I’ve been seeing this guy and he’s driving me crazy. I thought we had really found something, like he is “the one,” but then he gets pissed and breaks up with me after a fight. Then weeks later, he gets in touch and tells me how stupid and sorry he is, that he loves me and begs me to come back.
Then there will be some fight and the whole thing happens all over again. I know you’re going to say “red flag” and to dump him, but you have to trust me, he’s REALLY SWEET and wonderful and showers me with so much love. I’m so happy when we’re together and miserable when we’re not. I love him and I know he loves me. Maybe couples counseling? What do you think?
— Crazy in Love
Oh, my poor, rattled Earth Angel. Yes, you are crazy…and 99% of the women reading this have been just as crazy. Because we, and you, have all been driven crazy, by experts.
Let’s talk about rats. Not the men kind — actual rats. With tails, the whole schmear.
Famed, big fore-headed psychologist B.F. Skinner used rats in his experiments on operant conditioning, a topic about which flyers should be passed out to every girl the day she turns 14. The rats in his experiments got receive a morsel of food when they’d push a lever in their cage. Push the lever, get a pellet. Then Skinner did to these rats what men have been doing to women* since the dawn of time; started giving them rats only occasionally. Sometimes they’d push the lever and a pellet would come out, sometimes a pellet wouldn’t come out. To make a long story involving rats short, Skinner soon discovered that the rats who only got intermittent pellets began feverishly pushing that lever like there was no tomorrow. Whereas, the rats who had some consistency in their pellets were relaxed and would rat-sashay over to the lever when they needed a pellet. In other words, only the rats who got sporadic pellets were passionately pushing that lever, jonesing for their pellet. (And it’s not like these were delicious or anything. I mean, they were just pellets, for crying out loud.)
And so it is with you — and women throughout time immemorial. You are being given intermittent pellets, and it’s turning you into a poor, frantic mouse. Guys that deliver occasional pellets will get you lever-pressing into a frenzy that feels like passion, like love. I don’t know whether guys, (i.e., the two-legged rats), do this strategically, or whether they’ve just unconsciously figured out that pellet-withholding gives them power over women. But it doesn’t much matter whether your man-rat is doing this on purpose or not. The result is the same. The pattern of love bombing followed by ghosting and then love bombing, then withholding and so on gets you in that lever-pushing frenzy that feels like you’re madly in love. But the madness is lever fever.
He’s got you addicted to the pellets. At your core, you not only may not love him, you might not even like him that much. But the pellets, the love bombing, he’s got you on a string and he’s pulling you back and forth and that drama is making you crazy, but masking as “crazy-in-love.”
Now, it’s easy for me to just say dump him. But you are going to seriously miss those pellets. It’s not going to be easy and there’s a good chance you’ll falter and give in again when the love bombing starts up again. All I can say is, tell yourself you’re not a rat, he is, and that you deserve a life full of pellets anytime you need them. Ditch him and wait to find a guy that doesn’t give you that crazy in love or crazy feeling. Find a good guy who makes you feel sated, nice and warm with a belly full of pellets.**
* Obviously, this is not a strictly binary, “women vs. men” thing and women can pull this love-pellet move, too. But I’ve been around the block and in my experience, men are the true pros at this pattern.
** Readers: I promise never to type the word pellets again 🙂
Email your questions to Dixie at dixie [at] jumbleandflow dot com. We may feature your question and Dixie’s advice on jumbleandflow.com. You can choose to remain anonymous or provide your name — totally up to you.
Dixie Laite has been a second-grade teacher and mechanical bull operator, and for the past 25 years she’s worked for a variety of TV networks as a writer, editorial director, trainer, advice columnist, even an on-air personality. But primarily she’s trotted around New York City in one cowboy shirt or another, lurking around flea markets, gyms, and anywhere they’ll hand her French toast. Currently she lounges around her apartment with one husband, one dog, five parrots, and roughly 2,000 pairs of shoes. Dixie is the main lady behind Age Against the Machine, a column about empowering women over 50. Sign up for the Jumble & Flowdown newsletter to stay in the know about Dixie’s latest columns.
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