The line “cause there ain’t no one to give you no pain,” from the song, A Horse With No Name certainly captures the relationship I had with a man who possessed cainistic traits. He would disappear for days, weeks, sometimes months after we enjoyed good times, returning only after the warm, positive embers died down.
Deep affection terrified him, and he eclipsed his fear with physical unavailability. If I expressed my own needs and feelings, he tossed out the title of a popular song by Mac Davis, Baby, Baby Don’t Get Hooked On Me. My relationship with this cainist was the yin and the yang of interpersonal closeness and emotional distance. It was the up and down bouncy movement of horseback riding from start to finish.
When he returned later, it was on his terms only. Whenever I confronted him about these long absences, he grew upset–“I don’t want to be tied down,” he would spat. He always had a disclaimer—“Maybe some day but not now”—which reserved my hope. He used threats of abandonment to have his relationship or no relationship.
People who engage healthy relationships would have walked out of that relationship quicker than corn can pop, but I capitulated which is typical of the Cain and Enabler Complex. Conditioned to become invisible and selfless, the Enabler ignores her own needs and feelings to prevent criticism, rejection, confrontation and abandonment from a cainist who is in it for himself.
For instance, I was taught in childhood that my invisibility during Cain’s presence might buy me attention and some conditional love after he was gone; I was repeating that dysfunction in my adult relationships to reduce Cain’s negative reaction and to keep my man. I lived on hope.
Enablers don’t make waves. They sacrifice their boundaries and apologize for being too much trouble or for creating an atmosphere of negativity when Cain is displeased. They become selfless and re-frame it into a virtue. They choose a lonely, empty life of self-sacrifice and wistful thinking in exchange for a hopeful five minutes of love.