thing that I have to do is stop creating fantasies in parallel with choosing the wrong relationships. I wish it was that easy, I really do. In fact, the thought that got me looking into this fantasy phenomenon in the first place is my questioning of whether it is simply better to just be alone. That is a discouraging thought for me, but at the same time it is a logical question that begs to be answered.
I have quoted the Bible on several occasions in the past where it says “It is not good for man to be alone” and, based on how I feel most of the time, I believe that to be true. With that said, I am also growing weary of the disappointment that accompanies the breakup of a relationship. I’m weary of it to the point that I just don’t want to do it anymore. The reality of parataxic distortion is that, at some point, the true nature of what your significant other is rears it’s ugly head and no amount of fantasizing or distorting the truth can change it. The result is having to accept you were wrong, the other person is not who you “wanted” them to be but are rather who they really “are”, and you simply cannot change that no matter how much you might want to.
So where does that leave things? Based on reality, it leaves them where they should have been from the beginning, dissolved and non-existent (and I have the years long proof of that). Take the fantasy away and you are left with what is or was real, and it isn’t pretty no matter how lovely our mind tried to make it. In hindsight, it is easy to look back and see all of the evidence, all the signs, red flags, and events that provided a clear indication that what I “wanted” in fact wasn’t what “was”. I have accepted that truth and also accept my responsibility for creating the fantasy.
You can’t change narcissists, and you can’t change avoidant attachment personalities. THEY have to want to change if there is going to be change, and that is a rare thing indeed. I have learned a lot of lessons in the last 5 years or so, but I still have more to learn. I do want to change, to get better, to stop making the same mistakes. I need to add the need to stop creating soulmates or fantasy relationships to my list of lessons learned. It really shouldn’t be this hard. Sadly, it is.