For years Allison had been in and out of a relationship with Philip, and—not coincidentally—her progress toward genuine happiness had been negligible. She called me to complain about something at work.
"When was the last time you saw Phil?" I asked.
"What does that have to do with work?" she responded.
"You called me. I didn't call you. Do you want to do this your way or mine?"
She sighed. "Okay, I saw him two days ago."
"And for a while you really enjoyed your time with him, right?"
"Then you started to argue."
"Yes. How do you know this?"
"We all tend to do similar things, kid. We're not that creative when it comes to how we behave in relationships—especially when we're empty. So with Phil you go through all the effects of Imitation Love within twenty-four hours. You become intoxicated, and then when the high wears off, you empty out and get disappointed and irritated. Is that fair to say?"
"And this has been going on for years."
"And your unhappiness affects everything, including how you perform and interact with people at work. Isn't the solution kind of obvious?"
"But Phil is a good person."
"I'm not accusing him of anything, but I am observing that being around him isn't good for you. Do you like peanuts?"
Allison looked at me quizzically, since it appeared I was changing the subject, but she answered, "Sure."
"Me too. They taste good, and they can even be good for you. But do you know anyone with a peanut allergy?"
"Even the dust from peanuts can kill some people, so it's obvious that peanuts—although delicious and nutritious for some people—can be very bad."
"You have a peanut allergy with Phil. You can't be around him. He completely empties you out and becomes a deadly distraction from the happiness you really want. He might be a good person—I'm not questioning that—but he's obviously not good for you."
For years Julie had made tiny steps forward in Real Love, only to have it all erased by her association with Phil, who drained her completely. We're not blaming Phil, just identifying that a relationship with him was too difficult for Julie.
We all know such people. In some cases, we need to avoid them permanently. In other cases—notably family members—we need to avoid them until we become loving enough not to be adversely affected by them.
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