Single File - April 2024

The Savior Complex: Love is Not Social Work


"Single File" - April 2024 Issue
by Susan Deitz

Love is not social work. Yes, I've said it before, but given more space, let's really dig into the concept. All of us have at some point met someone who shakes our universe but comes with a lot of baggage. To be kind, let's call them issues. We brush aside friends' warnings—and our own viscera—to help this deserving person who seems mired in problems but kisses the way we like it. If we can just get through the muck surrounding him/her, we tell ourselves, we'll be home free with a terrific partner. In fact, we may even have found our soul mate!

Before going any further, let it be said that this scenario isn't the exclusive property of either gender. It can (and does) happen to both sexes. Yet it does seem that men—the youngish ones, usually in their idealistic 20s—are likelier to succumb to the challenge. They are at their testosterone prime, coming into manhood, feeling invincible, able to take on any challenge. (And this particular challenge happens to have such a luscious reward!) So, reassuring themselves that they are more than qualified for whatever it takes, they become therapist/counselor of their beloved, with scant knowledge of what's required and very little protection for their tender hearts. Not a pretty picture.

Women do their share of saving souls, too. I've certainly had mine. And at times, I'm still tempted to stride into the lion's den, sword held high and streams of righteousness pulsating in my veins. But now it's a different calling, more muted and tempered by more than one or two bad endings. I realize that most people don't want to see their problems up close and personal. They truly don't want to be on intimate terms with their psyche—and they deeply resent the person who makes them look at their shadow side. That's the lesson learned by yours truly. Whenever I've played therapist, it's come back to haunt me with recriminations and bad feelings that ended any semblance of relationship. (If you ever need to exit a relationship, play analyst. You won't need to worry about the next birthday present.)

It's a hard lesson to learn. We come flying into the situation, ready to do our part—usually before we're asked and certainly before we know what we're doing. What we're not seeing at that stage is the problem's complexity. All we see is a thin, seemingly transparent layer of who-knows-what separating the two of us. So we stumble into the thickets.

The ending? It's all gone—the friendship, the trust, the romance. No one wants a partner to be a therapist. Our therapists know too much about us. Rationality wins over the heart's longings; you've decimated feelings that took so much nurturing. Whether new or old, a relationship is altered the moment analysis enters it. Your beloved's inner workings are off-limits, however much you want to help. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Have a question for Susan? You can reach her directly at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. We've uncovered another treasure trove of "Single File" paperbacks—in perfect condition, signed by Susan, ready to enjoy. Send $15 and your address: Susan Deitz, C/O Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.

Catapulted into single life as a young widow and single parent, Susan Deitz’s unusually deep understanding of her new world was about to be born, a course in undependence (her term for the wholeness needed for a full life) unlike any she had known at Smith College. Totally unprepared for life without a mate, her nights were battles with fear and the dreaded what-ifs. But when those tigers retreated, each new dawn found a more confident woman. On her own, living out her singleness, she was using her own judgment to make decisions for her little family—minor perhaps in the wider world but crucial for her small family. And they proved to be good ones. From those years of life lessons learned the hard way came a lifework and the world of Single File. Have a question for Susan? You can reach her directly at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. © 2023 CREATORS

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