The Superego in Romantic Relationship – Superego part 6
The relationship blueprint, which originated with our parents, shows up later in our lives in our intimate relationships more than any other type of relationship. This is because people’s romantic relationships tend to be their most important relationships. The superego or judge, modeled after our parents, sets the standards and ideals that we use to evaluate our romantic partners and ourselves. Even if we consciously rebel against those standards they are incorporated into and steer us from the unconscious.
How we experience the pursuit of intimate relationship and intimate relationship itself is dominated by the filter of our superego’s judgments. What people look for in relationship, what they enjoy and what they dislike in relationship are all largely prescribed. People think that they are choosing, but for the most part they are on autopilot. The superego is flying the plane! For all the reason’s we’ve described over the last month, it’s standards and judgments tend to be unreachable, harsh, childish, and so on. These standards influence how we behave in intimate relationship and create a vicious circle or a self-reinforcing system.
Have you ever found yourself compulsively attacking yourself or your intimate partner in relationship to a degree that is scary and seemingly out of control. Or only selecting partners that are unavailable? Or evaluating yourself or your partner against ideals for body type or income or spiritual development that no one really meets? Or the opposite, taking whatever is offered because that’s all you feel you deserve or can get? These are all examples of being steered from the unconscious by a superego committed to its standards and not to a deeply intimate relationship. And, of course, one’s partner is enacting all of this with us.
Our superegos tend to be very active while trying to pick someone up which is why people are typically very nervous during the initial stages of meeting someone they are attracted to. But if we do manage to get past that initial stage then sometimes our judge can becomes very silent if we start falling in love with that person. This is because its standards are being briefly met. We feel great about ourselves and our prospective partners while falling in love. But even here, the superego’s standards are still in place and are met largely due to projection. We don’t know the person yet. It is mostly a fantasy about them. When we discover how they really are the honeymoon is over. Unconditional love is the furthest thing from the superego’s mind.
As the relationship progresses, due to selecting a partner that, at least somewhat, fits our superego’s standards and then the act of projecting our superego onto our partner we will often find ourselves experiencing our partner as our superego! This leads to feeling judged by them in the same persecutory way that most people feel attacked by their superegos. They don’t love me; they’re not attracted to me anymore; I can’t trust them; and so on. Even if it isn’t consciously thought, it is felt. The internal struggle, subservience, negotiation, etc. that goes on with our inner parent is now externalized.
Since there is also identification with the superego we can also find ourselves judging our partner the same way our superego judges ourselves. Clearly they should be nicer or tougher or keep a cleaner house or whatever.
The judge is committed that the puzzle pieces (each person’s role) fit together exactly according to plan. Strangely this perfect plan often involves a lot of discord and unhappiness. The superego is committed to that exact fit, not to truth, not to pleasure, and definitely not to growth or change. That fit always involves enmeshment and attachment because that is what relationship means to a superego. Deeper intimacy, greater truth and change all mean risking that unacceptable things about our partner or ourselves will be discovered. This must be avoided at all costs because conformity to the plan must happen at all costs.
The relationship blueprint that the superego is reinforcing was originally a child parent relationship. A child needs its parents and will do almost anything to maintain that relationship, including compromise itself heavily. By necessity children get attached to their parents. Attachment and enmeshment have dire consequences for the experience and depth available to a couple. Stagnancy, boredom, mistrust and fear of being left are common repercussions of the superego’s attachment strategy.
On the other hand, some people’s superegos tell them to avoid intimate contact with anyone. They just can’t get into lasting intimate relationships. No matter how much they long for relationship their superego always has a reason why it is impossible or not a good idea or no one is good enough or they’re not good enough or whatever. Their superego is basically saying that it isn’t safe. Some children, although they deeply needed their parents, survived the relationship with their parents by avoiding them because they were deeply hurt, or unseen, or abused and so on. So this becomes their relationship (or anti-relationship) strategy. Again all this is driven from the unconscious. If someone is avoiding intimate relationship they are rarely consciously aware of it.
The superego is trying to mimic whatever relationships it internalized in childhood. Since those relationships are often contradictory (needing and avoiding need, for example) people often have both an attachment and avoidance strategy. This causes all kinds of contradictory behavior. Of course, there is always some rational given for it in the moment because this is simply how the human mind operates.
I’m not suggesting that we lose our ability to evaluate ourselves, our partners or our relationships. The question is do we want a superego based on the experience of our parents filtered through a child’s mind in the earliest years of life doing the judging for us, mostly from an unconscious place, and then telling us that the decisions are ours?
What would it be like if the process of relationship wasn’t measured against a past standard? It would certainly have a more immediate and fresh quality. What if we based our choice of someone and commitment to them on what was possible in relationship with them? For one thing, a prospective partner’s commitment to growth would naturally be a primary criterion for us in partner selection. What if we used real current unfiltered experience as our guide how to relate? There would certainly be greater adventure and fewer repeating old dysfunctional patterns.
We would actually make real contact with our partners. The qualities inherent in our True Nature (the sensuous qualities, the loving qualities, and so on) would shine through. Sex would certainly be less cerebral and a lot more exciting, as well as intimate. The false and shaky sense of security provided by attachment and avoidance would be replaced by the trust that can only develop from deep vulnerability. Contrary to the superego’s propaganda the relationship would actually be more secure and likely to last. We would be well on our way to an Eternal Date!