Are YOU in a Jackpot Relationship?

Yes, of course it is nice to win the jackpot. Yet, a Jackpot Relationship might be both draining and abusive!

People in such a relationship might hope that the relationship will magically change for the better even as the same patterns are repeated over and over. It is very much like the gambler who keeps putting money in the slot machine. Every time he or she is ready to quit – there is a small pay out that is just enough that the gambler keeps investing time, energy and cash.

We all have various degrees of rose-colored glasses attached to our faces when we fall in love. We see the person as we would like him or her to be. We see what we interpret as the potential (or as a former disillusioned client of mine called it: “the P-word”) in our new partner, and we see them as we think they are – or as we hope they could be. In addition we project our own expectations on them.

We then continue in the next phase of the relationship. We realize that our beloved is seeing things in us that are not really who we are. However, we play along. We know that by continuing the masquerade, we continue the feel-good hormones that flood our bloodstream when our new love looks at us admiringly.

Later, we take off the rose-colored glasses and stop playing along. The “Honeymoon is over” phase of the relationship. Here the naked truth is revealed. You no longer play along, flaws become mutually obvious.


Some relationships have what it takes to navigate the waters and transform into lasting and mutually beneficial unions. The partners learn to accept each other for who they are, give each other space to grow and mature. When they help each other it is not through self-sacrifice – but instead with a genuine and sincere desire to allow the other person the space to grow, develop and mature as they in turn take responsibility for their own growth, development and maturity. Supported not smothered. With mutual respect and love.

This is not a jackpot relationship. It is however a great recipe for a successful and lasting relationship.

So what is a Jackpot Relationship?

It is the kind where the masquerade from the initial rose-colored glasses phase keep going intermittently. Psychologists call it “Intermittent Reinforcement”. It is a type of relationship where one person has hurts, disappointments, loss or abandonment issues that have not been properly addressed and incorporated. As a result this person constantly plays out the hurts from the past in the changing cast of characters in his or her current life. Even though the original cast, where the real problems happened, are long gone. It is an instant replay of old hurts that recycles again and again.

As this kind of relationship develops the person, who finds him or herself being included in this kind of psycho drama, gets to the point where he or she realizes that they have had enough. They have invested their time, energy and love into this person and received anger bursts, cold shoulders, indifference and possibly worse back with increasing frequency. They want out. They are constantly paying the emotional bills of those who are seen by their partner as having caused their disappointments and hurts.

Now the person with Intermittent Reinforcement behavior has a sixth sense that their partner is about to pull back. And they then do a complete switch. They beg forgiveness, they cry, they plead, they serve food, sex, money, gifts or other commodities of the relationship. They promise they will change. Just like the slot machine pays out a small reward, when the gambler is about to quit. They bring back the hope that the rose-colored glasses can stay on forever!

And there might be a few good days following. The feel-good chemicals of the relationship are back in high doses. Both believe that from now on everything will be fine.

And then gradually or suddenly the old behaviors of the unresolved issues rear their ugly heads again – and the psychodrama starts its cycle anew.

Just like the gambler keeps hoping for a jackpot, so do the people caught in the cycles of Intermittent Reinforcement. The pay out of happy relationship feel-good hormones is just enough that they, like the gambler, keep pulling the lever again and again investing money, time, energy and love in the hope that one day the relationship jackpot will happen; there will be no more old psycho dramas to recycle, the issues will finally have resolved themselves. The promises of change and the words of admissions will finally work – and all will be well. And  without inner work, and awareness of the issues, this is just as likely as the big million dollar jackpot at the 5 cent machines in Las Vegas!

If you recognize this kind of behavioral pattern in your relationship, seeking help with a therapist or coach can help to end the seeming endless cycle. There are many ways of changing the behavior and depending on the type of issues at the root of the recurring dramas, ways of gaining awareness and taking control.

Winning the jackpot is a nice idea. However, the real winning relationship comes when we stop the charades and stop hoping it will “just happen”. For us to be in successful and lasting relationships we need to be able to step into our power and allow our partner to do the same. And there might be a few casts of previous characters to deal with before we can successfully do so. The main thing is to know that it is possible – and there is help to be had!


Beepers, Bleep’ers and Blinkers

So we are in Paris a few summers ago and about to leave our quaint hotel in Montmartre to drive down to the French Riviera. I have rented a car and need to pull over in the tiny side street where there is no room to park – no room to pull over so we can load our luggage into the trunk. I call Walter, my darling husband, and tell him to bring our three boys, the luggage and himself down into the lobby – and I will just pull over and we can throw the luggage in and go. He states that he has scoped out a place for me to pull over though – and this will allow us more time to organize the trunk… Fine…

      I drive up the little one-way street – and husband is standing there directing me into this space between two metal poles and a giant dumpster. I am not exactly the queen of parallel parking… so I attempt it by going “head first” into the space. And the result is that the back of the car sticks out, blocking the road and the traffic behind me. Hubby runs to my rescue. We already have a line of cars behind me… And not only are they behind me – they are ALL the way up behind me. Hubby jumps in – I have turned on the emergency blinkers and he tells me he will handle it. Well, he finds a French stick shift Renault (that had seen better days) – and nothing is intuitive or where you’d expect with regards to the controls. Especially not where reverse might be on this stick. He yells to me: “How do I get this piece of sh.. into reverse?” I explain it the best I know how – and lo and behold – he manages to get it into reverse. Ready to back up- but… he finds he is completely blocked in by the cars that are now beeping – incessantly – deafening behind him… He cannot back up – he is stuck…. At this point the kids and I disappear into the lobby of the hotel – petrified…. Peeking out behind the lace curtains I overhear the father of my children as he is getting out of the car gesticulating wildly: “I GOTTA BACK UP” (New Jersey accent always finds a happy return to Walter’s language, when he is under stress – as does the wild gestures…). The drivers in the cars behind him are revving their engines and beeping even louder. I seem to become instantly psychic as I think I hear the inner dialogue in the French cars:”américains stupides…” However, it seems lost on them that my husband cannot move out of their way as long as they keep fencing him in. His Jersey logic about needing to back up…  was lost on the Parisians…. I guess in Paris you have gear that allows levitation? So they beep ever louder… At this point the kids and I are practically hiding – trying to stay completely invisible, as the clerk behind the desk is starting to find the scene outside entertaining and is curiously watching….
     Walter finally snaps… he leaves our car completely and runs up to the first car that has planted its headlights right at the beatup back bumper of of our pale yellow rental Renault…. he walks to the driver’s side of the first car, and screams at the heavyhanded beeping driver with sweeping hand gestures letting it be known that this is meant for all in the line who are beeping: “Well, F… YOU!!!” The kids and I in the lobby look at each other, and in one terrifying moment we see the headlines from the next morning’s paper flashing before our eyes: “American loud-mouth lynched in Paris!” And then our oldest son starts laughing uncontrolably…. Our youngest chimes in – and soon all four of us are laughing out of control… The absurdity of the situation combined with the absolute fear of death – laughter seems to be the only way to deal….
     And much to our surprise – suddenly the beeping in the street outside stops – the cars collectively back up just enough to allow Walter to get out and the lynching is averted! Walter is last seen turning the corner with the “tail” of Parisian cars at a respectful distance behind him. And then there is silence…. The kids and I have tears coming down our cheeks from laughter – but after 10 minutes have passed – we start to worry. Where is our beat up pale yellow Renault, with the steaming New Jerseyite in it? Where is the love of my life…?? He was supposed to just circle around the little system of one-way streets and end up coming back to our hotel… At this point new headlines start to appear in my consciousness: “Lonely and Lost American Crashes into the Eiffel Tower”.
     After about 15 minutes we see him turn the corner of our little street and come up towards us. The emergency blinkers are still going – and he also accidentally has turned on the windshield wipers in his fogged up state – and unable to know what he had done – they are going at warp speed. Or maybe it is his attempt at levitating the car?
     Anyway, as he pulls up – we throw our suitcases in, the kids jump in and away we go with me reading simultaneously from maps of Paris as well as the manual of the car to figure out how to turn all of this blinking and wiping off – it is a clear, sunny day after all…

     In all of its chaotic frenzy – it is one of our favorite memories as a family. We still laugh heartily when we think of it. And it is a standing joke among us when we have to back up out of parking spaces – “I GOTTA BACK UP”  

     I guess in vacations as in life you plan and try to make everything go smooth. And then something completely unexpected happens that throws all plans away and scares you! And sometimes this very unexpected and terrifying event becomes the best memory of all, as you handled it, managed to survive and find your way through the one-way road system –  beepers, bleep’ers, blinkers, wipers  and all!