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Resolve childhood issues first

By Bailey Molineux - 02/28/2006

Although I have seen it many times, it is a phenomenon that still amazes me. I am referring to a situation in which a spouse, usually the woman, will describe a horrible marriage in which her husband is inattentive, abusive, angry or alcoholic. In effect, the wife's emotional needs are not met by her husband.

When I ask why she still stays married to him, why she would want to be married to someone who treats her as poorly as he does, she often replies, "Because I love him."

I used to react with shock. Now I think I understand what is going on.

When these woman tell me that they still love their spouses even though their husbands are mean, cruel, or unable to meet their emotional needs, I have come to believe that what they feel is love for their spouse. However, their love is not healthy.

I make a distinction between healthy love and unhealthy love. In healthy love, most, but not all, of one's needs are met by one's spouse. In unhealthy love by contrast, very few of one's needs are met by one's spouse. In fact the spouse may be abusive, angry or detrimental to her self-esteem.

I have also come to believe that unhealthy love feels stronger than healthy because it taps into unconscious, childhood issues that have never been resolved in therapy. This is based on Freud's theory of the repetition compulsion. We are compelled to repeat in adult life those unresolved issues from childhood.

A man raised by an angry mother will marry an angry woman, for example, or one who is very passive and unassertive. A woman raised by an unloving father will marry a cold, distant man.

The deep seated, unconscious nature of this type of love taps into our first love for a parent and so feels stronger than a more realistic love in the present.

What this implies is that if you have unresolved pain from childhood you should first heal it, usually in psychotherapy, before you marry and have kids. If you don't, chances are you will make a mistake whom to marry. And your children will carry your issues you don't heal.

So the next time you feel like you are head-over-heels in love with someone, and you have unresolved issues from your childhood with one or both of your parents, beware of your relationship with your beloved. I know you feel that you are in love: In a sense you are but it is the type of love that could lead to a divorce five or 10 years later.

J. Bailey Molineux is a psychologist with Adult and Child Counseling*

*edited to remove personal phone number, if anyone would like the contact imformation please send DysfunctionJunction a PM* Thanks Erika

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Heya DysfunctionJunction,

Interesting, thanks.

I've been learning that we each need to meet our own needs, and *then* attach to another person.

What do you think of David Burns?

"Love is not an adult human need."

I read that in his Feeling Good book yesterday.


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Talks about being a love junkie.

Love is a want, not a need.

My Big Book of Anger says the same thing.

Apparently love is a drug we depend on.

Sure, it can be bad in many cases, hey, we'll all agree to that.

But come on, morphine is needed for some people, and I would *think* love is needed by some people.

But hey, I'm just a simple country doctor.

Not a bestselling author.




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David Burns: not a fan.

Personally, I think the love thing is non-sensical and counter intuitive (although Burns, I'm sure, does not believe in intuition and has some really sensible explanation/justification for that statement; I wouldn't know because two days after I bought that book I threw it off my loft bed). Human beings need love to thrive, duh. I'm all for reason and scientific endeavor, but there are lots of good reasons why psychotherapy is not (and should not be) a science.

Sorry if I'm overly venomous, but I'm on an "EVTs as GOD" hating trip right now.

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