Relationships and Ambivalence (Part 2)
In my first article I illustrated the excitement of a new relationship, and how its development is hindered or harvested by the role of our childhood primary care givers. In this second article I will further address the subject of ambivalence.
Previously I spoke of the almost childlike joy of the honeymoon period, where a couple nurture each other as a Mother nurtures her offspring. But it is her attending to her offspring - and her partner - that enables a male child to feel the centre of her world; he was totally dependent on her, and then suddenly he is not. He has to compete for attention with his Father and his siblings. As a result, he becomes ambivalent towards her (the concept is based on the Oedipal Myth, which will not be discussed here). This ambivalence is replicated in a new relationship. For the male, the honeymoon ends because his 'Mother' (his partner) fails in just the same way that the first one did, but it has awakened his need for dependency. His dependency conflict is again resolved by turning his back on his partner. Gone is the 'childhood' phase of their relationship, and he returns to more manly things, leaving his partner bewildered, especially if he decided he wants to end the relationship.
Coping with ambivalence in a relationship is rather tricky, as it is not dealt with in childhood (unless there are obvious psychological problems). These areas need to be confronted before a couple decide to move forward into a committed relationship. If not, these issues will continue to re-occur and ignite, especially when a couple decide to have children.
Looking at our parents relationship, we can see that it is a complex area; for example, where a man's parent's relationship breaks down, and his Mother begins to depend on him, she may need his support and closeness in ways that hover on the edge of being simply more than maternal. D.H. Lawrence's 'Sons and Lovers' comes to mind. The central character, Paul Morel, feels torn between Miriam (a local girl who loves him) and his Mother, but he resents Miriam because he knows how her presence in his life makes his Mother feel. In one chapter, Miriam feels hurt when Paul tells her that he will not meet her before a party at his house, as he tells her; 'you know it's only friendship'.
On another occasion, Paul's Mother makes him feel guilty for spending time with Miriam, stating that she is ill. His parents have yet another of their volatile arguments, at which point Mrs Morel faints. Paul takes care of her, and realises also that his love for her is greater than that for Miriam.
Paul is Mrs Morel's favourite son; their relationship is shaded with incestuous overtones, and is the controlling force in his life. Paul abandons Miriam because he loves his Mother best; "She was the Chief thing to him, the only supreme being.'
It is easy to see in a non-fictional sense how maternal love and ambivalence makes it problematic for women and men to have healthy, rewarding monogamous love relationships. There are those who fail to address potential deep-seated problems, finding relationships too painful; engaging in continuous, brief non-committal affairs, no strings attached, casual sex relationships. Which is fine if both parties are mutually gratified, but difficulties arise when one lover sees the other as a potential partner, and is left bereft when the liaison unexpectedly ends.
Perhaps in the long run pre-nuptial counselling is more vital than first realised, but individual therapy is just as valuable to identify your attitudes to all your relationships - parents, siblings, lovers both past and present - in order to move forward regardless of whether you are married, divorced or single.
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