The disappointment came from a history of never finding the right woman, and if it seemed like he had, he would be jilted. Neville longed to be like his dad, lovingly taken care of by his wife. Neville wanted to be the center of a woman’s universe, just like his father was to his mother. Neville wanted never to have to worry about his wife having competing interests. He wanted to be able to enjoy his job and his hobbies while secure in the knowledge that any wife of his would be just like his mother, totally devoted to her husband.
The terror came from a sense of foreboding that he was never going to fall for a good women like his mother.
He had dated other women who were reliable, kind, supportive and adoring. Those women didn’t keep his attention. He enjoyed being adored for a while but felt no pull or attraction. He ended those relationships without much feeling, but remained terrified that he wouldn’t find someone who had both the caring qualities of his mother and the addictive qualities of Sheila. It was her total absorption in him one minute and her detachment the next that tantalized him and made him try harder. He wanted the absorption to last forever, like his parents’ marriage seemed to portray.
Neville was caught in a web of ideals that he borrowed from his parents
He was trapped by wanting to recreate and relive his parents’ marriage, instead of building a unique one of his own. Anything that differed from the rosy picture he had of his parent’s relationship felt inadequate and unsatisfying. Nothing in the real world ever matched up to his ideal, and Neville was left feeling angry and hopeless.
Neville’s attempt to superimpose what he believed to be the perfect marriage on all other relationships made him unavailable to those women who did care for him and were willing to commit to him. His insistence on turning his relationship with Sheila into a replica of his parents’ marriage made her withdraw, since she was being asked to be Neville’s mother rather than herself.
Neville’s hurt, anger terror and disappointment can be useful to him if he allows it to help him break through the bubble he wants a future wife to live in with him. He is capable of creating his own unique relationship that can grow and develop rather than borrow that of his parents and preserve it like an Egyptian mummy. Neville doesn’t have to feel like he is betraying his parents if he has a life that differs from that of his parents. Nor does he have to give up feeling loved and cared for if it comes in a package that looks different from his mother.
Separating himself from his parents will help Neville be his own man, and allow a woman in his life to be her own person.
But it's difficult to do alone - if done slowly and safely in therapy, strong emotions of fear and anger won’t prevent growth. As he grows Neville will be able to make room for a woman who can be a good partner to him just as she is and without the image of his mother looming over her. Neville will never get jilted again because he is making a future that is unique and not bound by the framework of his parent’s marriage.
Copyright, Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D. 2012