After a fight with her authoritative father, an 18-year-old freckle-faced, redheaded girl is kicked out of her parents' Southern California home. While crying on Venice Beach, she meets a man who asks, "What's the problem?" She hesitates. She knows not to talk to strangers, but she's also intrigued. After just one small conversation, she feels like he knows her thoughts. That he understands what she's going through. That he's on her side. He tells her he's on his way up north to the woods and that she could go with him. She decides to go and live with him; she doesn't know why and doesn't really care.
A 30-something single, successful woman—passionate about her career and active social life—meets the man of her dreams. He loves spending every minute he can with her. At least that's what she told her friend at the lunch before she dropped off the face of the earth six months ago. Now, all her time is spent making dinners for her boyfriend, watching his stepdaughter on the weekend while he's playing football with his friends, and not replying to any of her mom's phone calls, her friends' e-mails or her colleagues' Facebook status updates.
Do these women sound like anyone you know? Or perhaps, you are the repeat love offender—falling hard and fast for a man—instead of gradually allowing a relationship into your life. If you feel like you've lost touch with the woman-you-once-were in your relationship-that-now-is, then you may be familiar with Disappearing Woman Syndrome. Beverly Engel, psychoanalyst and author of Loving Him Without Losing Yourself, describes it as "losing track of what you believe in, what you stand for, what's important to you and what makes you happy."