Sometimes, when someone you love hurts you so deeply that it nearly destroys you, it's difficult to talk about it. You feel isolated and humiliated. Fortunately that is not the case with psychoanalyst Dr. Jeanne Safer. At least, it’s not the case anymore.
In her sixth book, “The Golden Condom,” (out today) Safer investigates the sides of love we don’t often talk about through her own deeply personal experiences, as well as some of her patients' stories.
Reliving a painful past
It wasn’t a lover who sparked the idea for “The Golden Condom,” but being abandoned by a friend. “It felt just like a rejection from a passionate love affair from my youth,” Safer tells us.
The experience led her to reread her diary from 1967, when she was 19 and in love with someone who didn't feel the same — and treated her terribly. “Rereading my diary was excruciating, but I wanted to show people how I got there, what it was like, and how I got past it,” she says.
The other stories in “The Golden Condom” are similarly intense. There’s a woman who comes completely undone after her husband leaves her, and even one about a man incapable of love at all. But each story also brings a sort-of hope, serving as a comfort.
Safer’s epiphany that friendship can stir the same kind of love as a romance led her to seek out other relationships we often don’t recognize can have the same emotional significance, such as mentor-protégée and love after a partner dies. “Love is so profound and it’s so interwoven into our lives in ways we don’t even realize,” Safer says.
Not all of the stories are about a love gone bad. One essay about a widow’s love for her late husband is downright moving. But the essays about a spoiled love — be it a friendship, romantic partner or some other form — are perhaps the most impassioned.
The hardest part
So often we hold on to a relationship longer than we should. “It’s because we’re so desperate to be loved,” Safer says. She tells us letting go is the hardest part of healing, but it’s crucial to moving on.
“[Acknowledging] that someone doesn’t love you, and you can’t make them, is when real insight begins,” she says. “It’s devastating, and you have to let yourself grieve that. But it’s the key to liberation and freeing yourself to love someone who loves you back.”
If you go:
NYC psychoanalyst Dr. Jeanne Safer is ready to answer all your love questions
April 25, 7:30 p.m.
The Lounge at The Coffee Shop
29 Union Sq. W., 212-243-7969
Follow Emily on Twitter: @EmLaurence