Remember the schmaltzy 1990 movie Ghost, where Demi Moore’s character is visited by her dead husband, played by Patrick Swayze, and they share a classic intimate moment throwing clay on a pottery wheel? Hopefully, you are not visited by a ghost (unless it’s Swayze), but if you are struggling developing a long-lasting relationship, you may be encountering an apparition of the psyche.
One of the possible impediments to being able to forge a lasting relationship with the opposite sex occurs when there is an unconscious “ghostly lover” that exists in our fantasy and imagination. This “ghostly lover” then captures our psyche as a love object and leaves no psychic energy for a real human of the opposite sex. No human can measure up or coexist with this inner lover that demands total faithfulness.
This may sound far-fetched. But in the world of the unconscious, the mechanism of the “ghostly lover” can prevent a real relationship with a real person who has human frailties and imperfections.
How do we know if this is impeding our ability to find and keep love? Take time to sit quietly with yourself and ask these questions. It is helpful if you write the answers down as they are revealed.
- Reflect on your relationship pattern. Do you have a pattern of short term relationships that somehow go sour?
- Do you lose interest in the other person?
- Do they disappoint you because they do not have what is necessary for you to stay in the relationship and work things through?
If you are married or in a committed partnership, a “ghostly lover” could be interfering by keeping you emotionally distant and doubting. Here are some clues that this might be happening in your relationship:
- You notice that there are recurring doubts and critical thoughts about the relationship.
- You are continually thinking about leaving the marriage because you imagine an idealized lover and partnership with someone else who will provide the perfect understanding and connection you imagine.
- This undetected fantasy is likely keeping you from being vulnerable and close to your partner because you are unconsciously protected by your relationship the idealized “ghostly lover.”
- You are unable to bond and forge a truly intimate relationship despite being together for 20 years.
Like Sleeping Beauty under a spell, you are unconsciously waiting for a “prince or princess” who will awaken your deepest desires. The result is that you cannot be vulnerable and open with your mate. The price you pay is that your marriage or partnership remains deadened without the necessary fire for a passionate, alive, fully realized human love.
One of my female patients discovered her “ghostly lover” and mourned his loss as she completed the inner work necessary to finally sleep naked with her husband after 15 years of marriage. She cried when she had the insight of how she kept herself safe and distant by her wearing pajamas to bed as a psychological shield. She abandoned the “ghostly lover” with losing the PJ’s.
The first step is to be curious about the possibility that your “ghostly lover” is holding love hostage.
Lynn Krown is a licensed Marriage and family Therapist located in Encino, Calif. She specializes in relationships and helping couples and individuals cultivate aliveness and sexual intimacy over the lifespan. She runs groups for couples and singles who want to enrich their relationships. She can be reached via her website at LynnKrown.com