2 Types of Bad Partner: Too Present, or Too Absent

Uploaded 10/1/2022, approx. 8 minute read

Good morning, Shoshanim.

My name is Sam Vaknin, and I am the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited, and I am also a professor of psychology, having just returned from the Cold Therapy seminar in Romania and on my way to Vienna on the 10th of October, and Budapest in Hungary between the 20th and the 23rd.

If you want to have a face-to-face counseling session with me in person, just write to me at samvaknin at, samvaknin, my name, at, and we will schedule an appointment in either of these two cities or if you are really adamant in both of them.

Today we are going to discuss bed partners.

Take a look around you. Marriage rates are down 50%. Divorce rates have plateaued at above 50% if you take into account second marriages with a 70% rate of divorce and third marriages with more than 80% rate of divorce.

One third of all adults in the industrialized world are lifelong singles. It seems that everyone ends up selecting the wrong partner and that everyone else is a bad partner.

So how do you identify a bed partner and how do you avoid them in the future?

This is the topic of today's mini lecture. Yes, it's a lecture without mini, but it is still a mini lecture.

The two types of bed partners, bedmates, are those who offer absence and threaten presence and those who smother with their presence and threaten with their absence.

I'm going to repeat this because it's a bit complex at first hearing.

So there are two types of bed partners.

The first kind of bed partner or eligible mate, they are absent, but when things go awry they threaten you with their presence.

The second type of bed partner are too present. They are present all the time. They are suffocating, but when things go bad they threaten you with their absence.

People who grew up in dysfunctional families tend to develop what we call insecure attachment styles.

There's a video on my channel dedicated to these attachment styles, dismissive, avoidant, fearful, attachment styles which do not allow for intimacy, attachment styles which keep every relationship barely afloat and finally lead to the disintegration of all dyads, insecure attachment styles.

But there's another outcome of having grown or having been brought up in a family which was far less than optimal.

And this second outcome is flawed mate selection, choosing consistently, repeatedly, regularly the wrong partner for you.

Now you know my view that there is no such thing as a wrong partner. There is only a partner who caters to your needs, but if your needs are self-defeating, self-destructive, if your needs are bad for you then the partner by definition is bad for you, even if he is right for your needs.

So flawed mate selection is an outcome of a family that had not provided the child with a secure base, a dead mother, a dysfunctional or absent father.

And so these kind of children when they grow up, when they become adults, they choose the wrong intimate partners and they choose the wrong intimate partners in order to re-enact, replay unfinished early childhood conflicts with parental figures.

It is the comfort zone. Within this comfort zone abuse, people pleasing and other dysfunctional behaviors are perceived as soothing, comforting because they are predictable and knowable.

So children who have grown up in less than optimal families, children who have gone through adverse childhood experiences, ACE, ACE, this kind of children choose partners, intimate partners, who would allow them what we call repetition compulsion, who would satisfy their need to replay the original family or the family of origin environment.

And again, there are two types of such wrong mates, such wrong partners, such bad partners, the two types.

There are those who offer absence and threaten presence and there are those who smother and suffocate with their presence and then they threaten their absence.

Let's talk about the first kind.

The first kind of wrong partner is transactional, aloof, detached, called emotionally absent, dysempathic, unable to offer support and support when needed, keeps his distance, watches from the outside, acting as an implacable, an impeccable observer.

It's not really a partner, it's more like a business associate.

These kind of wrong partners make their presence known only when they want to accomplish some purpose. They are goal-oriented, they want to manipulate you, they want to modify your behavior, they want to derive some benefits from you, I don't know, sex, money, access to your colleagues, something they have in mind, and then suddenly they're all over you, they fall, they flirt, they court, they pay attention to the tiniest details, they offer advice and help, unsolicited, they're constantly present.

And this is in order to accomplish the goal.

So this is the first type of bad partner, always absent and present only when things go bad or present only when they want to accomplish some goal. This kind of intimate partner would be out of your life if he were to reach a conclusion that there's nothing more you can give him.

And the second variety of bad, second variety of wrong intimate partner, wrong mate, they are exactly the opposite. They constantly nag, they're clinging their dependency, their inane delusional romantic jealousy.

These border on emotional blackmail, on manipulation. These people micromanage you, they monitor you, they supervise you, they spy on you, they confine you and constrict you and restrict you. They establish rules of conduct, their rules of conduct, which you should obey or else they create a very restrictive environment, non-permissive environment, which resembles very much some, a dictatorship or a count.

They cling to you, display their neediness, tell you that they can't live without you, that you are their life, that they have sacrificed themselves for you, themselves for you, all in order to keep you present.

So these type of bad partners are too present, their presence becomes a burden and a liability.

And yet, when these partners experience engulfment anxiety, when they're in the throes of what they perceive to be a simulative enmeshment, when their ostentatious presence becomes counterproductive and pushes you away, at that point, at that point, when they anticipate or perceive rejection and abandonment, they tend to withdraw, they tend to avoid as both a self-preservation strategy, because they are hurt or pain averse, and also punitively.

So let me recap this.

These people, this second type of bad partner, is always in your life, never lets you go, it's all over you, involved in your deepest secrets and your most hidden resources, in an integrated, merged and fused with you, to the point to become a single organism with two heads.

And yet, when she perceives looming abandonment and rejection, or when she feels smothered, suffocated, assimilated, she would act exactly the opposite, she would withdraw, she would avoid, she would become the first kind of partner, emphasizing her absence as a weapon, as a punishment, and as a strategy for self-reservation, because she can't stand the pain and the hurt which she anticipates.

So, the two types of partners are actually easily interchangeable, easily confused and conflated.

The first type of partner becomes the second type of partner when he has a goal. The first type of partner becomes the second type of partner when he wants something from you, or when he is afraid to lose you. The second type of partner becomes the first type of partner when she anticipates rejection, abandonment and humiliation. They are interchangeable, because they are dysfunctional, they have insecure, dysfunctional, attachment styles.

To recap and to recap and to recall, the first type of partner is always absent, never there for you, unless he wants something from you, or unless he fears that he is about to lose you, and then he becomes clinging and needy and all over you and supportive and caring and ostentatiously loving and conspicuously present in every aspect and dimension of your life.

The second type of partner is exactly the opposite, while the first type of partner is absent and uses presence only as a stopgap measure. The second type of partner is always present and becomes absent and aloof and rejecting only when she feels engulfed and enmeshed, or when she feels that she is about to be abandoned and rejected.

Both types of partner are very bad for you.

Most frequently, you would tend to select one type of partner, lifelong, but people who hail from dysfunctional families, they alternate between the two types. Sometimes they select a partner who is cold, detached, absent, perceived as strong and resilient because he is this lonely wolf, a strong man, but then his absence begins to grate, begins to create abandonment anxiety, and then this kind of person would tend to alternate and move to the second type of partner, so there's no type constancy.

Typically, in the life of people who grew up in less than optimal families, suboptimal families, in the life of such people, there is a history of partners of the first type and then partners of the second type and then partners of the first type. It is a desperate attempt to compensate for the excesses, for the exaggerated character of the previous type, so if you start off your romantic life or your intimate life with a partner who is aloof and detached and cold and far strong, you would tend then to try to compensate for that by teaming up with someone who is over emotional, dysregulated, dramatic, overtly in love with you, infatuated, in limerence and so on. You would tend to compensate for the cold stony type with a fire, a fiery type, so and then once you have been exposed to the dysfunctional behaviors of the second type, you're likely to revert to the first type.

On and off, like a pendulum, you would switch from one type to another because your family of origin failed to provide you with a model of a bounder, resilient, truly strong partner who would cater to your needs without consuming you.

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