Monday, September 26, 2011

Dynamics of the marital relationship

Someone asked me about how the relationship with their father early in life might have effected the relationship with males she has as an adult woman. She reports some difficulty in getting a relationship that seems to work.

In normal circumstances the relationship with parents provides us with the templates for subsequent relationships such as with a partner later in life. For instance if a girl has a close and loving relationship with father that sets the template for similar kinds of relationships in subsequent relationships with males.

However it is not that simple. There are other factors which will influence the final relationship outcome such as with a partner. For example the young girl watches how mother and father get on. She will unconsciously and automatically model that behaviour, but she may at the same time decide never to be mistreated by a man like mother was.

Girl pointing

In such circumstances one may get two types of relationships for the woman as an adult. One where she is mistreated by the man who happens to be her partner, but she may have also have had a series of relationships where she mistreated the men in her life as a demonstration to herself of never being like mother in a relationship.

One of the key features in the selection of a marital partner is what is known as the early demand.

What was the thing I always wanted from father (mother) and never got?

It is usually something like time, affection, love, encouragement and so forth. The woman then sets about finding a man who will continue to not meet that need in her, like father never did. This may seem a little odd but it is just the way it is.

steptoe and son

It is usually in our most intimate relationships where we tend to try and resolve our Free Child needs. Of course a marital partner can often be that. We often try and use our partner to finally resolve the issues we never resolved in childhood.

This can lead to circumstances where a much younger woman marries a much older man. When there is a big age difference it is likely that such a thing is happening and the woman is psychologically using the man for such reasons. The success of such a thing varies from situation to situation.

However these circumstances are much more frequent than many realise. Whilst in many relationships there may not be a big difference chronologically there can be psychologically. Thus in real terms the same psychological mechanisms are at work even though the chronological ages may be much closer.

face stripes

In some, nay most relationships, the psychological status or strength is not the same. There tends to be one more psychologically stronger partner than the other. This indeed can change over time as well. In some relationships the psychological dominance varies considerably and thus one has the same circumstances as the much older male and much younger female. The same psychological mechanisms are at work.

The less dominant one tends to see the other as a dominant psychological parent and sets about trying to solve all the stuff that was never solved first time around with varying success.



  1. Interesting post. I married a man who is the complete opposite to my father (calm, gentle, considerate, patient). He is also ten years older than myself. It was no mistake I made that choice.

  2. Good for you Linda, it sounds like you made a good life script decision. I have been meaning to write a post on your comment. How sometimes the choice of a partner can lead to spontaneous remission as they call it in the profession. It is therapeutic.