Chris L. Minnick, M.D.

The Marital Selection Process

Axiom #1: All Couples who had a proper courtship and married for love “fit” together at all levels of their unconscious inner worlds. If this “fit” was not present, they would not find each other sufficiently attractive to wish to marry. The punch line: while they may appear as opposites on the surface, unconsciously they have a great deal in common.

Axiom #2: The degree to which some of the baby core, unconscious components in one partner are problematic in that individual is the degree to which the marriage has the potential to be problematic.

Axiom #3: The baby core of the personality will be recreated in the marital relationship, either as a result of the commitment of actually marrying, or after the first child is born (occasionally only after the second child is born).

CONSCIOUS MOTIVES IN THE SELECTION OF A MATE:
1 – Positive Motives
– looking for an ideal partner

– in love

– physical attraction and/or sexual compatibility

– good personality (e.g. kind, smart, good sense of humor, fun, communicates, etc.)

– interests and values in common (including past experiences and emotional histories)

2 – Negative Motives
– to make up for what one did not get from ones parents (arguably could be a positive motive)

– to get away from home/parents

– pregnancy

– assuming the person at hand is the only one who will have them in marriage

– narcissistic/social enhancement

– to avoid the pain of loneliness, fear of poverty, social ostracism, etc.

UNCONSCIOUS VARIABLES IN SELECTION OF A MATE, GENERAL CONCEPTS:
1 – Models of Unconscious inner world are needed to explain the erroneous appearance/impression that “opposites attract”

2 – All couples who had a proper courtship and loved each other at the time of marriage “fit” at an unconscious level. This “fit” most commonly involves having emotionally similar internal paired relationships in the baby core of their personalities.

– The degree to which the “fit” at an unconscious level includes problematic elements from the baby core of either personality is the degree to which the fit will have the potential to be problematic. How problematic they become in external life is a function of their ability as a couple to deal with these recreations from their internal worlds in a constructive manner.

3 – Partners unconsciously partition out who will “permanently own” (i.e. contain) various of the unconscious components held in common = (u)RELATIVELY PERMANENTLY FIXED PROJECTIONS(/u).

FUNDAMENTAL UNCONSCIOUS ASSUMPTIONS/EXPECTATIONS/ATTITUDES/EXPERIENCES HELD IN COMMON BY PARTNERS:
1 – Degree of intimacy expected in a relationship, both emotional and physical, is usually comparable.

– This implies that their internal relationships to their parents, which may be different than their conscious wishes, will most likely be what is recreated in the marriage.

– Secondly, following the law of talion (Eye for an Eye…), if either party unconsiously won’t allow their internal parents to come together in a fully loving way, then the marital relationship will often not be allowed full expression of love, typically manifesting itself after the birth of a child (i.e. the child becomes the container of the projected part of self that did not let the parents come fully together).

2 – Nature of roles expected by each partner
– gender

– degree of dependence or separateness (both of particular import to the baby core of the personality and often problematic)

– how overtly “babyish” one can be

– how “somatic” one can be as a manifestation of mental states

3 – Similar attitudes about children and parenting
– e.g. where one is ambivalent, so is the other unconsciously

4 – Comparable “life instinct” versus “death instinct” attitudes
– i.e. is being born and out in the world more a source of pain than it is worth, thus back to unborn

– its corollary being the degree to which it is felt to be safe to enter into a caring relationship with the inherent “(u)precarious uncertainty(/u)” that the person will go on living as long as you do

– this fundamentally influences the unconscious attitudes about commitment to a relationship

5 – Psychological mindedness and communication about mental/emotional states

6 – Unconscious attitudes toward, and quantities of, mental pain
– toleration of mental pain

– communicating about mental pain

– degree of “blaming” as an approach to mental pain

– degree of unconsciously projecting the emotions into someone else

– degree and manner in turning away from mental pain (e.g. deny, use substance, etc.)

– degree to which one turns away from the relationship/person to self-sufficiency

7 – Unconscious view of the parents’ relationship
– this may be quite at odds with the conscious view of the parents’ relationship

– parents are often consciously viewed as happy, but unconsciously split apart and desexualized

– an idea that the child should never have to be left out of the parents’ relationship

– “you are what you eat”, “water cannot rise above its source”, “the law of talion”, and “what goes around comes around” are all ways of describing the human condition of tending to not be able to have more than you will allow others to have

8 – Attitudes toward siblings often influence marital relationship (e.g. how much sibling rivalry – envy and jealousy – color the relationship). Alternately, recreating a latency structure of separated and controlled figures who have no passion in their relationship can lead to a marriage that looks more like to siblings banding together but without the proper passion of an adult relationship = a “siblingship marital relationship”.

9 – Whether or not one lives on the inside or outside of one’s object. The seemingly closest, most romantic marriages are often of the “joined up” type but leave one partner in the lurch when a crisis disrupts this fusion (e.g. one dies, becomes seriously physically or emotionally ill, etc.).

10 – The emotional experiences resulting from the loss of one or more parents by death or divorce
– This can be a consequence of an actual external loss (e.g. death, being adopted, divorce, abandonment etc.) or an emotionally experienced loss (e.g. such as an emotionally unavailable parent, too many siblings too close in age, etc.).

11 – Emotional experience of birth order, usually in terms of how much attention one received, how special one felt, how abused or left out one felt, etc.

12 – The degree of distress or disturbance that was experienced in infancy or early childhood (may or may not be recognized by either). This is hugely important.

BABY CORE UNCONSCIOUS STRUCTURES HELD IN COMMON – GENERAL CONCEPTS:
1 – It is useful to conceptualize the unconscious inner world as composed of (u)rather permanently fixed relationships(/u) between parts of self and various versions of mom and dad

2 – These relationships are stored in the unconscious based on impressions of experiences that occur in the first months of life when the infant is maximally dependent on its objects. They are not necessarily objective and continue to be reworked throughout the lifespan, unfortunately only rarely with much improvement in understanding without the aid of therapy oriented toward the UCS inner world.

– These relationships are obligatorily repeated in an intimate relationship because (1) they are the “only game in town” (i.e. all one knows about relationships), and (2) there is a powerful unconscious drive to see whatever is felt to be a source of conflict, pain, etc. as outside oneself.

UNCONSCIOUS STRUCTURES HELD IN COMMON – ADULT PART OF SELF:
1 – This is the most mature part of self and varies in its influence over good and bad parts of self from moment to moment. Both partners will usually share comparable levels of confusion about what is adult, especially appearance versus substance.

UNCONSCIOUS STRUCTURES HELD IN COMMON – GOOD, BUT POTENTIALLY PAINED, BABY PARTS OF SELF:
1 – This part of self has a capacity to love, care for, remain loyal to, actively engage with, etc. ones good objects, both in external reality and in the unconscious inner world.

2 – It can include a sense of being a baby that it is not good, lovable, attractive, capable, etc. (i.e. low self esteem).

3 – A may include a guilty sense of being a baby that has harmed its objects (e.g. the imagined harm can range from committing overtly problematic acts to the mere fact of being born and just existing as a burden to the parents).

– may be seen with blaming as a means of evading unbearable guilt

– may manifest as a tendency toward overt depression in one or both

4 – A need may be held at a baby level to be in possession and control of ones good objects for safety sake. This ranges from a desire to know where they are at all times, to getting inside them and residing there ( = intolerance of separateness).

UNCONSCIOUS STRUCTURES HELD IN COMMON WHICH RESULT FROM THE “ENVIOUS, OMNIPOTENT, KNOW-IT-ALL, DESTRUCTIVE,
SELF-SUFFICIENT, “BAD” PART OF SELF:
1 – Since the emotional intensity of the feelings held by this part of self are on a continuum, it can include a mild form of sibling rivalry (envy + jealousy) where it does not wish to share its good mom or dad with a sibling/s. This may be palpable in the marital relationship withbut necessarily problematic.

2 – As the intensity of its envious or jealous hatred increases, a tendency to “turn away” from an intimate relationship is more likely to occur. This is includes an intolerance of the dangers inherent in caring for a living human being who cannot be guaranteed to go on living.

– Thus if one partner is unfaithful, the other usually also acts in some unfaithful form. Alternately, the second one may be projecting their own unfaithful part of self or unfaithful internal parental figure into the first one. The bottom line being that they have disloyalty or refusal to fully commit to a relationship in both of their personalities, either as a characteristic of a part of self, or as a characteristic of an internal parental figure.

3 – This bad self almost always has a degree of “anal, omnipotent self- sufficiency” in which it “turn aways” from good relationships and the attendant mental pain. It does this originally as an infant by turning to its own body and bodily substances for comfort and a sense of not needing others (i.e. self-sufficiency) These bodily zones and substances are later confused with manic excitement and turning to substances and “things”, etc. as a replacement for people and relationships.

4 – Marital partners always have a roughly commensurate quantity of unconscious envy even though the defenses for coping with it may be quite different in style. It is common for one to carry the capacity to react with envy for both of them, as is seen when one partner is regularly enviously reactive and the other denies any such feelings either consciously or unconsciously.

4 – Couples usually have roughly equivalent intolerance of various baby states of mind such as helplessness, neediness, smallness, not knowing, etc., although charactersistics may be partitioned in the relationship so that its manifestations may differ greatly in one partner compared to the other. One may be surly or prickly, dependent, selfish, afraid of negativity, arrogant, controlling, depressed, anxious, etc. while the other superficially seems not to have such feelings or reactions.

UNCONSCIOUS STRUCTURES HELD IN COMMON – BABY LEVEL VERSIONS OF MOM AND DAD:
1 – A good mom and dad who have a loving, intimate, sexual, sharing, supportive relationship (rare internally)

2 – A good mom or dad that goes away forever, (who may then be viewed as bad)

– less extremely, feeling dropped or rejected by a parent for emotional or circumstantial reasons

3 – A bad mom or dad who is cruel/violent/enviously critical, (emotionally or physically)

– The earlier in infancy this structure was formed, the less it may correlate with actual external events in the infant’s life.

4 – A bad mom or dad who is unwilling or unable to “contain” mental pain

5 – A bad mom or dad who is too self involved to be available for a whole relationship to the baby or child

– parent may be depressed, narcissistic, unavailable or over taxed, etc.

6 – A mom or dad who is excessively involved with, needy of, or entangled (fused) with its child

CASE EXAMPLE

WOMAN AS SEEN THRU THE MAN’S EYES:
1 – She is very attractive with a full figure

2 – She is a successful professional woman who makes a bit more than he does in annual income

3 – She was deeply hurt by her mother who rejected her in infancy

4 – She is very intelligent, is really fun and can sling the shit right along with the guys

5 – She is a very open woman who is good at talking about her feelings

[Take home lession: He is consciously imagining having a wonderfully competant partner who will be sexually desirable and fun. He may also imagine that her injury related to mom will be made up for by his love and nurturing of her.]

MAN AS SEEN THRU THE WOMAN’S EYES:
1 – He is tall, athletic, and strong

2 – He is handsome and sports a masculine, fairly full mustache

3 – He seems very calm and self-assured

4 – He is gentle and listens intently to her without having to talk about himself

5 – He attends thoughtfully and romantically to her little needs and even enjoys cooking for her
which he does remarkably well

6 – He is a well respected, mid level executive at a very large international company who makes good money
and has potential to rise significantly higher up the corporate ladder

[Take home lesson: She sees him as an extension of her good father who will make up for what she didn’t get from her mother. There is a hint that she may wish him to “mother” her by doing all of the adult things for her she didn’t get from her mother.]

HER BACKGROUND:
1 – She is the eldest of three, having a brother 23 months younger and a sister 4 years younger.

[Take home lesson: No inevitable obvious problem other than the eldest is usually the best behaved and may feel a loss of the original “only child” status.]

2 – She was completely rejected by her mother from birth and only looked after in a perfunctory manner but was the “apple of his eye” to her much warmer father.

[Take home lesson: This is potentially huge if she projects the “rejecting mom” from her internal world into the husband or takes on the role of the rejecting mom making him contain her “rejected baby self”. She clearly hopes he will be the “ideal dad” from her childhood.]

3 – Her mother favored the son and doted on him, he grew up to be fun but extremely narcissistic.

[Take home lesson: This adds credence to the idea that the mother was handicapped in her ability to be a mom because she probably had a defective relationship to her own mother and projected her own hated baby self into the patient, her first born daughter, whom she proceeded to neglect. While the mother may have idealized and doted on the patient’s brother, the fact of his turning out to be too self-centered suggests that his relationship with the mother was actually also defective.]

4 – She retains a dutiful tie to her parents, consciously likes her siblings, but is distant from all of them
and often gets migraines at the family gatherings she arranges (while really only enjoying seeing daddy).

[Take home lesson: She is trying to be the “good” daughter, very possibly based on a lifelong phantasy that if she was good enough, her mother would finally give her what she wants. The migraines suggest painful, distressing, unwanted feelings that are felt to be too dangerous to be in touch with so they are unconsciously converted to an unthinkable pain in the head. It is highly likely that these unwanted feelings include hurt, resentment, anger and destructive thoughts and feelings.]

5 – She is very successful at her career, rarely dated any men who lived up to her standards, but liked sex
as an enjoyable emotional expression, and decided realistically that although she wanted children, it was
necessary to forgo that desire should it be that she never met a suitable man.

[Take home lesson: There is much more here than meets the eye. Firstly, it is all likely a rationalized smoke screen for her unwillingness to risk an intimate relationship (not to be confused with a superficial sexual relationship that is more masturbatory in nature) where her baby core will inevitable come home to roost. She very likely is frightened unconsciously of motherhood, either fearing she won’t have enough to give or will become rejecting like her own mother.]

HIS BACKGROUND:
1 – He is the second of four kids, having a brother 25 months older, a brother 19 months younger, and a
sister 5 years younger.

[Take home lesson: He was definitely sandwiched in between a lot of siblings and likely adopted a mommy’s little helper, listener role to make it into mom’s inner circle as evidenced by the probable identification with the cooking mother and his listening skills. His mustache may be a reassurance that he is still masculine despite the considerable feminine identification he evidences.]

2 – His father was an extremely self-centered, know it all, who dominated the family, could be explosive, but was usually reasonable as long as things were done the father’s way. He never felt comfortable around his father and learned to keep silent to avoid the conflicts his older brother had with his father.

[Take home lesson: This reinforces the idea that he preferred identifying and being with mom over dad and that he may have adopted a compliant helpful approach to avoid conflict with dad.]

3 – He became both his mother’s favorite and confident, supporting her efforts to keep peace in the home by keeping the husband’s needs catered to while quietly suffering the occasional sacrifice of her obvious desires which were apparent to the son.

[Take home lesson: This is a considerably bigger potential problem than is suggested at first blush. It is highly likely that he feels completely triumphant over his father and perhaps even his siblings because he can be loving to mom while dad is felt to only be abusive. This means he has to keep this triumph secret and low key or else everyone would see that mom would rather be married to him, and dad and sibs would then become murderously retaliatory. In effect, this all suggests that his internal parents are estranged as a couple inside him and he will not be able to be a truly competant sexual partner with a future wife since his parents aren’t allowed to be a proper couple inside his inner world. This may be compounded by envy of his father, further spoiling a proper, loving masculine identification.]

5 – He married as a senior in college to get on with life and away from home, but the soon drifted apart, and fairly amicably decided to part as if the whole thing had been a sort of adolescent experiment.

[Take home lesson: This supports the idea that his internal parents’ relationship is stripped of passion and he tends to imagine a loving, supportive “sibling-like” relationship with a woman, but lacks the underlying identification with a potent male figure needed to become a loving, sexual partner with a woman.]

PROBLEMATIC RESULTS:
1 – They couldn’t conceive a child so adopted, then had two of their own afterward.

[Take home lesson: It is common for people anxious about their own parental capacities to be unable to conceive, then have a child with whom they discover they do have the capacity to be a parent, and become able to conceive their own child. Three kids is a handful and has the potential to put a strain on their capacity to have something left over to give each other.]

2 – She was planning to be able to “retire” in a couple of years to take care of the children full time, but until then, he did the lion’s share of the cooking and a lot of care taking, inadvertently undermining her maternal self image.

[Take home lesson: One would suspect that in truth, she never had much capacity to see herself as a mother, and may have feared if she became one she would become the object of the same level of negativity that she unconsciously held toward her own mother. He may have unconsciously left her out as he “joined up” with the kids against the bad working father that he unconsciously projected into her.]

3 – The first truly major life crises came when he lost his job in a corporate take over and executive purge.

[Take home lesson: If the status quo they had was shaky, a major blow like this will often crush it. The combination of baby anxieties stirred up, along with realistic external stresses, will often lead to blaming, massive amounts of projecting, and a general loss of adult functioning in the marriage, and even the outside world.]

4 – She became depressed and deeply resentful at the loss of her well-earned “retirement” and decided they would just live together like brother and sister until the children were raised.

[Take home lesson: Here you can see the externalization of her basic internal situation where there is no loving couple to emulate, no fairy godmother mom or prince charming dad to rescue her, and she sinks into her underlying life long despair about ever getting her own baby needs met. She, like her husband, lacks any proper passionate connection to a loving object that can become a couple, while remaining psychologically separate. The apparent breakdown of a relationship to mom in infancy has stamped her life as a search where she recreates that same infantile need with a better outcome. The difficulty is that this means that all relationships with “good daddy/penises” are contaminated by an unconscious need for the penis to be a substitue for a “good feeding breast/mother” of which she has always felt deprived.]

5 – He became quietly hurt, moderately uncommunicative, and unconsciously enraged but was at a complete loss to really have any idea about how to deal with either of their feelings.

[Take home lesson: The marital selection process for this couple had many components in common at a deeply unconscious baby core level. These included:

– felt deprivation and injuries from early childhood that skewed their relationships with their parents and impaired balanced loving identifications each parent, one of the same sex and one of the opposite sex

– desexualized, separated parents who formed a bad couple leaving it more problematic to imagine a proper loving couple

– an inability to cope with conflict, difficult feelings, or any meaningful “psychological mindedness”

Given their intelligence and competance in the world, they could superficially give off an appearance of a happy family and proper couple. It would have taken a careful baby and childhood history to see that considerable potential for difficulties down the road, as did in fact surface. But like every couple, there is a rhyme and reason to how things turn out and it is possible to make sense of it all.]