PARENTAL TRANSFERENCE

Fr Jim Cogley


It’s a well-known truth that men tend to marry their mothers and daughters their fathers. Often the partners chosen bear an uncanny resemblance to the parent. This seems to be true irrespective of whether the original relationship was good or challenging. So it is that in the initial phase of being in love we see the partner not as they are but more a familiar artiface from our past. The ‘chemistry’ we feel may not be telling us about his or her rightness but more about her rightness for setting up a repetition of our past. What we call chemistry may be an unconscious recognition that we have found an apt candidate for transference. With the face of the parent transposed onto our partner, our unmet needs from childhood cry out to be met, and so we burden that person with unrealistic expectations. In the twinkle of an eye an adult relationship can slip into child mode and the anger towards a parent that could never be expressed finds its target in the partner. Without awareness of what is happening the subsequent resentment of the victim and the guilt of the one responsible keeps the relationship at the level of re-enactment of the past rather than relating in the present.