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There’s nothing more exciting than trying to seduce these partners into loving us fully. We always feel we’re one step away from “getting it right.” Because these relationships are highly charged and gnawingly addictive, I call them “attractions of deprivation.” At a certain point — and this is one of the great gifts of getting older — many of us decide we don’t want to be hurt like that again. We don’t want the pain of past relationships, but we don’t know if there’s anything else out there for us.

This phase can be discouraging, but it’s an almost universal stop on the journey to healthy love.

It’s a painful pattern, but it’s hugely compelling.

Behavioral theory, for example, teaches that intermittent reward is the most compelling system of reinforcement, and the hardest to break free from. I spent many years believing that attractions of deprivation were real love, because they drew me so intensely.

But it’s a Catch-22: These false personas lack the vigor, soul and magnetism of our real self, so we are less able to attract the very people who would accept and value us for who we are.