You may not be aware of all the dangers of online dating. One in particular you need to know about is the projector. Here’s what to watch out for…
There are several legitimate dating sites available to prospective suitors on the Internet. And while these vehicles may some what sap the romance out of finding one’s soul mate, they remain a convenient necessity in today’s busy, fast-paced society.
Some of these sites boast high marriage rates. But I suspect these rates are primarily influenced by the large number of site participants and are not necessarily proportionate. What I have found is that many people unknowingly replicate prior traumatic marriages, and serial date the same type of person only to ensure failure and frustration.
When the truth about something or in this case someone makes us too anxious, we may engage one or more choice defense mechanisms to blind us. Sometimes this can be a good thing: like bypassing a partner’s annoying but benign trait or tendency such as wearing plaids with stripes, or a bad thing: like choosing another cheater or an abusive/dangerous partner. While denial (when the existence of unpleasant reality is keptunconscious) is a very common defense that can be employed for this purpose, the one I find the scariest is projection. Also known as “blame shifting,” projection is defined as disowning one’s own unpleasant impulses and attributing them to someone else. I believe that many people on these sites unknowingly warn prospective suitors not to act the way they are capable of acting themselves. A frightening concept given how little insight the person has regarding his/her personal motivations and how hard it is for a potential suitor to decipher them…before it’s too late.
The purpose of this article is to help suitors to see through some of the potentially destructive projections that some people use. Please understand that it is not meant to suggest that everyone on these sites are projectors. Many are consciously protecting themselves…and with good reason. Nevertheless, if you’re interested in joining a dating site, or if you have already done so, it might be worth your while to continue reading. At the very least you may be spared confusion when your new partner begins to act in the very way he/she initially warned you and others to avoid. I have listed 4 common contexts for projection and how the projection works in each context.
1.“No drama please. I want a drama free life” – Many individuals who write this on their profiles have had more than one relationship in which drama was a significant factor. Perhaps they have dated a histrionic or an out-of-control bipolar. Maybe they have had to deal with problematic children from a partner’s previous relationship. It’s also possible that their partner’s parents or siblings were players in the drama. Regardless, if a person has a history of associating with drama makers, it is likely that they too, are somehow attracted to drama. They may even falsely perceive drama when it does not actually exist thereby manufacturing it on their own. In this case they may be proficient at “making a mountain out of a mole hill.” Many have been raised in chaotic homes and replicate it in real time. Imagine how confusing it would be for a suitor to read “no drama” on someone’s dating profile only to find that the person who claims to hate it is an expert at attracting or creating drama and chaos.
2.“I’m only interested in a serious, long-term relationship leading to marriage. No players need apply” – This one is okay…if it’s true. But beware the person who simultaneously writes on their profile that they prefer: divorced, married, or never married mates. Wait! What? What’s wrong with this picture? If you’re only interested in a serious long-term relationship leading to marriage, why solicit the “never married?” I get it if you’re in your 20’s or 30’s, but after that it starts to look like a projection: “I don’t want a player, but I would not rule out someone over 40 who’s never been married.” Hmmm. Are you sure you’re really looking for marriage? Of course there are exceptions such as an interfering illness that might prohibit someone from marrying. And the number of marriages in the U.S. has declined over the years. Still, according to recent research, approximately 72% of the people in the U.S. marry at least once in their lifetime.
3.“You must be a good communicator” – Okay, I can see this one also. Some people can’t seem to tell you what’s on their minds. But I have found that most of the couples I have treated are not too bad at communicating; they just don’t like what’s being communicated. When someone emphasizes the need for a good communicator in their profile they no doubt have had a negative experience with at least one poor communicator. But it’s also possible that the complainer might not be such a good listener. Her/she may also be prone to power and control struggles that make successful communication difficult, if not impossible.
4.“You must be an honest person” – This one is particularly scary if a projection is at play. Too often the person who writes it is highly sensitive if not overly suspicious about anything that can’t be readily explained and supported with evidence. Most times a logical explanation won’t suffice. Many of these individuals have been lied to or cheated on. But most have also played an enabling role in a trust/distrust dynamic and have proven themselves to be untrustworthy.
Again, I realize that not all people who make some of the aforementioned statements are projecting. Some have had bad luck, or an isolated negative experience: shit happens. But it’s good practice for potential Internet suitors to be on the alert for projectors, particularly if an individual appears emphatic. Remember Shakespeare’s Hamlet: “Methinks thou dost protest too much.” Well, projectors have a tendency to do to you, whatever they think you’ll do to them. A colleague of mine—a psychiatrist/psychoanalyst—once told me that he believes projectors to be somewhat paranoid. Something else to keep in mind. Oh, and if you think that making destructive projectors own their own projections will help—think again—they’re usually too in denial to claim them. This usually merits professional help to accomplish, preferably from a clinician trained in object relations couple’s therapy. What “you” need to focus on is recognizing the projection, and not introjecting or taking it in.