What is intense lust? What if, far from an innocent, natural reaction to someone you connect with and find attractive, it is a subconscious urge to possess something you need? And what if what you long to possess is the incomplete imprint of parental failings; what if your body is seeking correction in the perfect lover? Bet that hasn’t come up for you in traditional relationship counselling. Or maybe it has. I wrote a bit about the parental influence before in the context of core wounding.
This is no Freudian stereotype.
Perhaps you’ve had this experience: You are drawn to someone deeply. You are convinced this person has a huge significance in your life. You feel overcome by lust, even love, and a desire to connect and intertwine. But the logical observer in your mind (that one might call ‘the witness’) is telling you that the focus of your adoration isn’t really compatible with you, or perhaps isn’t even good for you, and possibly is not even emotionally available to you. And most likely, this witness to rationality is drowned out in the cries of your body, emotions, and loins in their deafening assertions: “You are the only one who can ravish me inside and out! You’re the love of my life!” Or even more tragically, “I can’t live without you even though I’m not sure I like you, and you’re kinda mean, and actually our core values are pretty different.”
If this is the case, it is very likely that this person, your incomparably addictive but possibly incompatible lover, resonates with your how your parents modelled love and relating, and you are drawn to your partner’s energy/being/-ness because the energy is so familiar. Your lover’s being, in relation to you, replicates your foundational experience of love from the opposite sex: your mother or father. And we know love from love; we seek love in the form we know it best.
It’s very old hat stuff in psychology. The woman whose father was the serial womanizer marries the man who cheats. I always think of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in this context. We can’t help but be drawn to the familiar, even if we actively rebel against it. We learn what it is to be a man or a woman from the first and most important men and women in our lives, and when it comes time to mate, of course we have expectations of what constitutes love/marriage, and often we have formed our beliefs by internalizing the dynamics between ourselves and our earliest role models. These kind of foundational patterns are stored at a deep, unquestioned, instinctual or subconscious level. Andrew Barnes refers to this as the parental imprint in his book, Relationship Tantra: Feeling Your Way Together into Living and Loving on Purpose. He points out that often for women there is nothing more attractive than an unavailable man, and for men, there is often nothing more attractive than a wounded woman who needs saving.
Do you know women who are drawn to unavailable men? Certainly I have been there; the tall, dark, quiet man who looks at me but also just slightly past me was, for far too long, very compelling to me; oh how I wanted to get his attention, for him to see my value, and stay! Here’s a fascinating bit of research: A psychologist called C. A. Tripp developed what is called the ‘resistance principle’ of sexual attraction. He concluded that what really motivates intense, passionate, erotic experiences is a partner who is not fully accessible. How might this be explained in terms of women’s attractions?
A generation of women have been raised in a traditional household in which mum was home and dad worked and often wasn’t. Such women grew up with the quintessential ‘longing for daddy.’ Yes, sometimes it’s even worse: parental divorce meant dad moved out, or maybe he even abandoned the family altogether, but it’s the longing for daddy energy which permeates the daughter’s experience of love from the opposite sex. Love very early on becomes entwined with longing for something slightly out of reach. Later on in life, she finds herself drawn to the men who are not quite emotionally available, those who say “I am not ready for a relationship,” those who are married to others; and it is these men who most deeply ignite her lust and longing and entice her to fall in love. Beneath the layers of lust and affection there is a certain primal desperation, a fear of abandonment and a strong sense that her goal is to be worth fighting for, worth staying for.
It’s fascinating to note how many contemporary dating advice programs counsel women on how to deal with seemingly unavailable men, the maneuvers one might utilize to entice them into falling for you—without ever questioning either why women are drawn to such men in the first place, or if it’s a sensible dynamic to pursue!
The counterpoint to the ‘unavailable man’ syndrome is the ‘wounded woman’ syndrome. Some men are drawn to needy, wounded women whom they want to save. Such women mirror in their energy and style (but not necessarily circumstance) a generation of mothers who gave up careers (or didn’t cultivate them) for homemaking, who resented motherhood rather than embraced the awesome power of the mother archetype, who believed themselves entirely dependent on men and marriage in order to succeed in life. In short, I am referring to women who lack personal power in their lives – and we all know men who are drawn to women they want to save, or fix.
Again, to drawn the connection to the contemporary world of online dating programs: David Shade, “America’s renegade sex expert” has an entire video series on ‘how to choose women wisely’—avoiding such women precisely, because needy, wounded women cannot have the ‘wild screaming orgasms’ Shade promises to deliver you in his program of that name. And yet, there isn’t a lot of analysis of why men are drawn to these types of women, and what it is that needs our attention and self-reflection in this case, or even what needs healing.
The ‘types’ people are predominantly drawn to will flux like the tide over generations. Fathers are more involved today than ever before, and women are half the workforce as well as the driving force in entrepreneurial home-based businesses. Women are becoming more and more skilled in the ways of living with masculine energy in a man’s world, and men are learning how to tap into their feminine drives and nurture the babies, do the housework, and so on. As family dynamics change, and gender roles evolve, people are encountering different energies and patterns and inevitably their attractions will reflect that.
What is the benefit of choosing relationships more consciously?
I’ve mentioned in previous posts that at a physiological level, pheromones drive us to partners that meet a lack; that is, our bodies’ chemicals ignite our lust when our brains, via an analysis of our partner’s pheromones, determine whether or not our partner’s genetic code offers something useful as a complement to our own. The psychologist Dr. Tripp made a similar observation about sexual attraction at a psychological level: sexual motives are stimulated when a person senses that their partner has qualities he wants to have for himself.
At a psychological level, often what we want for ourselves is to reclaim a parental dynamic, to re-explore the dynamic in a way that brings some relief or healing. Very often it doesn’t, of course. Often we just end up with needy partners we can never change no matter how caring we are; or we end up with unavailable partners who leave us, or who just aren’t present to deeper intimacy. And the reason is that it was never our fault to begin with that the parent was needy or unavailable, and it was never within our power to change him/her anyway, so we don’t need to re-enact it with a partner to make it better. It was in the past, and in the present, there is nothing that needs fixing.
Andrew Barnes observes in his book that we can get or possess something else in the lust-love journey: “the reasons we are in a relationship is to get a reflection of everything inside us that is not loving, of everything inside us that is still wounded, that we need to bring up to the surface so that we can heal it and love it so that we can become more loving with ourselves.” And that means recognising that we have the power to attract and maintain loving relationships not based on lack, because in fact, the lack was never ours to begin with.
It’s a little worrying to think that intense lust can so often reflect a deep psychological need, that it can reflect where we are wounded or even merely mimicking deep patterns. Lust is a drive, an urge, a feeling that is beyond rational thought, but ultimately it is one which drives us towards something. In its drive towards sex and union, it can also lead us into self-reflection, learning, and growth.