“Why doesn’t he choose me? He loves me … Or that’s what he tells me, and I know, we had a good time together. With his wife he stopped feeling a long time ago, he can’t leave her yet. But he still chooses her. to her, and it is always about to end but no. What am I doing wrong, where am I wrong? Why can’t she choose me and that’s it. “
I explain to this woman, and to all those who tell me similar stories (which are many), who hope to be reciprocated with the love of THAT man, that: there is nothing they do wrongIt is not within your power to change a personality structure that you do not know how to love.
That man does not choose one or the other, he chooses himself, in a selfish and narcissistic act where there is no place for anything but pleasure itself. The navel is greater than the capacity to love.
The place of the “chosen one” is a sad place as long as it supports and sustains the entire family structure and the reassurance of comfort; while eroticism, adrenaline and the interesting remain on the side of the lover, only while the encounters last because afterwards, the emptiness, the waiting and the sadness.
“There is no worse nostalgia than longing for what never happened,” Joaquín Sabina sings. And that’s what women who weave and unweave their dreams suffer from while they wait, just wait, for the miracle to happen, with sadness and the recurring thought about “what is he doing now?”
The Austro-Argentine psychoanalyst Marie Langer (she was one of the founders of the Argentine Psychoanalytic Association) described it as “Penelope’s Complex”, making clear reference to the position of the women who, in the place of the protagonist of The Odyssey, spend their lives there, weaving dreams and waiting for the winds to change.
The psychoanalyst says: “Women often suffer from what I call the Penelope complex, whose figure is that woman who is continuously waiting, next to the telephone, weaving and unraveling fantasies:« Will she call me? »,« Won’t she call me? », “Oh, but he promised me”, “Well, he finally called.” But there is no continuity solution because even if I call, the drama will repeat itself: after the call everything starts over. Penelope starts knitting and unweaving again. “
This is not a diagnosis but a clear reference to The Odyssey of Ulysses to describe this affective model, usually associated with women, but not exclusively. In psychology it is used to describe situations in which waiting becomes an existential constant in the lives of some people.
And life is long but not that long. I say again and this is key to unraveling this never ending story.
The choice of Ulysses is in the own safety and pleasure regardless of the suffering of the wife who knows (in most cases) that there is something she does not know. And much less the suffering of the lover who waits for a change that will not come.
I want to clarify that in no way do I condemn unfaithful men, nor do I issue any ethical judgment, far from that. I only describe the suffering of the protagonists of these stories.
And I also say, in many cases there are suffering men who do not dare to shed their suffering and dare to a better life. Men who from lukewarm maintain unhealthy situations for themselves and their family. But it is not going to be just from maintaining the status quo that something will be resolved.
And this is a problem (or should be) of the men who suffer their unhappiness and not of the lovers. Women don’t have to be empathetic to this particular condition.
“Poor man, he cannot leave his wife because he feels very guilty about the children”
“If it were up to him, I would have already decided but he is having such a bad time that his head is a torment”
I affirm with force: this is the subject of the therapy of those who have to make a decision and they lack the courage to do it.
“Cowardly loves do not come to love or stories, they stay there”, says dear Silvio Rodríguez.
In no way should Penelopes immolate themselves and be understanding, because in this way suffering is perpetuated and nothing moves.
And married men who have double lives are in an absolute comfort zone and make promises such as: “I want to separate, but the girls are still small” or “As soon as my wife is in better health, I will come to live with you”. Words, words and more words to the wind.
I have not known in 34 years of profession no Penelopes story with a happy ending. The destination is always the San Blas dock.
The narcissist lacks the minimum empathy necessary to manage a change from the suffering that it generates for another. Just think about him. Daffodils and their mirrors, the rest, just decoration and party favors.
An unhappy wife. A fearful and narcissistic man. A accommodating and understanding lover. And life passes in a tortuous eternity.
According to Greek mythology, Penelope waited for Ulysses for 20 years after the Trojan War. Source Illustration Shutterstock.
And here I clarify, we can think of Penelope’s scheme not only in the case of women who occupy the place of lovers, but also in those who resign their happiness and leave it in the hands of a change that does not depend on them. Whether the married man chooses to break that triangle, whether his husband or partner modifies substantial issues that are far from being considered.
Also with women who develop a co-dependency with men with addictive pathologies.
And the red thread of the Penelopes is hooked on men or with narcissistic traits, or addictive pathologies in many cases, or compromised.
And men who suffer from addictive pathologies will be able to get ahead with therapeutic help, but the treatments are steep and often the awareness of illness essential for the beginning of change is the heritage of Penelope and not of Ulysses. Penelope sadly has the insured failure with all success.
The desirable thing is to break the rules of the game, put the own suffering in the first place and make men meet their own reality without the anesthesia of the lover’s refuge.
There are also many stories of women (and men too) who hope that the “better half” changes its way of being, its essence and its sap.
And for that to happen, there must be empathy and awareness of the problem on the other side, but in these schemes, only one suffers in a silent pact not to innovate.
Penelope doesn’t speak, she just weaves and waits. And that does not produce changes.
They are also in recent times (as the struggles for gender equality acquire the prominence they must have and are adding conquests), the men left in that position, and they are the ones who wait for the woman of their dreams to choose them.
In psychology, the Penelope Complex is used to describe situations in which waiting becomes an existential constant. Photo Shutterstock.
Stories of suffering
The world is inhabited by many Penelopes who suffer and wait, wait and suffer. Is a particular way of living in love or in the illusion of him.
It is not from hope, because if it were from an active hope it would be possible for something to change. It is from the resignation, a naive position at one point, because it is obvious that the loved one is never going to arrive in the way that is expected.
Penelope waits. And they are usually very intelligent women.
“All the intelligence, brilliance I would say that you have for your professional life is diluted when it comes to taking care of yourself. It is as if you lose your superpowers,” he said to a young patient, a “Penelope” who 15 years ago expected magic to touch your partner to be just another man.
We can all change, but to be able to change you have to want to.
When working in the therapeutic field with these types of situations, we can see that behind these women there are stories of suffering, of waits that have not been resolved, situations of pain in the first decades of life; as with everything that constitutes the essence of our psychic apparatus.
There are two possible destinations with what we live:
1- We understand, elaborate, and repair.
2- We do not know, and we repeat.
And Penelope’s position is usually hooked on the repetition of something that was not elaborated. Each one will have to understand what or what are the events that mark the repetition.
So far the descriptive, next the good news, history can change, the needles can be arrows that shoot the hands of the clock so that time begins to run in favor of those who dream and decide to be the ones who change history to reach those dreams.
And that Penelope stops being a spectator of her own story to be a protagonist. And let your hands activate the change.
The comfort zone is not necessarily comfortable. Photo Shutterstock.
Get out of the comfort zone
I start from the following statement, undoubtedly controversial. It would be impossible and not very serious to make a statistic, but I am able to say that there are many men and women who they think and dream of a different lifeBut they simply do not dare to break out of their comfort zone and face the challenge of change.
Break the limiting beliefs, the old mandates and get rid of old failures that like anvils bind and limit a reality to perpetuate itself in a reality painful but known and comfortable.
He caught my attention in a post on social networks in which he asked questions about the relationship axis, a woman in her 40s asked if it is wrong to prioritize the comfort zone over love and passion.
I think many people wonder the same thing, I dare to say that it does not do well (who am I to say that it is right or wrong?) stay where you don’t want to be.
Penelopes also build a comfort zone in that discomfort, it becomes familiar and comfortable, albeit devious. But comfort zone at last. The known calms, the new scares, a lot.
But when the time comes to change … There the story is another, and Penelope becomes indestructible. She takes a deep breath, looks at the sky and decisively becomes the protagonist of her life, then, she becomes a heroine.
Nothing stops her, she is inevitably positioned at a point of no return to try to be happy.
Those who are there can and must change the course of their lives. Exercise the wonderful gift of freedom and do not leave it in the hands of anyone else.
They can then:
✔Make room for the environment. Network with all the people who have been waiting for a long time to help.
It usually happens in these cases that the family, groups of friends and those who really love Penelope suffer from impotence because they cannot break the circle of suffering, they have tired of speaking into the void. It is time for them to take action.
✔Leave pride outIn these stories, denied love occupies all the space in the mind of the person who suffers. But it is not the universe, it is just a man (or a woman). That door closes but all the others open.
✔Block all virtual access to stop repeating the input and output circuits of the toxicity of the relationship.
✔Patience, time and conviction.
But above all: Loving oneself. Because these circuits are a profound act of self-love
I can assure you that the metamorphosis of Penelope it is one of the most moving moments in a person’s life.
It is simply to understand that in no way can happiness remain in the hands of others, our life and our time are valuable, very valuable.
And freedom is non-negotiable heritage. No more no less. Good luck with your homework!
* Alejandro Schujman is a psychologist specializing in families. Author of I do not flee, I only fly: The art of letting go of children, Ni-Ni Generation, It is not because I say so and Tools for parents.