Love Relationships: the Unconscious Agenda

By Steve B. Reed, L.P.C., L.M.F.T.

What we unconsciously seek in love relationships

What is it about the people to whom we are most attracted that gives them the greatest potential to satisfy our deepest longings, while at the same time, the greatest likelihood to frustrate us?  This is because of an unconscious image of the opposite sex which we carry deep within our mind.  This image began to develop in infancy, and became fairly complete in later childhood.  That image, that mental picture, that map programmed in our unconscious mind affects both the type of person we select as a primary love partner in adult life and how we relate to them.  That image is actually a synthesis of the positive and negative traits of our primary caregivers, relating to how well our early needs were met. 

As children, we did our best to get our caregivers to meet our needs.  In most cases, our caregivers did the best they knew how to meet our needs.  However, no matter how adequate our caregivers were, they could not and did not meet all our needs all the time, and that left us frustrated some of the time.  Each frustration, each pain, left an imprint.  Each imprint became part of a picture in that deep part of our unconscious mind.  So the picture or image of the opposite sex which we formed was a combination of our caregivers’ positive and negative characteristics. 

When we choose a partner for a romantic relationship, we pick someone who matches the image in our unconscious.  For practical purposes, our current partner is a psychological replacement of our childhood caregivers.  The unfinished business, the unmet needs and emotional wounds with the early caregivers became a compelling agenda with our adult partner.  The early childhood pain and frustration is unconsciously recreated with an adult partner possessing the same or similar negative traits as our early caregivers.  The purpose of this unconscious recreation is expressly to bring the impasse to a resolution, to work through and heal the early pain.

Unfortunately, the absence of the knowledge and skills necessary to do this causes an increase in pain and frustration rather than its resolution.  Thus new information, awareness, and new decisions are necessary as a springboard to develop new skills and strategies for transforming our relationships into more realistic love.  Without these skills, people often go through a cycle of finding a new partner, enjoying the excitement, attraction, attachment, hope, illusion and ecstasy of this romantic love phase, only to hit the wall of disappointment and leave their partner to start over again and again. This cycle often continues to be repeated until help is sought.

The hopeful part of this whole process is that with the right awareness and skills, the individuals that we are unconsciously attracted to can be instrumental in helping to heal our old wounds.  And for those who begin the healing process alone, comfort can be found in the fact that as we heal our early emotional wounds and resolve our old issues, the type of person we need in our life, the type we are attracted to, improves along with us.

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