The following is a direct transcription of a segment from Dr. Kenner's radio show. It has not yet been edited for the printed page.
My ex-girlfriend wants to get back together again. The problem is, she's a flake. She's indecisive and she's influenced by other people. She's 24 years old and she's not assuming adult responsibilities. She hangs out with some people who are bad news. I know I can't control who she hangs out with but I am drawn to her because we have recently been getting along well. There is no way we can get back together unless she figures herself out. She is trying to lead an obligation-free life without direction or purpose. Should I try to help her or not? How would I help her? Should I recommend she get professional help?
My question for you is, why do you want to stay with her? Imagine reading a personal ad that said:
"I'm a flaky woman who you already decided is no good for you. I choose to hang out with lowlife. I'm a freeloader. I want life handed to me on a platter. I have no chosen goals, no purpose or direction in life, and I have no good character traits. Call me for a good time."
Brad, the question is not, how can you help her. The question is why would you want to invest your time, your energy, and your effort in her? Remember, your time is a value to you. You could be looking for another woman. You could be enjoying a hobby or going out with friends. Why would you want to become her psychologist? What's in it for you?
I like your own suggestion that she get professional help. You can pass that along and she may blow you off if she is a flake and indecisive. She may say `yeah, that sounds good' or she may say `I don't need any help'. The main questions you want to ask are questions which will help you understand yourself. What is your attraction to her? Why are you drawn to her? You say it as if you are passive, as if someone has a magnet and she's drawing you to her. What is it about her that can trap you in this bad relationship a second time?
Is it that she has the perfect body, your ideal body and she's very sexy in bed, or perhaps she's a good listener? Maybe she's not even thinking, she just sits there nodding her head like one of those dog puppets in the back window of a car.
Ask yourself what specifically are you attracted to in this woman that would get you so enmeshed in a relationship that you already know is no good for you.
When you're judging a potential partner, you want to go for the essentials, not for the surface level. She may provide you with something that your mother never provided you with. She cooks delicious chicken soup. But that's not good enough for a full time relationship. If she's indecisive and her only good quality in life is her soup, that's not good enough.
In judging a potential partner, observe them. Do they think for themselves? Do they make their own independent decisions? Are they passionate about something, like tennis or piano playing or getting together with friends? Do they show some passion in life or are they one of these people who say `What ever you want. I don't care. It doesn't matter to me.' Those people are a real drain to live with.
Does she seem to have any focused direction in life? You can cut her some slack. I didn't know where I was going at the age of 24, but does she have some ballpark areas that she's starting to look into? Does she have career directions for herself or is she just looking for a guy to take care of her?
What you don't want to give her is more than she's earned. You don't want to give her or yourself the unearned, either in a sexual relationship when you don't truly admire her, or telling her she's better than she actually is. You don't have to be rude to her but I would part ways. Take this seriously because you are on the verge of making a lifetime decision. Who do I want as a partner in my life? The choosing process is something that you can do carefully and skillfully or by the seat of your pants.