What Is Your Love Map.. Does It Hurt..?


We have something special that keeps us bound together, but sometimes that binding is not always a healthy one. It may be that is what is happening?

With my psychotherapists hat on, without knowing your or her experience of childhood, I can say that many romantic attractions in our lives are based unconsciously on our first loves, our parents of the opposite sex, when we were months or a few years old.. Google Oedipus.. Or Electra.

We experience their attention, love and tenderness for the first time, and along with this as we appreciate it so much, we also experience parents withdrawing which causes us some pain.. The withdrawing by our parents can make us hypersensitive to their presence, they may detach a little, they may be unpredictable, teasing or emotionally unavailable for a while, they may be distracted by other things. We may split them into good and bad..And we may split ourselves into good and bad..


We may even perceive them also as punitive, or as withholding themselves which is frustrating, as they do not consistently behave as we might wish. We desire. We want perfection.. They never seem to totally deliver, but get very close.. Love never comes in a totally pure form for long, it is always mixed or polluted with other ingredients. It is this mix of love which is a little confusing for us long term.

As a consequence of this love and other behaviour we develop a degree of anxiety at our parents inattentiveness, we believe we may not be “good enough”, that we are unworthy of love. We become needy of them and try harder to be more perfect. Strangely if they are behaving normally (without substance abuse or things like that) we don’t tend to blame our parents (as we see them as perfect in some ways - although we may also hate them when they do not deliver what we need), but tend to put the blame for their inattentiveness on us, and this becomes one of the initial sources of our shame. Shame which can stick with us for a long time.

Now what your parenting may have given you, is a strange kind of “shaped template” for your “ideal love” behaviours, your love map, which you look for to repeat in other partners. It may look whole, but it may actually be like “55% attentiveness, love and care, but also 10% punitive treatment, 20% withholding, 5% shaming and 10% emotionally unavailable..”

The last 45% are obviously negative and toxic behaviours, however, as you had these before when you are young, you look for them in later life, either to repeat them (See Freud’s repetition compulsion https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Repetition_compulsion - as they are familiar and comfortable - even if they are toxic!) - or you are looking to challenge, beat and overcome them and see it is an opportunity to prove yourself, for success and personal growth.

I stress all of this is unconscious.. and of course I am just using the above example for illustration purposes to explain how unconscious attraction works. Its not about you at all as I dont know what your childhood was like.

Maybe you are addicted to a particular love / shame / teasing mix which has an element of adrenaline and excitement caused by fear or loss? But often the “shame” becomes too much bear for you? But against your best judgement and being told by close friends and family.. you keep going back for more... as it is strangely unconsciously familiar?

Oh and I dont believe we have only one ’soulmate.’ Firstly the term was used excessively in its current usage by the Romanticists in the 18th century as a reaction against the Enlightenment (it originated in Egyptian mythology and then used in the The Symposium by Plato, but then later by Coleridge 1800s in its current usage) and secondly as we are changing all the time we have different soulmates at different times in our lives.

Romanticism has a lot to answer for..We would be far happier if it never happened..It brought in the high standards in relationships that we all strive for and never achieve, and therefore causes a lot of unhappiness when we dont live up to those expectations.. But that is for some other time.

I hope this is helpful?

So... what do you think? Please leave me a comment.


  • Vale: People always say that you look for your parents in your future partner, but do people really look for the bad qualities their parents had rather than try to find someone who is the opposite in those respects?
  • Johnny Nicks: No they don’t actively consciously look and choose but it’s in our unconscious and it explains why so many people select emotionally unavailable partners..
  • Vale: I see, is there anyway to consciously avoid this?
  • Johnny Nicks: Insight and awareness..
  • Vale: :)
  • SomebodyElse: I got a man much like the man that married dear old Mom.
    He’s pretty patient with me. I’m trying to think of who I was insanely attracted to before that. Yup, charming, funny, accomplished emotionally unavailable types.
    When I started dating my husband and realized he was NOT emotionally unavailable, I swear I literally didn’t know what to do. I panicked. I broke up with him. Luckily I was never nasty to him, we never fought, and he had the courage to keep reaching out. The panic went away eventually. Though I did hear that, on my wedding day, certain people were taking bets on whether or not I would show up at the church. (I did.)
    My dad had several sisters who had married abusive men, so he and my mom made it clear to their three daughters what not to put up with.
  • Spitfire: Good blog, Nicks, and totally makes sense. My childhood left me with the mindset that love has to be earned. As soon as I slack off and stop earning it, I will be deemed undeserved of love and abandoned.
  • Johnny Nicks: Yeah and it’s true.. you need to work much harder at it ..or else;)
  • Johnny Nicks:

    Maybe that also fits into your understanding that you don’t keep in good contact with your friends.. you may be secretly testing your “effort vs abandonment theory” to see if they abandon you for not making an effort, or if they really love you unconditionally regardless of whether you make a lot of effort or not? This may be you challenging the theory you formed when you were younger?

  • Spitfire: Hmmm...I have to reflect on that one, if I did, I didn’t do it consciously or deliberately.
  • Johnny Nicks: Yes of course, but that is how most things we do, get done? ;) lol..you really think it is your consciousness that is at the driving wheel?!
  • Spitfire: Well, the way you put it in writing kind of suggested that I deliberately and consciously testing my "effort vs abandonment theory". By the way, I am not verifying your theory just yet.
  • Johnny Nicks: As much as I would feel very honoured and comforted by your validation and recognition, you dont need to verify my theory..It has been verified millions of times before. As it forms the basis of most psychoanalytic relationship therapy.. I am just explaining it here so maybe others can learn, understand and be helped..In a non-monetary way. ;)
  • Spitfire:

    What I meant was, I haven’t agreed or disagreed to your speculation that I might be unconsciously “testing efforts vs abandonment theory” as a part of my selection process to find unconditional love. I don’t think I am but I am willing to reflect on it and consider the possibility. To me, all love is conditional and it always comes with a long “what to expect” list to fulfill. We all have been conditioned to strive and earn love, when we are little perhaps by being compliant/obedient, being a good boy/girl, get good grades and make our parents proud. As we grow up, we are striving to earn love by keeping ourselves attractive and desirable, not letting ourselves go and being unpredictable or mysterious. Love requires too much efforts and hard work and there is no room for us to fail, I often wonder if it’s worth it :(

  • SomebodyElse: <<To me, all love is conditional and it always comes with a long “what to expect” list to fulfill.>>
    Yup. I believe this too, with the possible exception of the love a parent has for a child. Well, maybe the love a grandparent has for his grandchildren.
    It’s worth it, Spitfire. It’s not the only road to happiness, but it’s one of them.
  • Spitfire: Yeah, maybe parental love is the closest to unconditional love, but even parents’ love can fail us, and it’s very difficult to recover from it when that happens. I can see where Nicks is going with "repetition compulsion". That happens when we unconsciously trying to "fix" the history by choosing to be with people who have similar traits, in hope that this time around, the relationship will work differently. That usually doesn’t result in a favorable outcome...
  • SomebodyElse: I’ve heard so many theories from so many therapists over the year that I’ve lost track. I think I spent a lot of time spinning my wheels, but I didn’t know what else to do.
    Now I try not to overthink things, because I know me, and I don’t want to go down that rabbit hole again. I can’t reason myself into emotional health.It just doesn’t work for me.
    The last therapist I saw believed that when you change your behavior, you can change the way you think and be happier. That clicked. For so many years I had gotten it exactly backwards.
  • SomebodyElse: I’m sorry, every time I see the title of this blog (the "Does it Hurt?" part) I want to say, "Argh, my love map is killing me!"
  • Spitfire: Yes, mine too.
  • Johnny Nicks: And mine.
  • Duce:

    Nice article. Also would be great if we could learn how to not repeat cycles of a past - for example making similar mistakes like in previous relationship, but this is maybe due to childhood as well.

  • Johnny Nicks: Hi Duce thanks for your comment..
    Awareness and looking for patterns of intimacy and then unavailability, withholding and anything that might feel mildly emotionally abusive or unhealthy...
  • Duce: You’re welcome. Nicely said!
  • livelife72: Great article Johnny. I agree with what you are saying. I guess the biggest struggle is to change your patterns and sometimes its hard to be "aware" because you get so caught up in that first stage of love that you are blinded by the real signs. I’m also a believer in not judging so I tend to disregard those little signs because I don’t want to judge. But I am learning that I need to judge when it comes to a partner, lover, anyone that I am allowing into my personal space. That is sacred ground and in order for me to not get hurt, I have to judge in order to set my boundaries.
    Once again great article, I love reading your blogs!
  • Johnny Nicks: @livelife, yes I can understand. Judging quite a lot and harshly can also be a sign of a distancing strategy used by those who suffer from fearful avoidance. They look for perfection which they rarely ever find. Often “good enough ” is enough to make us happy.
  • Spitfire:

    Judgmental people tend to lack in empathy and compassion. Don’t judge, unless you want to be judged right back. Remember that nobody is perfect.

  • livelife72: I guess it’s not so much judging, maybe not the correct word to use. More like knowing what you can and cannot have in a relationship. If I didn’t have boundaries and somewhat some pickiness, I would not be single :) But I’m ok with that too, being single, it’s not a terrible thing indeed.
  • Johnny Nicks: Good point:)
  • SomebodyElse: <<More like knowing what you can and cannot have in a relationship. If I didn’t have boundaries and somewhat some pickiness, I would not be single :)>>
    "We can have indiscriminate friendships, or we can have standards."
    Leonard Hughes, "Da."
  • livelife72: I like that quote! I was in a 14 year marriage of emotional abuse. Everything I did was an issue and he even admitted to me at the end that he was jealous of me. why I don’t know but I cannot live like that again.
  • SomebodyElse: I’m sorry. That must have been very hard.
    But you are free now. :)
  • Johnny Nicks: Maybe jealous of your boundaries, self-discipline and composure?
  • livelife72: Johnny: Insecurity and his own issues that he does not deal with, but I am free now and it’s an amazing feeling to be able to be yourself! Only problem is I tend to keep dating men like him. I’m learning :)

Add Your Own Comment:

By clicking 'Submit' you agree to the Site Terms
By entering this site you declare you are 18 or older, you read and agreed to its Terms, Rules & Privacy and you understand that your use of the site's content is made at your own risk and responsibility. Copyright © 2006 - 2018 Relationship Talk