Love Lingers Here: Intimate Enduring Relationships. X. Forming a Relationship
During the summer of 2002, Jane was a second season mountain climbing guide and one of only two women guides among a bunch of male guides. At 28 years of age, with solid skills, Jane was the “queen” of the mountaineering company and the focus of much attention. She was engaged to a fellow back home, but spent the summer “looking around” to see what other kind of men might be out there: “if I hadn’t met Steve, I would probably have married the guy I was engaged to.” Steve was also on a break from school and was spending the summer in the mountains. He met Jane while working part time as a guide. Both Jane and Steve describe a period of intense attraction that summer. As it turns out, however, the underlying theme of their attraction differed in kind and durability.
Jane’s feelings of intensive love for Steve were wrapped up in her exploration of a new world and her exposure to values that were quite different from those of her protective Catholic school upbringing. As in the case of Cinderella, her love represented the beginning of a profound reorganization and redefinition of basic beliefs—a “coming out” or expansion into a new world. Part of Jane’s later understanding of her attraction to Steve was consonant with Susan Campbell’s idea that “such feelings can give us a real sense of our possibilities, of how it might be if we really actualized our highest potential for loving.”
In this light, Steve offered a distinct contrast to the fiancé from whom Jane would soon break off. For Jane, narcissism was displayed in her love for the new image of herself as an adventurous, desirable and unique woman. As the old cliché goes: there is nothing more desirable than another person who finds you to be absolutely entrancing. Like Cinderella, Jane looked at a reflection of herself and saw herself in a new role and with a new image; furthermore, beside her in the reflection was a man who admired this new person she had become, and she loved this state of being!
For Steve, part of the attraction was his image of Jane in her special role as “queen” of the mountaineering company. Like Prince Charming, he gloried in the fact that the most desirable woman at the Ball (or climbing on the mountain) was attracted to him. He had become the sole object of her love. This is the eternal theme of becoming attracted to and being with women he imagined others desired. It is a common theme among many men (straight and gay) of all ages. It was a way of making himself more desirable and of covering his own insecurities. Steve’s narcissism thus shows up in his love for his own successful wooing of a desirable woman. He looked at the reflection and saw himself glowing even more brightly in the presence of a beautiful woman!