Mercenary Love – Repeating the Same Relationship Over and Over

I hear the questions often… “Why do all men cheat? Why are all women selfish? Why are all men immature?”

These sort of questions will lead one to try to answer an unanswerable question. The question is unanswerable because the question is biased. It leads you down a line of thinking which masks the true problem. It assumes that all men or women are cheaters, or selfish, or whatever. The truth is that only some are. It would be more accurate to ask “Why do I only notice cheaters and only let cheaters into my life?”

A mercenary is different from a soldier in that a mercenary fights for money whereas a soldier fights for love of country. While both get paid, the primary motivation is different.

Love can be mercenary as well. Mercenary love’s primary purpose is to fulfill a need other than the desire for emotional intimacy with that person. One common complaint of attractive women is that men seek them out only because of their appearance. Men seek sex, but don’t want to know them. Confusing sexual attraction for love is a type of mercenary love. The person who seeks a relationship based on sexual attraction makes the rest of the relationship work because it satisfies their sexual needs.

Some people marry because they have children and want to “do the right thing” or because they need a father or mother for their child. This is also mercenary love. Some enter into relationships for financial security. There a number of reasons that people are attracted to others… and often the true attraction is not actually love, but based on another need. This does not need to be purposely deceitful. Often people do not realize they are seeking out relationships based on mercenary need. Often they fool themselves into believing they love their partner… when the truth is that they need what their partner has to offer. These are very different motivations. Good people can enter into mercenary love without realizing they do it. Sometimes mercenary love works out. More often it does not.

Movie stars often date other movies stars. While it may seem that this is because they happen to be around other actors, that is probably less true that it initially seems. Think about how many support personnel and non-actors they run into. Marketing people, sales people, administrators, agents, hotel staff, restaurant workers, and a lot of other types of people are probably encountered quite a bit by movie stars.   I believe movies stars date movie stars because they know that their prospective partner doesn’t need their fame and doesn’t need their money. An actress like Jennifer Aniston would be wise to wonder if a person showing interest in her is interested in her money, reputation, appearance, or the movie star lifestyle. It must be difficult for her to determine if a potential husband wants her for her… or because she is “Jennifer Aniston”.

Beyond these obvious sorts of mercenary needs are psychological needs. Often we have the desire to “fix” our relationships with our primary attachment figures… our parents. Take, for example, a girl who is physically abused by her father. At their core, children want the affection of their parents… even abusive ones. A child will try all sorts of ways to get love… or to turn the abuser into a truly affectionate protector. The desire is to be lovable. To find a way to change rejection into acceptance. And this unconscious desire can follow us into adulthood.

In later relationships, this same girl (now a woman) might unconsciously seek out abusive men in order to find a way to change them into loving men. In that way they can scratch that itch they have to be special… to validate themselves… to become lovable. If the woman simply wanted to be loved then she would seek out loving men. But instead she seeks out abusive men who she then tries to turn into loving men. Caring men might be seen as boring or weak… not real men. Of course, most of us define what a man is by our fathers, and what a woman is by our mothers.

The problem is that people rarely change… even they themselves are motivated to change. Trying to change another person without their cooperation is a hopeless proposition. But even if the woman miraculously manages to change her abusive boyfriend into a genuinely loving guy, she would not be happy for long. The mercenary need is to change the abuser into a caring man… not to have a caring man. It is the process of change which is sought out, not the end result.

If you find yourself involving yourself in the same type of negative relationship over and over, please consider seeking out a qualified therapist to explore the possibility that you are unconsciously trying to resolve childhood issues. It’s hard work, but it is achievable. Finding true love within mercenary love is likely not.