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DIVORCE
WON'T

HELP
By

EDMUND

BERGLER,

M.D.

UVERIGHT PUBUSHING CORPORATION


NEW YORK

Introduction to the 1978 Edition


Personal unhappiness is as old as mankind itself. It is documented in the historical Tecords and mirrored in the literary
productions of every civilization. The antidote has always
been the search-often frantic-for pleasure, contentment,
"peace of mind." The age-old institution of marriage, in which
a man and woman enter into a bond for continuing emotional
and physical intimacy, is one solution to which the majority
of people hopefully turn to achieve satisfaction in life. However, all too frequently that solution does not work. Instead
of the anticipated satisfaction, two people now suffer with
each other-and perhaps even more than before they married.
Through the centuries, numerous theories have evolved to
explain this problem. From the unfavorable configuration of
celestial bodies, to the "alienated, automated life style" of our
times, to the consoling assertion "I was just unlucky in cboosing Illy partner," these theories all focus the blame for marital
unhappiness on negative external and impersonal. causes.
Modern refinements of that "unfortunate victim" approach
[ v ]

INTRODUCTION

differ in emphasis or detail. but the basic underlying assurnption-Ihat


external and fortuitous influences decide the
issuc-is :Jgc~old and universally believed. And what a discouraging picture that paint, for who ha .. the power to dissuudc the forces of fate if they decree that one should suffer?
In sharp contrast to these "scapegoat" theories stands
freud's science of psychoanalysis, Freud revealed thc panorarna of internal psychic forces hidden from conscious
awareness-a-the psychic unconscious, which determines our
conscious happiness or unhappiness-and
opened with this
discovery the possibility of personal self-control over internal
harmful impulses. This is still a unique and startling revolutionary scientific idea in human psychology,
This book adheres theoretically to this "newer" Freudian
oricntntion ill its approach to human unhappiness, Basing his
theoretical and clinical work on Freud's fundamental aualvtic
principles. Dr, Bcrglcr investigates the problem of marital discord in terms of the unconscious psychic forces that interfere
with thc marital adjustment of thc two people. Especially
emphasized is the concept that thc unconscious is a dynamic,
powerful, motivating "organ" that repetitively pursues its own
aims, independent of outside forces, These unconscious aims
may bc either normal or neurotic, In ncurosis-defined as an
illness (Le, malfunctioning) of the psychic unconscious-thc
propclling unconscious aim is thc urge to achieve unconscious

r \i

INTRODUCTION

masochistic pleasure. That means, an unconscious pleasure is


derived from conscious suffering in self-damage. This is thc
main conclusion Dr. Bergler reached in his extension of
Freud's work, and this emphasis distinguishes Dr. Bcrgler's
work from others in this field.
Psychic masochism is ShO\V11 in these pages to be the greatest obstacle to (personal and) marital success. In fact, Dr.
Bergler shows that the neurotic unconsciously uses the marriage partner to satisfy the unconscious self-dallulging aim, this
results in conscious suffering in the marriage. From the standpoint of conscious logic, the whole process is irrational: "Who
likes to suffer?" But the point is made here that the UIlCOIlscious [ollows its OIl/illogic and methodically strives toward its
own masochistic satisfaction. Because the problem is unconscious in origin, it follows that the solution requires treating
and changing the unconscious self-damaging pattern. Hence
Dr. Bergler's conclusion: "Where a neurosis is involved, divorce will not correct the cause of marriage failure ... the
partner is changed-that's
the only difference."
Today more than ever, the public should be informed of
the findings in this book. In the past decade in North
America, accepted social standards and institutions have been
vigorously attacked by certain segments of the population.
The institution of marriage is being singled out for criticism
and suggestions made for "improving" it. For instance, some
[ vi i ]

INTRODUCTION

have seriously recommended extramarital affairs, menages


a trois, or exchange of partners among couples as a prescription
for revitalizing the marital relationship. After several years of
experimentation with such "remedies," the confessional accounts of the disillusioned participants are appearing in newspapers and magazines. The authors unanimously report that
they experienced emotional pain in the new "freedom"; many
have returned, scarred and shaken, to the "old-fashioned type
of marriage." This book can help people to understand why
such revolts against the marital institution occur, and why they
inevitably fail to undermine the psychic basis of marriage.
Since Divorce \\1011't I-Ielp first appeared in 1948 the world
has changed in many respects: the unconscious has not. Clinical experience shows that neurotics today arc still burdened
with the same irrational repetitive conAicts and, unaware of
the internal origins of their suffering, continue to cast about
for something external to blame. Usually in marriage it is the
partner that is blamed: rarely is it oneself. Unfortunately for
neurotics, "scapegoat" theories are produced in abundance;
these are unconsciously misused by neurotics as a defense to
obscure the real unconscious roots of their suffering. The irony
of the situation is that the poor neurotics do not know consciously that they are fooling themselves in this way, 'TIle result is that suffering is perpetuated; the neurotic unconscious
[ viii J

INTRODUCTION

wins out at the cost of conscious misery for countless numbers


of people.
Why is it necessary to reintroduce a book on psychic unconscious disturbance in marriage when the book was already
in circulation for nearly thirty years? One might expect that
by nO\V basic information about the psychic unconscious
would be common knowledge, but this is not the case. Repression, the unconscious force keeping the unconscious hidden, ensures that people remain in ignorance of "what makes
them tick." Unconscious means un-conscious: hence, not
known to the conscious. Resistance, the unconscious active
opposition to any interference with its activities, ensures that
information about the psychic unconscious is emotionally rejected. TIlLIS,eighty years have passed since Freud began publishing his discoveries, hut the psychic unconscious is still far
from being generally known, much less understood, let alone
acknowledged and accepted. Unconscious masochism is an
even newer disturbing idea, a late consideration in Freud's

studies. It was Dr. Bergler who recognized and began working


out the clinical applications of this concept in the Inid-1930S.
Ultimately, he concluded that unconscious masochism. is the
primar), source of 11eurotic unhappiness. TIle implications of
this discovery are far-reaching. TIle present volume helps to
clarify the fundamental concept of this human problem.
Dr. Bergler is no longer with us, but the unconscious rnaso[ ix

INTRODUCTION

chistic urges demonstrated in these pages arc still very much


a part of the human condition. Those psychoanalytic psychotherapists who are specially trained in this area of study learn
to recognize and treat this problem: otherwise, because of Ul1conscious resistance, it remains unrecognized even b)1 the
therapist. After the unconscious barrier to recognition is removed, case after case of marital discord can be seen to confirm Dr. Bergler's basic theory. Then, Dr. Bergler's treatment,
aimed at recognizing and controlling this unconscious neurotic pattern in oneself, gives one the effective means to alleviate much suffering in marriage.
Through this reprinting of Divorce \"I/on't Heu; it is the
hope of the Edmund and}, lariannc Bcrglcr Psychiatric Foundation that more unhappily married people will gain the opportunity to become aware of the unconscious enemy of marital happiness in themselves and seek appropriate treatment.
This is in accordance with Dr. Bergler's own statement in his
last will and testament: "Psychic masochism is ... universal
... the importance of that inner scourge is incalculable ...
scientific progress in psychiatry and increase in human contentment are impossible without facing squarely the facts of
psychic masochism."
BENJ Al\fIN \ VINTROD,

IVIELVYN

L.

Toronto, ~larch 1978

X ]

1\1.D.

!SCOVE, 1\1.D., F.R.C.P.(c)

CONTENTS
introduction to the 1978Edition
Foreuiord

XII1

CHAPTER

ONE

Neurosis: The Silent Partner in Neurotic Marriages


CHAPTER

TWO

The Futility of Divorce

2~

CHAPTER

THREE

Forbidden Fruit

3"',
CHAPTER

FOUR

Psychic Masochism in Marriage

4C'

CHAPTER

F IV E

Neurotics Can't Love

54
SIx

CHAPTER

Sex and Sexability

69
CHAPTER

SEVEN

Wolves and Frigid Women

85

CHAPTER

EIGHT

Patterns in Neurotic Marriages

94

CHAPTER

NINE

The Illusory Basis of Divorce

117

CHAPTER

TEN

Dejens in Depth in Marital Conflicts


CHAPTER

164

ELEVEN

Hang-over after Reno

179

[ xi J

CONTENTS
CHAPTER

TWELVE

188

The Myth of the Superior Male


CHAPTER

THIRTEEN

The Minimun Requiremeru for a Good Wife


CHAPTER

FOURTEEN

The Case for Monogamy

[ XII

214

Foreword
A clever journalist once called marriage a two-dimensional
study in frustration, an intimate relation without intimacy.
Statistics seem to bear out this cynical opinion: the divorce
rate has increased to the unprecedented point of one divorce
to every three marriages. Statisticians claim that if the present
rate of increase continues, the ratio in ten years will be 1:1one divorce for every marriage.
What is the matter with marriage?
There is nothing the matter with marriage itself. Something is, however, very much the matter with the mental
state of a high proportion of the people who enter into marriage. Too many of them are neurotic; and neurotics are not
good material for marriage. Very conveniently, however,
their underlying neuroticism is ignored and the institution
of marriage itself is indicted.
Divorce is no longer regarded as an extreme remedy for
an exceptional mistake, a situation encountered in normalcy, but rather as an everyday occurrence. I once asked
[ xiii

FOREWORD

a patient who was about to begin psychoanalytic treatment


why he wanted to be divorced. "Why, practically everybody
is either divorced or in the process of being divorced, or is
thinking of divorce," he said. "Marriage seems to be an
antiquated institution." When I told him that divorce, as
a rule, was a neurotic solution adopted chiefly by neurotic
persons, his response was one of mingled surprise and
disbelief.
Not knowing where the blame actually lies, people blame
both the institution of marriage and the marriage partner.
If one listens to those who have made a failure of their marriage, one gains the impression that every divorced woman
blames her husband and every divorced man blames his
wife. The third and principal participant in every neurotic
marriage, the neurosis which brought the couple together,
in the first place, escapes detection.
The psychology of the divorcee has not yet been written.
There is a superabundance of moral and statistical treatises;
but the decisive argument against divorce-the futility of
the whole procedure-is almost never stressed.
The futility of divorce can be established clinically: the
second, third, and nth marriages are but repetitions of previous experiences. The partner is changed-but that is the
only difference. The institution of multiple marriage is a
fiasco.
[ xiv

FOREWORD

It cannot be emphasized enough that I am referring in


this book excluswely to neurotics in a specific social setting:
Scene, the United States of America; time, the present. In
other cultures and at other times, the psychic components,
always present, take different forms.
The overemphasis on the bad marriages, constructed unconsciously by neurotics and described here, should not detract from the fact that good marriages do exist in great
numbers. They are not mentioned at length, because this
volume focuses its attention on neurotic marriages.
Since the publication of my book, Unhappy Marriage and
Dworce/ I have been frequently greeted with "So you
are the fellow who objects to divorce on psychiatric grounds!"
Being unable to answer such a question with a simple yes
or no, I decided to use a simile. "Imagine,". I said, "an
engineer living in a superstitious environment. Popular
opinion holds that the best way to prevent a threatening flood
is to take laxatives. The engineer is asked what he thinks of
this. The poor man must not necessarily be against castor oil
if he states that castor oil is an ineffective means of preventing a flood. He will, perhaps, without personal malice toward
castor oil, suggest the building of a dam as a less crude and
more effective way to stop a flood."
In my opinion, chronic seekers of divorce are neurotics
1 International

Univel"$ities Press, New York, 1946.

[ XV

FOREWORD

who should consult a psychiatrist before running to a lawyer.


The present volume focuses attention on the divorcee. She
is accused of almost everything--except her neurosis. But,
actually, she is an unhappy, struggling neurotic, misunderstood and maligned by herself and her environment. Even
her frequent promiscuity is a neurotic symptom. No less
significant is the fact that the "period between marriages,"
as one patient called her "post-Reno months," seems alluring
to many a married woman. During that time she can do as
she pleases-or so she believes. Precisely the opposite is
actually the case: the "freedom" to do, without interference,
whatever she pleases reduces itself in a divorcee to the
slavery of having to do whatever her specific neurosis forces
her to do. There is neither glamour nor freedom of will in
divorce; no more, at any rate, than in a severe case of typhoid
fever.

E.
New York

[ XVI

BERCLER

CHAPTER

Neurosis: the Silent Partner


in Neurotic Marrtages
HERE are four parties involved in every marriage.
In addition to the two people who took out the marriage license, there is for each of them an invisible
unconscious partner. This unconscious partner is really the
deepest part of the person himself, but works so silently that
the person is unaware even of its existence. Yet so powerful
are the unconscious partners, and so efficient is their work,
that they determine the whole course of the marriage and
every other important aspect of the lives of these people.
It is a curious situation. The man and woman think they
make their own decisions about their marriage and that its
fate lies in their own hands. But the truth is that the conscious
life of each of them is only the outer expression of a huge
network of deep-lying motives and complexes of which they
are quite unaware. In comparison with the total structure of
their personalities, the conscious aspect is of no more im[ I ]

DIVORCE WON'T

HELP

porta nee than an underling who carries out orders but has
no part in making the decisions. These decisions are made
in the unconscious behind closed doors, as it were, by a board
of directors which is never seen. The person who consciously
carries out the orders is not even aware that there is a board
of directors. He fancies that he himself has laid down the
decrees which he is executing and that he himself determines
his own acts; he does not realize for a moment that he is
acting solely on orders from the forces within.
To return to our married couple, the board of directorsthe unconscious parts of their personalities-determines whom
they marry and whether the marriage will be a success. At
the time when the bride and groom, on their honeymoon,
are wondering perhaps how the marriage will turn out, the
decision has already been made. If the marriage fails, it is
the unconscious parts of the personalities of the husband and
wife who have decreed that it shall be thus.
To the person who is unfamiliar with psychoanalytic
literature and case histories, these assertions may sound fantastic. And yet, the evidence in their favor is overwhelming,
and their importance can hardly be overestimated.
Seven eighths of an iceberg, we are told, lies beneath the
surface of the water. The captain who does not recognize
this fact, and, seeing an iceberg, steers his ship so as to avoid
only the portion which is above the water, is almost certain
[ 2. ]

NEUROSIS IN NEUROTIC

MARRIAGES

to crash his vessel against the treacherous underlying portions. Similarly, the person who fails to recognize that there
is more to himself than the part available to him in introspection, who thinks he knows all that he needs to know or
can know about his personality and his problems, simply by
self-examination and comparing notes with others, is gambling with his own fate just as much as the captain in our
example is gambling with the fate of his ship. Particularly
is this the case when, tile victim of a neurosis, he tries by
consciouseffort to avoid in his next marriage the things that
(he thinks) caused the wreck of the first. The unfortunate
fact is that the situation is not under the control of his conscious self. And when he makes the dangerous mistake of
believing that he-his consciousself, again-is his own board
of directors, inevitably his next marriage repeats the dismal
pattern of the first.
Why is this so? What, exactly, is this mysterious unconscious, this board of directors, that dictates the course of our
whole lives? Unfortunately, the combined efforts of a thousand analysts in all the countries of the world during a half
a century have not produced for the layman a simple, adequate explanation of the functioning of the different parts of
the unconscious,nor even devised a really satisfactory metaphor.
But let us say that the unconsciouspart of the personality

[3 ]

DIVORCE WON'T

HELP

is a hydra with three heads. Together, they constitute the


unconscious. Their rules of procedure are immensely complicated; but simplified to the point of caricature, they work
like this:
Head No. J has a big mouth, which screams loudly, "I am
presenting my demand and I insist that it be accepted." This
head represents that part of the unconscious personality which
harbors exclusively one's unconscious repressed wishes and
most primitive emotions (in psychoanalytic terms, the Id).
Head No. '2 works on a horizontal axis. It moves mostly
in a gesture of refusal, dramatizing its constantly repeated
"No." It stands for the pleasure-denying inner conscience,
known as the Superego.
Head NO.3 moves on a vertical axis, usually bovved with
the weight of its despair as it ponders the eternal question:
((How can I work out a compromise between these two tormentors? Whatever I do, I'll get nothing but blows and
reproaches. If I give in to the first one, the second will raise
Cain; if I agree with the second scoundrel, the first will flay
me. Nobody takes into account the fact that I want only peace
and quiet." This meditation is sometimes interrupted by a
nod of consent to both tormentors. Head No. 3 represents
the unconscious Ego. Together these three are the council of
inner powers in every personality.
The third head is the weakest; both hard-boiled com-

[4 ]

NEUROSIS IN NEUROTIC

MARRIAGES

panions shout commands at it-contradictory commands, and


it is the job of head No. 3 to try to satisfy the demands of
both. But the third head is important in that it is in a strategic
position-it is contact man witb the conscious part of the
personality and the outside world. Nevertheless, it is weak;
and in its despair it has a brilliant idea: a compromise. After
long pleading, the other two agree temporarily to a middle
course, but are ready to break the deal whenever the opportunity presents itself.
The mythological Hydra was a many-headed rnonster,
killed by Herakles, a feat constituting one of the twelve
labors of that hero. Even he had some difficulty in killing the
monster for he found to his dismay that as soon as one head
was cut off, two grew in its place. Cleverly, he discovered
that only the central head was immortal. First burning out the
roots of the secondary heads with firebrands, he severed the
immortal head from the body and buried it under a rock.
One cannot subdue the unconscious Hydra singlehanded.
Even the most powerful modern weapon against the inner
directorate, psychoanalytic psychiatry, does not kill the unconscious Hydra outright. It only makes the monster behave,
eliminating its devastating power.
You may object that mythological comparisons are too
farfetched, and prefer a more concrete and up-to-date simile.
Psychoanalysts frequently use one taken from the gangster

[ 5]

DIVORCE WON'T

HELP

era. Here it is: Imagine a crooked politician whose shady


deals are in constant danger of being brought into the open
by a young and determined district attorney. To avoid exposure, the endangered crook hires a shyster lawyer with the
reputation of having access to the district attorney, who, behind his stern facade, appreciates the value of money, even
to the extent of being corrupt. The lawyer swings a deal
between the two. To his crooked client, he says: "You cannot
have your way without paying for it." To the district attorney
he says: "Look in the other direction, my client knows that
he has to pay." Whereupon both gentlemen think it over and
say: "How much?" Having won this much ground, the
Iawyer argues with his client: "The price is high. You must
accede to the condition that you will commit all your deeds
in fantasy only-I
mean unconscious fantasy-and for that
pleasure you will pay the price of self-torture, depression, and
conscious unhappiness." With the district attorney he pleads:
"My client is a harmless fool; he will merely imagine his
misdeeds, and will pay you off in the same coin with which
you impose penalties-in suffering." On this basis a compromise course is decided upon and this compromise manifests itself outwardly as neurotic symptom, sign, or personality disorder.'
1To

avoid misunderstanding: The Id, or one's unconscious repressed wishes,


correspond to the crooked politician of the simile, the Superego or inner conscience to the district attorney, and the unconscious Ego to the shyster lawyer.

[ 6]

NEUROSIS IN NEUROTIC

MARRIAGES

A poor deal for the crook, you may object. Quite true. He
is a poor businessman and would not stay long in politics. The
unconscious fantasy, however, is so important to him that he
is willing to pay any price. The price with which one pays
intra psychically (that is, within one's unconscious) is not
money. The very young child does not know the value of
money, the measuring rod in the nursery is love and punishment. Hence the highest price payable intrapsychically is
suffering. Suffering is the neurotic currency in which penalties and taxes are paid.
The next question we need to be clear about is what
characterizes the unconscious when it gives orders which,
when obeyed by the conscious self, are called neurotic traits.
What, in short, is a neurosis?
Neurosis, as Freud showed fifty years ago, is the child in
you, though to all external appearances you are a grown-up
person. If you have a neurosis it means that you have retained
in your unconscious infantile conflicts-desires, defenses,
feelings of guilt-which under normal conditions you would
have overcome between the ages of one and five. The conscious part of the personality is entirely unaware of these
conflicts, and (if it knew what they were) would--at least at
first-reject
them as silly or senseless. Nevertheless, that
infantile part of the personality dominates the neurotic
individual in the most cruel dictatorship known to mankind.

[7 ]

DIVORCE WON'T

HELP

And it is so powerful that, unaided, one cannot fight it, any


more than one could fight an invisible man.
Quite simply, neurosis is a disease, a malfunctioning of
the unconscious. It means that the unconscious Ego has not
been able, for various reasons, to strike a satisfactory balance
between the clamorous demands of the Id and the inhibitions
and restrictions imposed by the Superego. Consequently, the
Ego is forced to take devious ways to satisfy the primitive
demands of the Id. From this necessity arises the crooked deal
or compromise-to
revert to our metaphor-which
the
lawyer (the unconscious Ego) negotiates between his client
(the Id) and the district attorney (the Superego). This compromise manifests itself outwardly as a neurotic symptom or
personality disorder. The pattern of the compromise is repeated over and over again, re-enacted with one or another
person in the outside world, who is unconsciously chosen as
suitable for that purpose, and identified with someone connected with the original (still unsettled) infantile conflict at
the back of it all.
Here are a few instances of how it works.
Mrs. A. came to me for psychoanalytic treatment after
the collapse of her marriage, which had lasted for ten years.
During those ten years she had left her husband four times,
only to return each time in the hope of reforming him. Their
conflicts were based on his chronic infidelity. The sequence
of events was always the same. After a few weeks of relative

r8J

NEUROSIS IN NEUROTIC

MARRIAGES

quiet, her husband would become moody, and could find (he
claimed) but one antidote: another woman. After a few
months the affair would be over, and peace and penitence
would reign once more, until after a while the same cycle
would repeat itself. The last straw in this poorly balanced
marriage was a letter the woman received from her husband,
who was on a business trip in foreign country, informing her
that after a tragic experience with another woman, in which
he had proved himself impotent, he had decided to retire
from sex completely. Asking for divorce, forgiveness, and
pity, the letter gave one a feeling of hopelessness. Mrs. A.,
having some knowledge of psychiatric literature, asked herself why she had tolerated this "nonsense" for so long, and,
suspecting that she was not so innocent herself, decided to be
psychoanal yzed.
Her analysis revealed that she had left her childhood with
an unconscious pattern in which she was always the aggrieved
person. She needed for her unconscious re-enactment three
people: father, mother, herself. "Father cares for mother
only; I'm left out"-that
was her pattern. In other words,
she did not overcome the shock of the realization that her
infantile competition with her mother for her father's love
was hopeless." That banal conflict, confronting every child
The term "Oedipus complex" (the existence of which was established by
Freud fifty years ago) is used to describe the libidinous and aggre~i\'e
attachment of the child to his mother or father respectively. Every girl wants
to supplant the mother in the bther's sexual affection, and therefore hIlS
2

[9 ]

DIVORCE WON'T

HELP

and overcome under normal conditions by acceptance of the


facts, was in this specific case neurotically elaborated. CCI want
to be the disappointed child, neglected by my parents, who
enjoy themselves." That unconscious wish was counteracted
by a severe veto from the Superego. The compromise worked
out by the unconscious go-between (unconscious Ego), was:
"U nder the condition of conscious suffering, you may enjoy
your wish of being left in the cold." Consciously, Mrs. A.
was very unhappy; but the fact that she stayed with her
husband for ten long years proved that the consciously
unhappy situation had great magnetic power----unconsciously.
She clung to the infantile disappointment and repeated it
unconsciously on the marital stage. Once more a woman
snatched the loved man away, once more the child was left
in the cold.
One could object that Mrs. A. was merely the victim of
her husband's neurosis. That objection is based on a misconception. First of all, we all possess ;11 our unconscious an
infallible apparatus for understanding

e11zot1onally the un-

conscious of others. True, in novels and movies we seem to

be told differently. This is one difference between story and


hostile feelings toward the mother. The opposite applies to the boy. Under
normal conditions these wishes are repressed {hence unconscious}, desexualized,
and changed into tenderness and camaraderie.
The term "pre-Oedipal" denotes the dual;ty of the mother-child relationship as encountered in the fint I y.-~years of life. The dual mother-child
relationship later changes into the triaogut:.r relationship of child-mother-father.

( 10 ]

NEUROSIS IN NEUROTIC

MARRIAGES

reality. All stories about a normal woman who becomes the


prey of a neurotic man, and vice versa, or a normal man who
falls in love with a highly neurotic woman, are literary fairy
tales. Real life is less romantic; two neurotics look for each
other with uncanny regularity. Nothing is left to chance, as
far as emotional attachments are concerned.
The clinical proof in the case of Mrs. A. was provided by
herself. After her marital disappointment, she fell in love
with a completely different type of man who gave her, she
claimed, sheer delight." The man had serious intentions,
spoke constantly of home, children, and marital contentment. After some time, contradictions in his behavior made
Mrs. A. suspicious; she discovered that the man was an
impostor.
One cannot say that the second man was an improvement:
she had simply bargained for greater trouble. Quantitatively,
the pattern was increased, qualitatively, it remained unchanged. Her "instinct" did not warn her, she was aware of
no danger signal, and she drove merrily on-down the embankment.
Mrs. B., a good-looking woman of French extraction in
her early forties, entered analysis in despair: her husband had
confronted her with a request for her consent to an official
triangle. He had suggested that his mistress move into her
apartment. "That's too much, even for me," Mrs. B. exclaimed.
[ II ]

DIVORCE WON'T

HELP

"How long have you been married?" I asked her.


"Eighteen years."
"How long have you known of the existence of the other
woman?"
"Approximately six years."
"And you didn't object?"
"Of course I did, but it didn't do me any good."
"How did you find out about the affair with the other
woman?"
"My husband told me."
"Why?"
"He believes in telling the truth. He even boasted about
the details."
"Are you financially dependent on your husband?"

"No."
"Why did you tolerate this situation?"
CCI was in love with my husband."
"Do you personally know your competitor?"
"Of course-she is our closest friend."
"Your-what?"
"I know it sounds crazy. We have a place in the country,
where she was our guest regularly. She even had a miscarriage there."
"Who was the father of her child?"
"My husband, of course."
[ 12 ]

NEUROSIS IN NEUROTIC

MARRIAGES

"Why 'of course'?"


"Well. ... "
"When was all this?"
"Oh, ten or twelve years ago."
"Didn't you tell me before that you had known about your
husband's double life only for six years?"
"Well, if you take it that way, I knew about it longer."
"How else can you 'take it'?"
"I meant, he told me the whole story six years ago."
''Were you ever in love before you married your husband?"
"Twice. Both were married men. The situation was hopeless."
''Why do you always attach yourself to a 'hopeless situation'? "
Tears, and more tears, were the answer.
"What kind of personality is your husband?"
"He is a drinker."
"How long?"
"For years."
''Why did he confront you just at this time with his ultimatum?"
"He has talked about it for a long time. Why does he have
to make my life so impossible!"
''What about the environment? Assuming that you were

[ 13 ]

DIVORCE WON'T

HELP

sick enough to accept your husband's proposal, what's the


practical solution?"
"She would be officially our subtenant."
((Are you at all conscious of how-let's say-unusual your
husband's proposal is?"
((We are artists," Mrs. B. said, as if that explained everything.
So what?"

"My husband always makes fun of me and my bourgeois


ideas. I'm really confused-many people have affairs, and
he claims that his proposal eliminates lies from our relationship. I just can't stand the whole thing. Am I wrong?"
I suggested that I see the husband. But he refused: "There
is nothing to discuss."
The second interview with Mrs. B. showed that her
fantastically submissive attitude toward her husband was
not her real reason for consulting me. She was obsessed by
an idea that was quite extraordinary from her point of
view, which was that of a woman who feels herself a martyr.
She was "scared to death," she said, lest she cut off her
husband's genitals during his sleep.
"Do you consider me a murderess?" she asked with
frightened eyes.
I laughed. There is not the slightest danger."
"How can you be so sure? Sometimes I'ITI so furious at
my husband's unreasonable demands in this rl'Winage Ii trois,
[ 14 ]

NEUROSIS IN NEUROTIC

l\1ARRIAGES

and at his whole behavior, that I'm really scared even to


look at the razor."
"I repeat: There is no danger. You are incapable of
doing that."
"But why?"
The reason is simple," I told her. "What appears 1n
consciousness is never an unconscious wish directly expressed,
but only the Inner defense against that wish. The fact that
you were capable of enduring-and,
as you will see later,
of enjoying unconsciously-your
husband's neurotic behavior, proves that your real trouble is deep neurotic
submissiveness. You must be an overdimensional glutton
for punishment. Your Superego-your inner conscience, that
is-very likely objects to that type of inner pleasure and,
as a result, you are forced unconsciously to furnish an alibi.
This alibi is your pseudoaggressive wish to act Delilah with
your husband."
"Are you sure that I'm not;a murderess?"
"Quite sure."
Mrs. B. entered treatment against her husband's wishes.
Her analysis confirmed my first impression that her real
trouble was not her hidden murder-wish, as she thought,
but exactly the opposite. She was a rather extreme example
of what psychic masochism-the unconscious desire to suffer
-<:an do to a person.
Three times in her adult life she had attached herself
[ IS ]

DIVORCE WON'T

HELP

to a hopeless" situation. What she was repeating was an


unconscious pattern fashioned in her earliest childhood. The
real conflict pertained originally to her mother, who preferred her sister. She hated her mother, and felt extremely
guilty because of her hatred. But instead of giving up her
hatred, she clung to it under an increasing feeling of guilt.
Normally, that sense of guilt pushes the child out of his
dangerous parental hatred: it "does not pay" to allow oneself
hatred under painfully self-damaging conditions. But the
psychic masochist continues the hatred-guilt connection by
changing guilt into pleasure-the
pleasure of self-torture.
The pleasure is, of course, entirely unconscious. At the same
time, such a child nullifies punishment; the moment punishment becomes inner pleasure," the educator is reduced to
absurdity. Everybody has observed, occasionally, children
punished for some misdeed. The educational idea behind it
is deterrence. Normally, the method works. There are, however, children in whom exactly the opposite happens: they
continue the deed leading to punishment. To all intents and
purposes these children ask for more punishment.
As Mrs. B. grew older, she shifted her masochistic wishes
toward her father. He was a ladies' man, and his infidelity
was known to the children at an early age. All too frequently
they overheard parental quarrels. Unconsciously, the later
Mrs. B. imagined herself in the role of one of his mistresses.

[ 16 ]

NEUROSIS IN NEUROTIC MARRIAGES

Since that was possible only after first paying the intrapsychic
fee of guilt and punishment, the "impossible situation"normally avoided-became the guiding pattern of her life.
She allowed herself loving attachment, unconsciously identified with the forbidden situation in childhood, only on the
condition of suffering. Hence her creation and endurance of
the triangular situation in marriage for so many years. Then,
as a defense against her overdimensional self-humiliation,
she built up a pseudoaggressive Delilah fantasy.
Mrs. C., a successful businesswoman, aged thirty, had
been married three times and divorced three times. Her
man-eating list included also a long series of transitory
"trial affairs," but the men in these affairs she discarded
before marriage, "to save a trip to Reno." She gave one the
impression of being a hyperactive woman, full of life, buoyancy, and enthusiasm. This attitude and her sound financial
background attracted weak men. Three times she had married good-look.ing "nobodies," only to find out quickly that
they were passive, weak. characters, who leaned on her. She
lost respect for these "underlings," as she called them contemptuously, and divorced them quickly and regularly. "How
fortunate that I'm financially independent!" she once observed. She did not consider her love life unusual and
consulted me because of hypochondriacal complaints. Asked
how she explained her marital fiascoes, she answered that
[ 17 ]

DIVORCE WON'T

HELP

all her friends had had similar experiences "of one sort or
another."

"Why do you always attach yourself to weaklings who


disappoint you?"
"I'm not responsible for the type of men produced in our
times," she retorted.
"Do you deny that there are more active men?"
I don't. But obviously they are not attracted to me."
Mrs. C.'s analysis showed that she had been strongly
attached to her cold and disinterested father. She produced
during treatment a series of recollections in which she revealed herself as having been deeply aggrieved by her
father's "impenetrability." Only late in life did she understand that there had been no malice behind her father's
attitude, but only a neurotically withered emotional life. As
a child, of course, she had felt rejected.
That neurotically elaborated, overly submissive attachment toward the father was warded off. Afraid of her unconscious wish to be mistreated by her "cold" father, in her
own affairs (as a defense) she unconsciously reversed the
roles: she acted the part of the dismisser, after reducing the
men to nonentities. Her aggressive attitude toward men,
however, was less one of castrating revenge than a reassurance against her inner fear; by nullifying the man, she
proved inwardly that her father could not be dangerous
[

J8

NEUROSIS IN NEUROTIC

MARRIAGES

any more. She was afraid of aggressive or even active men


who would treat her like the masochistic baby she inwardly
really was. So she avoided them, and they avoided her
because of her hyperactivity, which bordered on masculinity.
On the other hand, by choosing weaklings who "leaned
on her" financially and morally, she proved-unconsciously
identifying herself with her father-how unjustly her father
had treated her. Her real unconscious wish was discernible
only indirectly. The victim of her own defensive part, which
she played so well on the marital and extramarital stage,
she was disappointed when weak and passive men took her
inner defense at face value and saw in her the strong active
woman.
Being a glutton for punishment, she had to recur to
many hypochondriacal symptoms and signs to get some
vicarious "pleasure" of the type she really enjoyed. The
neurotic thinking of her circle (the ultrasmart set) resulted
in the amusing fact that she did not even regard her strange
ccmultiple-divorce life in mass production" as unusual. On
the other hand, she acknowledged that "It is startling with
what uncanny regularity I always fall for the same type,
and how these men run after me."
The outcome of these three cases gives the first hint of
what difficulties and limitations (both external and internal)
psychiatry has to deal with therapeutically. Mrs. A. intro-

[ 19

DIVORCE 'VON'T

HELP

duced her husband to me. He could not be convinced that


he was a neurotic; he insisted that he was just "through with
women." Mrs. A. divorced him, and after the intermezzo
with the impostor, fell in love with a cultured, stable, but
slightly neurotic man. She insisted that he be treated before
rnarriage , this treatment was short and successful. Their
marriage is a happy one. The degree to which the choice
of her first husband and fiance was neurotic, is obvious from
the fact that she, an Englishwoman, with a distaste for
everything non-English, married first a French-Canadian,
and then 'vas engaged to the impostor-engineer, a Greek.
Her second husband was a conservative Englishman.
Mrs. B. wanted her husband to be treated too. He refused
even to see me or any other psychiatrist. It took some time
to reconcile Mrs. B. to the hopelessness of the situation. She
went through the period of divorce without too great difficulties; she became emotionally stable; her spells of depression
disappeared, but--she did not attach herself to a man. The
treatment was limited in time, since she had to sail for
France before treatment could be completed. I doubt, however, whether even sufficient time would have brought her
further. Her half-neurotic, though more reality-adapted,
compromise seems to be a renunciation of her conspicuous
neurotic behavior in favor of fantasies.
Mrs. C. went through a series of ups and downs. She
[ 20 ]

NEUROSIS IN NEUROTIC

MARRIAGES

finally married a man in his forties and is, according to a


letter received recently, happy in her four-year-old "new"
marriage, which she euphemistically calls her first one.
A patient of mine, a woman who was also a member of
the divorce club on the conveyer belt, quoted an anonymous
"All husbands are alike, they just have different faces so
you can tell them apart." Had that chronic divorcee stated
that her husband and the husbands of her neurotic "sisters
under the skin" were of types corresponding to her and her
sisters' neuroses) she would have come nearer to clinical
facts. The fate of neurotic marriages is determined in the

nursery, and the pattern is repeated with monotonous regularity.

L zr J

CHAPTER

II

The Futility of Divorce


HE neurotic divorcee believes that in divorcing her
husband she has closed an unbappy chapter in her
life once and for all.' What really has happened
is quite different: the particular person upon whom she
temporarily projected an inner conflict has been discarded.
But the conflict itself is still very much alive, and is waiting
in the unconscious for the next chance to materialize.
Projection is the most banal and frequently used inner
defense. It happens to everybody. A classic example is the
behavior of the pathologically jealous husband (described
by Freud) who accuses his wife of unfaithfulness, without
the slightest justification, and cannot be convinced with the
most thorough proofs of the falsity of his accusation. Analysis
shows that he himself wants to be unfaithful, represses the
thought, and shifts it projectively onto his innocent wife.
Since his inner wish continues, his "unshakeable conviction"
also continues. Projection is a shift of an unbearable inner
It has already been emphasized in the Foreword that 1I<J' everybody who
seeks divorce is neurotic. I am referring in this book only to neurotics.
I

[ 2::\ ]

TI-IE FUTILITY

OF DIVORCE

problem onto another person in the outer world, made


without conscious awareness.
Can one change his inner disposition by changing his apartment? This is exactly what the woman seeking divorce tries
to do, in vain: by changing the external factors, she thinks
to change an inner conflict.
A neurotic conflict is unconsciously dramatized in marriage.
The stage is set, and the partner is chosen in accordance with
the rules governing the specific neurosis. The partner is unconsciously viewed not as a real person, but merely as a movie
screen upon which to reel off an unconscious conflict. Divorce
means that unconsciously the person suing for divorce wants
to get rid of her own inner conflict. Unaware of the
very existence of the conflict, she fights with great energy
against her partner, upon whom the conflict has been projected. In other words, she has confused her unconscious
dynamic conflict with her husband, and thus the internal
battle is not fought on the real front. The displacement is
usually mutual; hence the spectacle of two people who want
to get rid of each other.
Here we meet with an apparent contradiction. If it is true
that a person repeats unconsciously on the marital stage an
infantile conflict, why should she rebel? If that particular
brand of neurotic happiness corresponds to her inner wishes,
why not continue to enjoy it?
That question reveals a misunderstanding of neurotic

[ 23 ]

DIVORCE WON'T

HELP

mechanisms. The neurotic wishes, fulfilled in marriage, are


constantly opposed by the stern inner conscience, or Superego,
which objects to the neurotic pleasure. To furnish an inner
alibi, to prove that no pleasure is enjoyed, divorce is instituted.
Thus we arrive at the conclusion that divorce IS an unconscious alibi presented to the Superego.

Unhappy marriage, preceding divorce, furnishes the first


installmen: of the alibi, by presenting to the Superego
suffering and unhappiness. As long as the Superego accepts
that payment there is no divorce, despite all complaints. Only
if the Superego insists that in spite of all the alleged unhappiness, the individual is enjoying too much inner pleasure,
must the alibi be strengthened. That second installment of the
alibi is technically called divorce.
Psychic processes are never static, always dynamic. Repressed wishes in the Id surge forward, the Superego objects
violently, the unconscious Ego, the inner Iawyer and gobetween, furnishes its alibis and defenses. Only the interplay
of these three components of the unconscious part of the
personality explains why a person acts or does not act in a
certain way. One cannot overestimate the typical oversight
which singles out one factor exclusively. One demand by one
of the three real bosses of the personality never alone explains
the result. A person's final action or omission of an action
[ 24 ]

THE FUTILITY

OF DIVORCE

presupposes an "inner deal," a compromise among the Big


Three of the unconscious. Of course, there are intermediary
stages in which one of the trio pulls the wool over the eyes
of the other two by furnishing an alibi in suitable disguise.
But after some time, the cleverest camouflage is rejected,
the trick seen through. The result is that a new and more
costly alibi is fabricated.
That is exactly what is meant by the statement that divorce
is the second installment of the alibi presented unconsciously
to the Superego. The neurotic marriage is entered into, in
the first place, and continued, because it satisfies, or promises
to satisfy, the inner wishes and defenses of both participants.
(True, their conscious reasons are completely different.) The
unconscious infantile conflict is then reeled off, until the
Superego starts to object. To appease and mollify that cruel
inner district attorney and judge in one, unhappiness, consciously experienced, is presented on a platter. The inner
lawyer argues his client's case before the High Tribunal of
the Inner Judge: "My innocent client is not enjoying himself,
as the indictment claims. Quite the contrary; he is suffering
terrible pain, hardship, and unhappiness." For a short while
that alibi is accepted. After some time, however, the inner
judge refuses to be fooled by the alibi of pseudo unhappiness.
Hence, the alibi is re-enforced: consciously, the prospective
divorcee approaches the well-known stage of "I can't stand
[ 25 ]

DIVORCE "VON'T HELP

it any longer." Translated into the language of the unconscious, the Superego requires more substantial gain out
of the shady deal, paid in the coin of suffering. This leads to
greater conscious suffering, and, in unfavorable cases, to the
last desperate alibi: divorce. Reno has found a new customer.
\\Te have already said that the person suing for divorce
wants to get rid of his own inner conflict. This point requires
some amplification. The inner lawyer makes clear to his
client two sets of "suggestions," of an CCIdon't ask you, I'm
telling you" kind. First, that he has to put up more ransom
in the form of a new alibi: "Nothing will do this time but
complete dissociation from the object upon whom the inner
pleasures are projected." Second, that it is in the client's own
interest to come out of the too highly charged atmosphere:
"Take it easy!" In other words, the inner lawyer, too, pleads
for a more moderate climate, for a lessening of tension.
Simplified, it can be stated as follows: The person wants to
get rid of his conflict. One should add: Temporarily.
However, the decisive point in divorce is the alibi element.
One marriage partner sacrifices the other in order to retain
the possibility of repeating the inner conflict with somebody
else. In neurosis, retention of the unconscious pattern is

decisive, the person with whom the pattern is repeated much


less important.
Having become familiar with these facts (it took me years

[ 26 ]

THE FUTILITY

OF DIVORCE

not to overlook them in analyzing patients), I cannot help


but smile, with a bit of sadness, at the naivete and selfdeception of divorcees when they assure me, after the fiasco
of their last marriage, that they are "definitely through"
with their "mistakes." In the realm of the unconscious, divorce means just the opposite: a skirlnish was lost, an
important hamlet sacrificed in the great battle of the neurosis,
itl order to save the main army intact for the ine'Vitable next
attack. The divorcee really never calls it quits as far as the
main neurotic problem is concerned. She acts rather upon a
mixture of two maxims, though she may never have heard of
them. One is General Foch's dictum: CCMycenter is giving
way, my right is pushed back: excellent; I'll attack!" The
other is Goldsmith's ironic stanza:
For he who fights and runs away
May live to fight another day;
But he who is in battle slain
Can never rise and fight again.

Divorce is a temporary respite and strategic retreat in the


great battle of the neurosis. In its elasticity, the unconscious
Ego was victorious. It convinced its client that a specific
position had become untenable, and therefore had to be
abandoned until it could be regained. The purpose of the
inner maneuver is not to overcome, but to perpetuate the
neurotic pattern.

DIVORCE WON'T

HELP

This explains why the next marriage? is a fiasco, from


the conscious point of view. One might object, however, that
in this whole analysis another significant fact has been overlooked: the famous warning voice of experience.
The question, "Don't people learn from experience in
marital conflicts?" can be answered very precisely: "They
don't." The whole idea that one learns by marital experience
is based on a misconception, namely that our emotional life
is go\-erned by rational considerations. Our emotional life
is governed by unconscious feelings upon which experience has
no effect.
Moreover, one has to take into account that a marriage
failure by no means represents a defeat as far as the
unconscious is concerned. On the contrary, it is an inner
victory, though paid for with a high price-consciously experienced suffering. The temporary retreat, culminating in
divorce, was begun not because 100 little unconscious happiness was experienced, biu too much, That "too much"
One might object that the assumption that divorcees remarry as often as
described is unwarranted. It is nevertheless true that the remarriage of divorcees
is a very frequent occurrence and a more "normal" solution than renunciation
of marriage. That the latter occurs is, of course, also true. It is no less true
that the second marriage of some neurotic divorcees, though unhappy, is maintained. These people will sweat out an unsuccessful marriage the second time
rather than resort to divorce. This expedient does not change the basic facts
described above. That neurotics frequently maintain a self-damaging position
for a long stretch of time is explainable on the score of their psychic masochism
-their unconscious desire for and enjoyment of punishment.
2

THE

FUTILITY

OF DIVORCE

brought the antilibidinous Superego out on the warpath,


with the result that the forbidden pleasure had to be relinquished-tem poraril y.
As long as one clings to the idea that the conscious and
the unconscious are identical, or denies the existence of the
unconscious, no real understanding of the personality is
possible. Naivete and ignorance in psychological matters are
not penalized by law, though both are attended with grave
disadvantages for the possessor.
The simple but impressive fact in neuroses is: Unconscious
happiness must be paid for with conscious unhappiness.
Since this is so, it is not too surprising that the divorcee
craves unconsciously a "second chance." Consciously, she
tries to avoid suffering. But unconsciously, greater neurotic
pleasure is desired. Since that is attainable only under the
condition of consciously experienced suffering, the second
marriage will bring more conscious suffering.
"But sometimes the second marriage does work out, in a
moderate emotional climate, even though the first was hell
on earth!" This objection is correct for some (not very
typical) cases; but the interpretation put upon that fact is
erroneous. What is going on is a complicated business.
It is true that the unconscious clamors for more concentrated neurotic pleasures in the second marriage. The Ego
could persuade the reluctant candidate for divorce to give

[ 29 ]

DIVORCE WON'T

HELP

Up her first husband only by promising her a second, "better"


chance for remote enjoyment under less pressure of guilt.
But the promise is not kept. Instead, feelings of guilt continue to torture the woman, all because of the unconscious
wishes, materialized (and enjoyed unconsciously) in her first
.
marriage.
The result is that in these cases the woman seemingly
seeks a change of type. She who previously looked for a
strong, rather dominant man, marries next a rather shy and
weak one. Or, the woman previously impressed with glamorous men chooses for her second husband a quiet and
unexciting person. In such cases people say, She's had
enough, she's learned from experience she's trying it now
the other way around."
The irony of the situation lies in the fact that the woman
in question did no: learn anything from experience. Her
Superego tormented her so intensely that her unconscious
Ego had to present it with a radically changed and brandnew alibi. "My client is innocent; she does not even dream
of committing all the crimes she is accused of in the indictment. Just look at what she really wants--exactly
posite." That alibi is dramatized
conscious knowledge)

the op-

(once more without her

and she falls in love" with the

opposite type.
A patient with whom I discussed this strange change of

[ 30

THE

FUTILITY

OF DIVORCE

type grew impatient with my interpretation. ((You twist


things around and find an answer for everything. Assuming,
for the sake of the argument, that you are correct-what
of it? If the poor wretch finds happiness through that trick,
everything is O. K., isn't it?"
The problem reduces itself to the question: Does the alibiseeker find happiness in that unconscious shift?
Clinical experience has, once more, the last word. And
that merciless (really only impartial) psychic microscope
indicates that while the alibi-seeker did in fact appease her
stern Superego by renouncing her type and has therefore less
feeling of guilt, she is paying the price of boredom and
dissatisfaction." The giveaway here is that consistently she
looks for lovers corresponding to the type that she has
allegedly renounced.
When I presented these conclusions to a clever divorcee
who was undergoing analysis, she objected: ((I have two
doubts. First, I believe that divorce is so painful becauseas I learned in analysis-I lived out so many neurotic wishes
in my marriage. Parting from those unconscious wishes hurts.
Secondly, I believe that the starting point for one's decision
in a neurotic marriage to write 'finish' ~o the marriage is
simply a conscious fact: the discrepancy between conscious
expectation and consciously perceivable defeat."
a Only exceptional cases are on record in which the neurotic reaction "spent
itself" in the fint marriage, making the second one a success.

[ 3I

DIVORCE WON'T

HELP

((Very well. You don't see any reason to drag the Superego
into the conflict."

"Exactly."
((You assume then that a crucial decision in the unconscious
economy is dictated exclusively by a conscious factor. That
never happens."
"But could not wounded pride be the motivating factor?"
she suggested.
"I tis," 1 agreed, "but as defense. First the Superego
objects; then, secondarily, in defense, your narcissism, your
self-love, is mobilized and rushes to put a good face on
things, and the alibi is presented: (I hate the whole thing
anyway.' "
"What's wrong with my assumption?" she insisted.
"It's a nice simplification. It shows that you still don't
believe in the dominance of the unconscious personality."
((Don't you believe that many intelligent people would
agree with me?"
((I am sure of that," I told her. "Every analytic statement
sounds fantastic, and is highly contradictory to common sense.
The trouble is that common sense cannot be used as a yardstick for an understanding of the unconscious; common sense
is not the currency of the unconscious."
"What's wrong with common sense?"
"Nothing at all-if you apply it to consciousness. If you

[ 32

THE

FUTILITY

OF DIVORCE

do the same to unconsciousness, you just arrive at wrong


conclusions, though you may feel superior to all analysts."
"Doesn't it frighten you to be constantly at odds with
common sense?"
"Your irony can be countered best with a simile: Imagine
that it were possible for you, with an atomic vehicle, to
visit another planet where beings similar to human beings
dwell. Would you be astonished if the natives of that planet
refused to take a good dollar bill in payment for their wares?
Do you think that their indignant or astonished refusal to
accept the bill would be any reflection on the earthly value
of the bill?"
"Are consciousness and unconsciousness that far apart?"
"Approximately,"
"But being constantly contradicted, disbelieved, suspected,
maligned, must not be pleasant."
"The facts of the unconscious are unbelievable and provoke
hostility in the uninitiated, just because they hit the mark.
That can't be helped,"

[ 33 )

CHAPTER

III

Forbidden Frult
HE majority of neurotic marriages labor under a
disadvantage: the fact that sex is allowed and legalized in that relationship. This may be a commonplace,
but it is the very banality of the fact that contributes more
to marital unhappiness than anything else.
Both the sexual development of the child and the attitude
of adults toward sex result in the child's gaining the misconception that everything sexual is a great and strange
mystery. Sex thus acquires a connotation of danger, of the
forbidden, the mysterious. Sex in marriage, of course, does
not live up to these infantile connotations-hence it becomes
worthless for the neurotic.
"As simple as that?" objected an intelligent patient.
"Assuming a law were passed making marital sex a criminal
offense punishable by five years in Sing Sing, I could be
automatically cured of my impotence with my wife?"
"Can you deny," I asked him in reply, "that many people
drank during Prohibition because drinking was officially
forbidden? "

[ 34 ]

FORBIDDEN

FRUIT

"If that's true, education and the mental technique of


bringing up children should be radically changed," he argued.
"Actually, such a change would change very little. Even
when parents inform children about the 'facts of life'-and
you know how emotionally charged the discussion centering
around that problem is-the child simply clings to its own
misconceptions. And these misconceptions, based on the child's
fantasies, are always overburdened with inner guilt."
"You mean to say that external factors contribute little to
the equation: Sex=the forbidden?"
"Precisely. A silly education can increase the child's misconceptions, but the best technique of upbringing cannot
prevent these tragic misunderstandings."
"I don't believe it. One must be an optimist about
that."
"That is right," I agreed. "But optimism alone cannot
eradicate the difficulty. Look at the problem this way: The
child's sexual fantasies are connected first with members
of his family. Hence, guilt is automatically mixed with
them."
"Why not disconnect the guilt?"
''How?''
"By making sex perfectly matter of fact."
"That's impossible. Moreover, the child's ideas about sex
have little to do with adtult sex. That's exactly why the
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'facts of life,' as communicated to the child by the imaginary


educator you suggest, would not be believed by the child.
He would see some kind of trick in it."
"How can you prove that?"
"Very simply. There are many cases on record in which
naive and frightened parents did inform children of the
anatomical and physiological facts of sex and did not prevent,
by so doing, the later neurosis of the child."
"I don't believe that," he said stubbornly. "Perhaps they
were just clumsy."
"Y ou overestimate the importance of educational influences.
The inner guilt is the decisive element."
ccy ou mean to say that one is helpless against the fantasies
of the child?"
"More or less. If a child has at a specific moment the
misconception that sex consists of some kind of mutual
torture-the
father dishing it out, the mother on the receiving end-and you inform the child of the harmlessness
of the real act, the child simply disbelieves you."
ccOne has to prevent his acquiring that misconception in the
first place."
"Once more, that's impossible. The child may hear some
noise in his parents' bedroom, may see a sheet with spots of
menstrual blood, and misconstrue both experiences but connect both facts, and a sadistic-masochistic 'theory' is born.

[ 36

FORBIDDEN

FRUIT

That theory is resistant to all attempts to counteract iteven if an attempt should be made."
"That's fantastic."
"Take another example," I went on. "A patient of forty
remembered that he stayed awake all one night in order to
hear, at least, what Father does with Mother. The man's
recollection could be traced very precisely to a period before
his fourth year, since his father died at that time. He
remembered that father came home, ate his dinner, and
went to bed. At this point the recollection became rather
nebulous. In the morning, the mother woke the boy and he
immediately started to search her face. 'What are you looking for?' the mother asked, amused. 'Scars,' was the boy's
laconic reply. Obviously the child was prey to sadistic misconceptionsof the nature of parental intercourse, and, eliminating the time element, believed that these 'wounds' might
have healed overnight."
I doubt whether I immediately convinced my skeptical
patient. The facts remain nevertheless.
The allurement of the forbidden-the tragedy of sex for
neurotics--does not hold for relatively normal people. Growing up includes the overcoming of that fallacy.
As soon as one realizes that a neurotic unconsciously
carries over from childhood the connotations connected with
the idea that sex is forbidden, a number of facts become
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intelligible. One is why a woman who marries a man because


of love loses sexual interest shortly after marriage. If she
starts a series of illicit love affairs, unconsciously it is only
because with the lover the "condition of the forbidden" is
re-established. Sometimes the husband is divorced, and the
lover elevated to the vacant position of the husband, only to
be discarded too, as was the first husband, and for identical
reasons.
The a llnrement of the forbidden in sex is really the
tragedy of a widespread illusion. Infantile and repressed as
it is, it cannot be changed by conscious explanation. Only
psychiatric-psychoanalytic therapy can eradicate that inner
cancer.
It is interesting that the first person who, before Freud,
dimly suspected the connection between sex and the forbidden, was a poet, Henrich Heine. In his book on Ludwig
Boerne, Heine wrote, one hundred years ago (1840):
....
We, Boerne and I, also visited Bernheim ....
There
were beautiful girls ....
Boerne's eyes twinkled. In this mysterious twinkle, in this insecure lewd blinking, afraid of the inner voice,
the whole difference in our feelings was enclosed. Boerne was,
though not in his thoughts, but therefore more in his feelings, a
slave of Nazarenic abstinence. As usual with all people of that
sort, who accept sensual abstinence as the highest virtue, but are
incapable of living up to that ideal, he dared only in the secretive

twinkling and blushing, like a gluttonous boy, to taste of Eve's

FORBIDDEN

FRUIT

forbidden apples, I know not whether the enjoyment of these


people is more intense than with us who mist the allurement: of the
secret absconding and moral contraband. On the other hand, it is
said that Mohammed forbade wine to his Turks only for that
purpose: that it should taste sweeter to them ....

As usual, priority in such discoveries goes to the poet and


dreamer. Science formulates more precisely and with clinical
proofs. The discovery of the liaison between sex and the
forbidden is one example. Freud, who was the first to state
it scientifically, was capable of doing so only after he had
discovered clinically the fantastically complicated development of the child's sexuality.
Heine' was, incidentally, mistaken in his assumption that
people who enjoy sex as "secret absconding and moral
contraband" enjoy it more intensely. The way is not freely
chosen; they are forced in that direction. It is a symptom
of their neurosis.
1The

question, though not directly related, remains as to how and why


Heine could have made that observation in the first place. As far as it can
be reconstructed, Heine was a psychic masochist of the first order. As in a
defense, he had a good understanding of aggression.

[ 39

CHAPTER

IV

Psychic Masochism in Marriage


IFFICULT though it may be to believe, there are
people-millions of them-who are perpetual ccin_
justice-collectors.t" They constantly bring about
situations in which they will be unjustl y treated. If you
listen to them talk, they seem to be the innocent victims of
a "bad," "cruel," or CCunjust"environment, or other adverse
circumstances. They are not aware that their hurts and
punishments are self-imposed. But viewed analytically, these
people turn out to be unconscious gluttonsfor punishmentpeople who enjoy, without consciously knowing it, exactly
what the normal person avoids: defeat, humiliation, failure.
How is this possible? The seemingly universal rule of
human conduct-c-i'Look to your advantage, avoid everything
that harms you "--does not hold good for this class of people.
In this matter their common sense is suspended and inI coined this phrase and maintain it, although purists h3VC assured me
repeatedly that it is "impossible" in English. Even if this is true, the phrase is
:11 least convenient. Unfortunately,
the language is not equipped to describe
unconscious mechanisms.
1

PSYCHIC rvlASOCHISM IN MARRIAGE

operative, although in other respects they are quite rational.


These persons are called "psychic masochists."
A psychic masochist is not the person one is apt to confuse
him with. When one hears the term "masochism" one thinks
immediately of conscious lovers of pain. The uncomprehending outer world confounds the psychic variety of masochists
with the perverted brand of masochists. But they are far
from identical. A perverted masochist approves consciously
of pain. She will, for example, ask the man to beat her, to
burn holes in her skin, to scratch her till marks or blood
appear. The psychic masochist craves the same pain, but not
consciously.
The entire emotional life of these neurotics is based on a
three-part pattern:
Act I. They provoke a situation in which they are refused,
rejected, un justly treated.
Act 2. Quite ignorant of the fact that they themselves
have brought about this defeat, they fight in righteous
indignation-seemingly
in self-defense-against
the person
they imagine to be responsible.
Act 3. Then they pity themselves ad nauseam: "Such
injustice can happen only to me!"
The initial provocation (Act I) and the unconscious
enjoyment of defeat (part of Act 3) are entirely unconscious.
Conscious are the pseudo aggression accompanying the

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righteous indignation (Act 2), and the self-pity and selfcommiseration (part of Act 3).
I have described this pattern as the "mechanism of
orality." The name is derived from the fact that the pattern
develops during the earliest phase of the psychic development of the child-the oral phase-in which the mouth is
the main organ of contact with reality; the baby is merely
a "gimme."
The whole pattern gives the Ego a false sense of being
strong and aggressive, but actually the aggression serves
only to cover up gluttony for punishment, turned into unconscious pleasure.
Mr. D. and his wife were typical psychic masochists.
Mr. D., of North European Jewish extraction, had married
a Spanish girl from a devout Catholic family. Their tastes,
predilections, prejudices, and hobbies were completely different, although the girl had concealed this fact in the beginning.
The young woman was neurotically attached to her parents,
who were poor laborers, hopelessly struggling along in the
new country without being able to adjust themselves to new
conditions. As later developments proved conclusively, her
marriage was a sacrifice to insure financial security for her
parents. Her neurosis interfered, however, even in that rather
commercial deal-the
husband was financially well offand she tried in vain to "reform" him. He was the kind

PSYCHIC MASOCHISM IN MARRIAGE

of person who liked to go out, who liked people, parties,


entertainment. Between her wish to spend all the time with
her parents in virtual seclusion, and his wish to be constantly
with people, there was a gap which even under the most
favorable conditions could be breached only with a great
deal of understanding and tolerance. Both husband and wife
in this case were stubborn and the conflicts which ensued
were neurotically used. Every time the husband accepted an
invitation his wife made a violent scene, using as her motto:
cey ou don't love me." Every time his wife wanted to visit
her parents in the evening, thus forcing him to be "bored to
death," the husband complained, "You are more interested
in your parents than in me." Each of them created thus
a constant source of "injustice," which they exploited to
the last drop. Each felt himself the victim of the other's
unjust behavior. To complicate matters, political and religious
differences became increasingly evident. The husband began
to suspect that the strong fascistic leanings of his wife and her
family had an anti-Semitic substructure. This was never
mentioned, however; the battle to all outward appearances
was fought over the political issue. The husband felt that
his wife treated him shabbily: Hadn't he supported her
family for years? Why did she have to bother him constantly
with their boring problems? She never worried about himher thoughts were concentrated exclusively on the old couple

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and their relatives. She even sent the maid twice a week to
her parents' apartment. She spent all her days with her
parents, and neglected her own home. Buttons were not
sewed on, pajarnas not mended....
For fifteen years the
"injustice-collecting" went on unabated. The husband never
suspected that what hit him so hard was not a blow from the
outside, but that he himself had unconsciously created the
situation. Even in analysis, he had a difficult time in understanding that he had unconsciouslycreated and perpetuated
the conflict,
Mr. D. wanted his wife to be treated psychiatrically,
but she refused indignantly. The marriage ended in divorce.
Mr. D. remarried, and his marriage worked out satisfactorily.
Mrs. E. described her marital situation as follows: "We
are constantly at odds; our personalities don't mix, that's
all. To give you a few examples: My husband never informs
me about his business affairs. The result is that every day
I expect the decisive blow-in hearing that once more he has
lost his position. Don't believe that my fears are merely
imaginary; twice he lost lifelong positions (that is, Iifelong
positions for anybody else). The fool goes on rubbing people
the wrong way, especially the president of the company, and
is later surprised that they get rid of him. His not telling
me how things are in the office leaves me in a state of
constant fear. That doesn't make me any happier, and he
claims that I nag."
[ 44

PSYCHIC MASOCHISM IN MARRIAGE

"Do you?"
"Of course I do. Anybody would, confronted with such
a log."
"Did you explain to your husband that by not keeping
you informed about his situation in the office, he increases
your irritation?"
"Hundreds of times. Of course, he acts the gentleman and
pretends that he wants to spare me the jntermediary phases.
If you listen to him, he considers my feelings. What he
reilly does is provoke me. Then he is surprised when I pay
him back."
"How?"
"Just irritation. He claims that I am unsympathetic to
his fears and troubles, and am taking sides with his enemies.
What else can I do when I see him provoking his own
discharge? The moment I don't say (Yes, darling, you just
punched the president's right-hand man, why don't you
knock rum out,' he calls it (malicious antagonizing.'"
"How is your sex life?"
"Nonexistent. I'll try to give you his side of the story too:
He claims that I provoke him by nagging and afterward
ask for sex. Then he's not in the mood."
"Is his objection justified?"
"Partly. But, don't you see, the moment a woman has
to ask for sex, that's proof enough that there's something
wrong with the husband."

[ ~5]

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"Why do you ask at inopportune times?"


Would you tell me when is the opportune time? Once
a year, on February the joth?"
"Don't you see that you are both provoking constant
disappointments? "
"No. I see only that my husband is impossible."
As far as I know, both the husband and the situation remained impossible. Mrs. E. never entered treatment; her
husband refused to finance it.
Another psychic masochist, Mrs. F., had married an
inveterate gambler in the hope of reforming him. She was,
of course, unsuccessful, and although during the five years
of their marriage he had several times stopped gambling for
a short period, it was only because he had run out of funds.
As soon as money WaSagain available, his own or his wife's,
he succeeded in gambling away one third of her fortune. At
this point, her lawyer had put a stop to it, whereupon her
husband, reproaching her for her lack of confidence in him,
had threatened to leave her unless she got rid of her lawyer.
((What shall I do?') Mrs. F. asked helplessly. ''Wha~s
more important-money or a husband?"
"Undoubtedly a husband whom one loves," I replied.
"But your conflict is only temporarily relieved if you give
him more money. What if he loses that money, too?"
"I want to rescue him. I'll do anything."

r 4-6 ]

PSYCHIC MASOCHISM

IN MARRIAGE

"The only solution is to convince your husband that his


gambling is a sickness which has to be treated."
"But he doesn't acknowledge his gambling as a sickness
at all."
"That's exactly the trouble. If you cannot convince him,
and you still don't see the hopelessness of the situation, you
will have to be treated."
"Do you claim that all my attempts to rescue my husband
are neurotic?"
"If you continue them to the point of senseless sacrifice,
yes."
Mrs. F.'s husband refused to be treated for his addiction,
and he finally left her. I did not hear from her for more
than a year after the interview just described. She came
back later in a suicidal mood: she still "loved" her husband. A
long analysis followed for her self-damaging tendencies were
deeply ingrained. She is now happily married to another man.
As a final example of how psychic masochism shows itself
in people, take the case of Mrs. G., a woman of about thirty,
who consulted me one day, in great excitement.
"I have a moral question to ask," she announced.
"I'm a psychiatrist," I pointed out. "Aren't you at the
wrong place?"
"I think it's in your domain."
"Let's see."
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"Is a woman obliged to submit to sex with a husband


whom she does not love any more?"
"Let's have more information. Why do you stay with
your husband?"
"He doesn't want a divorce. He claims that he loves me.
What kind of love is it which let him start an affair exactly
at the time when I was pregnant with his child?"
"How did he explain his action?"
"He didn't. I found out through an anonymous letter."
"When was that?"
"Two years ago. It was in the second year of our
marriage."
"What did he say after you confronted him with the
facts?"
"At first he denied everything. Later, when the evidence
was too strong (I engaged a detective) he said I was uninterested in sex. In reality, I just refused sex, as Iny obstetrician advised me to, during the last months of pregnancy. I
stretched the point and didn't want sex during the whole
pregnancy. I don't like sex."
"Are you financially dependent on your husband?"

"No."
((Why do you continue the marriage?"
((Because of Iny child. I want to give the boy every chance
in life. I believe that a father is necessary for the child's
normal development."

PSYCHIC MASOCHISM

IN MARRIAGE

"Did it ever occur to you that a bad marriage is as


damaging to the child as divorce is?"
"Of course," Mrs. G. said. "That's why 1 ask my husband
to act like a happy husband."
"How can one act that part? Either straighten out your
marriage or divorce him."
"I can't do either," she said, flatly.
"Is your husband continuing the affair with the other
woman?"
"I don't think so. At the moment, he is very penitent
and wants sex with me. It's as if my refusal stimulates his
desire. He gets terribly excited, shouts, and complains the
next moment with tears in his eyes that I am unjust and
torture him. I just feel that he has hurt me too much. I can't
forget."
"What's your proposal?"
"Simply to renounce that stupid sex. To sleep with a man
one doesn't love-well, that's like being a prostitute."
"What do you want your husband to do? Do you want to
push him ~aain into the arms of another girl?"
"Why can't he give up sex as I do?"
ccYour theory is all wrong. You are nourishing your
grievance and don't see that you are bargaining for more
trouble."
Mrs. G. brushed this aside. "I even proved to my husband
mathematically how silly he is," she said. "I asked him:
[ 49 ]

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How often do people have intercourse in marriage? Let's


say twice a week. How do these four or five minutes compare
with the ten thousand and eighty minutes of the week?
They're negligible."
"Did you convince your husband with that grotesque
argument?"
"He just threw his hands over his head and shouted that
I was a fool."
"You need treatment," I told her.
"But why?"

"Your whole approach is neurotic."


"I can't see that."
"Why should you? It's a part of your sickness."
However, Mrs. G. refused to be treated. She claimed
that her real task was a "reality problem": to convince her
husband that he should renounce sex. Two years later she
consulted me again; her husband had finally left her, and
she was in a depressed mood. Even then she refused treatment. Only recently, after moving to a western state, she
wrote me a letter asking me to recommend a psychiatrist
in her town. I doubt, however, whether she will go through
with her plans.
In all four of these cases, the masochism described as
"the mechanism of orality" was at work. These neurotics
[ 50 ]

PSYCHIC MASOCHISl\1 IN MARRIAGE

first constructed, unconsciously, a situation in which they


were bound to be disappointed, rebuffed, rejected. Then they
felt unjustly treated, and reacted aggressively. Finally they
pitied themselves.
Mr. D. unconsciously constructed his defeat by marrying
an anti-Semitic woman who took him for a sucker; Mrs. E.,
by choosing a chronic seeker of defeat, Mrs. F. a passionate
gambler, and Mrs. G. a man who was sexually interested
whereas she abhorred sex. The pattern, thus begun, completed itself almost automatically. Every time Mrs. D. was
uninterested, Mr. E. reticent, Mr. F. gambled with his wife's
money, and Mr. G. wanted sex, their spouses felt unjustly
treated and fought aggressively, seemingly in justified selfdefense. Then they pitied themselves, not knowing, of course,
that unconsciously they were enjoying the situation.
On the other hand, the four "malefactors" were neurotics
of the same kind. Mrs. D. provoked the situation by neglect
of her husband, as did Mr. E. by refusing information and
sex; Mr. F. by gambling, and Mr. G. by having his extramarital affair.
The people in these four highly neurotic marriages were
neurotics with co,nplementary neuroses, which fitted exactly
their partners' neuroses.
All eight people involved claimed that a terrible injustice
was being done to them. In each marriage they were com[ 5I

DIVORCE WON'T

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pletely unconscious of the fact that the situation was being


mutually provoked. Not less unconscious was the hidden
pleasure they enjoyed behind the fa91de of their complaints.
What made such a grotesque attitude possible? Psychic
masochists did not enter this best of all possible worlds as
gluttons for punishment. They were once children with a
good-sized aggression and childlike megalomania. That
megalomania was constantly threatened by reality: not all
the child's wishes were fulfilled, some were directly inhibited.
This provoked fury and aggression in the child. That
emotional response of the child was punished, and later, as
he developed, inhibited by his own feeling of inner guilt.
There, in normal children, the process stops. The child finds
out that it does not pay to be aggressive toward parentsaggression brings first external punishment; later, punishment is taken over by the Superego, used against the Ego,
and arouses painful feelings of guilt. Hence the child shifts
his aggression to some suitable object. But it does not work
like that with the masochistic child. He persists in his aggression even though it is accompanied by guilt. Persisted in
for any length of time, the situation becomes unbearable,
since every human being lives on the basis of the inner
pleasure principle. The normal way out having been abandoned, only one solution is possible: to get some pleasure
out of the uncomfortable amalgam of aggression and guilt.
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PSYCHIC MASOCHISM IN MARRIAGE

And the only way to derive pleasure from displeasure is


to make that displeasure pleasure.
Psychic masochism is precisely that: pleasure out of displeasure. Punishment is nullified by turning it into unconscious pleasure. But also implied is an acceptance of
self-damage. The normal person abhors that solution as
the greatest possible danger. The neurotic seeks it.
Psychic masochism is encountered among all types of
neurotics. In a specific group-those whose neurosis stems
from the oral phase of development-it has specificcharacteristics, as condensed in the triad of "the mechanism of
orality." These people have seemingly one goal: to prove
that someone is unjust to them. That they themselves
provoke the situation is unknown to them, as is the unconscious pleasure of masochistic enjoyment. Such gluttons
for punishment may assert in good faith that they want
victory and success. What they are unconsciously after is
the opposite.

[ 53 ]

CHAPTER

Neurotics Can't Love


EUROTICS have a convenient (though somewhat
illogical) method of explaining away their love
difficulties. Either they ridicule the crudeness of
the "normal bore," or they try to show that the "superior"
neurotic eliminates much of the heavy ballast carried by
"typical fools." Their oft-repeated song usually ends with
a eulogy of neurosis and especially of their own person.
A patient of mine once complained that he was tired of
hearing from every woman he didn't want to marry that
he was incapable of any normal love. He didn't believe in
romantic love, he said; for him love meant only sexual
pleasure. When I suggested that possibly there was more to
love than sexual pleasure, but that he, because of his neurosis,
was incapable of experiencing it, he was scornful.
"Are you serious?" he demanded.
"1 am entirely serious," I assured him. "There is no
doubt that tender love does exist. Only the combination
of both the tender and sensual sides of love gives a complete
picture of that emotion."

[ S4 ]

NEUROTICS CAN'T

LOVE

"I shall have to change my opinion of you," he remarked.


"You impressed me as being so intelligent."
I laughed. "That's exactly what a professor of internal
medicine told me twenty-one years ago. As a young interne,
I worked for some time in his medical division. When I left
to return to the psychiatric institute, he asked me politely
whether I was more interested in neurology or psychiatry.
I answered that my interest was concentrated in psychoanalytic psychiatry. The professor looked at me for some
seconds in real surprise and stated regretfully, 'You impressed me as being so intelligent!' ))
"I don't object to your profession," my patient said,
"but I dislike that twaddle about romantic love."
"I can prove to you clinically that the normal person is
capable of romantic love out of inner necessity."
"Really? ))
"Really. You see, tender love is one of the most powerful
antidotes against inner feelings of gtlilt. And you cannot deny
that everybody wants to get rid of those."
"My God, are you serious? What's the possible connection
between romantic love and inner guilt?"
"Perhaps you have forgotten your scriptures. In John
IV: I 8 you can read, 'There is no fear in love; but perfect
love casteth out fear. . . .'"
"So what?" he asked, skeptically.
"Just that it is a perfect intuitive description of a clinical
[ 55 ]

DIVORCE WON'T

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fact. You see, our Superego constantly objects to our not


having achieved everything we dreamt of as children. All
those dreams, those fantasies, are enshrined 11nconsciously
in the idealized picture we all have of ourselves, of what
we should like to be like-in our Ego-Ideal to use the
psychoanalytic term ... "
"That's obvious enough," said my patient, "but we correct
our expectations on the basis of real possibilities."
"You're wrong there," I told him. "The idealized picture
of ourselves--accumulated in our Ego-Ideal-is
unconscious
and therefore unchangeable during one's lifetime, except
through analysis."
"Do you seriously mean that I still labor under the consequences of the fact that as a child of five I answered the
question of what I wanted to be as an adult with the words,
'The greatest inventor in the whole world! I am relatively
content."
"How completely you are deceiving yourself! Your very
presence on the analyst'S couch proves you wrong. You suffer
from feelings of guilt in an exaggerated degree."
After a few seconds of silence, the patient said, sarcasm
dripping from every syllable, "Tell me some more about
the guilt-dissolving romantic love of that miracle man, the
'normal person.' "
We laughed. "Do you remember Voltaire's statement:

[ S6 ]

NEUROTICS CAN'T LOVE

'A witty saying proves nothing'? However, the normal person is not such a miracle man as you believe, nor is he, on the
other hand, so poorly equipped for his inner battles ....
"
The patient interrupted triumphantly. "You admit, then,
that he, too, has to fight inner battles? So do neurotics. What's
the difference?"
"What's the difference between winner and loser?"
"Once more that silly idealization of normality. That's
exactly what gets me."
"Nobody idealized normality. Normal and neurotic people
have identical conflicts. It's just that their solutions are different. In the case of romantic love, the situation works like
this: The Ego is constantly tormented by the ideal picture
it built up in early childhood. That Ego-Ideal is part of the
Superego, which uses it as a weapon of reproach. Imagine a
child with the dream of becoming the world's greatest
chemist. In adult life he achieves the position of a junior
partner in a second-rate pharmaceutical concern. The discrepancy between 'world's greatest chemist' and 'second-rate
junior partner'-between his ambition and his actual achievement-produces in him a sense of dissatisfaction and depression. He is tortured by the guilty feeling that he has failed
to achieve his goal. To counteract that inner guilt-that's
the feeling behind his dissatisfaction and depression-he
could do different things. He could achieve his childhood
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aim. You will admit that's not an easy task. Or, he could
change his aims. But that way out is barred by the 'pound of
flesh' attitude of his inner Shylock-that
is, his Superego
insists on its original conditions. Or he could find sotnebody

who saw in hi,n the great man tha: the 'bad' outer world had
not yet given hi11~a chanceto be. And that's exactly what the
lover does. He unconsciously displaces his Ego-Ideal upon
his beloved-in other words, he projects a part of his personality into the outside world. His unconscious reasoning
directed toward his Superego runs something like this: cyou
wanted a witness of my greatness, of my having achieved all
my aims. Well, here he-or she--is, in person!' "
"But that's happiness extended on credit."
"That's right," I agreed. "How else would you describe
all the exaggerated hopes of people in love?"
((I still don't understand. The romantic lover unconsciously projects his Ego-Ideal upon the beloved. Fine. How
does this help him? Why does this 'change of residence' of
his ideal picture of himself make his Superego keep quiet?"
I tried again. "It works this way: the cruel Superego holds
up to the frightened unconscious Ego the self-created EgoIdeal, like a mirror, and asks the eternal guilt-producing
question: 'Do you deny that you have not achieved your
goals as set forth in your Ego-Ideal?' But by projecting the
Ego-Ideal onto the beloved, the Ego removes this discrep-

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NEUROTICS CAN'T LOVE

ancy, for the beloved constantly attests that all the goals of
the Ego-Ideal have been fulfilled. Therefore, no discrepancy
-no guilt."
"Whom does the lover love-his projected Ego-Ideal or
his beloved?"
"The lover loves only himself!"
The patient laughed gleefully. "Being incapable of tender
love reduces itself, then, to the honesty of not giving out
intrapsychic checks for which no 'money' is deposited in the
bank."
"The lover's Ego-Ideal which he has projected on his
beloved, is, after all) nine-tenths self love. His overevaluation of his beloved is simply narcissism)self-love in projection. There is no swindle on credit involved in tender love;
it is a desperate escape from serfdom to his feelings of
guilt) producing the feeling of tender love."
"What is the difference between a so-called normal person
with his silly Ego-Ideal projections and a neurotic? Didn't
you tell me that the neurotic uses innocent victims as a
movie screen upon which to reel off his neurotic pattern?
You used the analytic term 'transference' for it. You told
me that neurotics are capable of transference only) and that
the transference of their conflicts upon the innocent physician during analysis is but a special case of the transferenceaddiction of neurotics in general. Well, it's all projection,

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isn't it? Both normal persons and neurotics project! Isn't


that a strange contradiction?"
"The contradiction is only seeming. True, both types use
pro jection. The contents of the projection, however, are
different in the t\VOcases."
"There we go again. You're never without a tricky answer."
"Examine the facts. Take an example. A girl in love and a
patient undergoing analysis, who is at the high point of
her positive transference, meet (by chance) their fiance and
analyst, respectively, in a restaurant. The girl in love will be
delighted and happy to see her young man-nothing
else.
The analytic patient, who at this point in her analysis has
transferred to the physician an unconscious and unsettled
attachment to some person connected with her infantile conflict, will experience quite different emotions. The delight
will be present, too, but it will be mingled with fear, because
she will also have transferred the guilt feelings connected
with the early conflict. She will be torn between the wish to
speak to the doctor and at the same time to wish to hide, run
away, not be seen. Why] The difference is this: The girl in
love projects upon her lover her Ego-Ideal only. The
neurotic, however, transfers Ego-Ideal pitts daimonion .... "
"Introducing a new term, thanks. Analysis isn't complicated enough; just make it tougher."
I pointed out to my patient that I was not responsible
for the complications of the Superego, the inner, uncon-

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scious part of the conscience. Admitting that it presented a


tough problem, I tried to explain its nature and structure to
him, as I understood it. I pointed out, first of all, that the
term "conscience" has scientifically a completely different
connotation than popular usage gives it. The layman takes
only the conscious part of the conscience into consideration.
Everybody has a set of conscious precepts which he tries to
follow.
But the unconscious conscience-the Superego-is something completely different. Language has not even an adequate name for it. The general idea of conscience as a restrictive though benevolent institution is not at all reconcilable
with clinical facts. The painful fact is that the inner conscience is not a benevolent institution. Imagine Hitler's relation to an inmate of one of his concentration camps and you
have an approximate idea of what the Superego is like. It is
not simply a desirable restrictive institution, the necessity for
which is readily understood and approved. It is the antihedonistic force in the personality, loaded to capacity with
cruelty. Its motto is: No pleasure! The observable fact that
it represents prohibitions that seemingly embody only the
specific taboos of a specific culture is deceptive. The taboos are
simply the anti libidinous blind for its punitive actions.'
1 Problems

connected with the development of the Superego arc in scientific


literature still unsettled. The author's person~1 opinions are discussed 31 length
in his book, Tk BailIe of lite Conscie~e, Washington Institute (If Medicine,
19~5.

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The Superego consists actually of two parts: The EgoIdeal and a cruel slave-driver which Socrates called daimonion. The Ego-Ideal, as I have explained before, is our
idealized picture of ourselves, the person we should like to
be. The cornerstone of the Ego-Ideal is laid in childhood,
when we begin to incorporate within ourselves, to make our
own, through identification, the precepts, teachings, and
prohibitions of our educators or parents, merging them with
our own narcissism. The other part of the Superego is Socrates' daimonion. Socrates had in mind a malignant spirit
operating within the personality. His description was sheer
mythology, but his observations were correct. This part of
the Superego is obsessed with a lust to torture the Ego, and
uses as its weapon the Ego-Ideal. Every time a discrepancy
appears between the Ego-Ideal and the Ego, daimonion
dictates feelings of guilt as penance.
"The lover gets the best of daimonion," I finally wound
up, "by projecting his Ego-Ideal upon his beloved, thus depriving the Superego of its weapon. But the neurotic is
incapable of that, though he tries this way out too. H e~however, projects both parts of his Superego; hence, the fear."
"Take yourself," I went on. "The rules governing tender
love don't apply to you, since you are incapable of getting rid
of your inner guilt that way. You overlook the fact that your
potency-disturbance-your
reason for entering treatment-

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NEUROTICS CAN'T LOVE

concentrates like a sponge all your depressions, fears, selftorture, and self-depreciation. More precisely, the unconscious fantasies which lie at the bottom of your symptom
concentrate all your inner guilt. One of the reasons why you
are incapable of tender love is the fact that you, as a typical
neurotic, have not the slightest tendency to get rid of your
inner guilt, since your inner fantasies can be enjoyed only on
one condition, that you continue to suffer from feelings of
guilt."
"Do you believe that I enjoy my potency-disturbance?"
he demanded.
"Of course not. But you do enjoy unconsciously the
repressed fantasies, the basis of your neurosis."
"Is this tile generally accepted analytic theory on romantic
love?" my patient asked with heavy irony.
"There is no (generally accepted' theory on love; it's my
private opinion." We don't solve our discussions by taking
a vote. Analysis knows little of normalcy. We are specialists
in psychopathology."
"Why don't you stick to it?"
"Look who's defending the illusions of normalcy now!"
The appointment ended amicably. The patient decided
ZThe above view was first presented by the author in collaboration with
Freud'. oldest pupil, Dr. Ludwig Jekels, in a paper read before the Vienna
Psychoanalytic Society, Nov. 8, '933. First published under the title "Tron$ferenee and Love," I11UlgO xx, I. pp. 5-3', '934.

DIVORCE WON'T

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that he showed saooir-vivre by objecting to tender love. I


believed that he was incapable of tender love and therefore
rejected it, covering up his lack with a supercilious attitude.
It took him a long time to reconcile himself to the fact
that his rejection of romantic love was neurotic, but he was
finally cured.
In my opinion, neurotics are incapable of tender love. The
only kind of attachment they know is "transference," through
which device they unconsciously identify the person who is
the object of their transference with someone connected with
their infantile conflict. And they use that person to repeat the
pattern of the early conflict. Of course they do not know
what the difference is between the two types of attachment,
or even that there is a difference. Neither can the distinction
be made easily by the outsider. Subjectively, the neurotic in
transference feels like the normal person in love.
In some cases, though, the difference is visible to the naked
eye; there are people who never have experienced the
ecstasy of romantic love. They smile ironically if you even
mention that emotion. In Unhappy Marriage and Divorce
I enumerated eight objective symptoms or signs of being
truly in love. A series of neurotics, disguised as critics, informed me that I was describing emotions completely foreign
to them, the existence of which they denied. Q. E. D.
These symptoms or signs of being in love are:

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Subjective feeling of happiness.
Overvaluation of the loved object.
Torturing doubts.
Undervaluation
of reality.
Exclusiveness.
Psychic dependence on the love-object.
Sentimental behavior.
Predominance of fantasy.

The lover's subjective elation, his conscious feeling of happiness, is based on the elimination of all tension between his
Ego and his Ego-Ideal. Subjective happiness presupposes
freedom from inner guilt. There is no situation in life in which
that ideal situation is more completely achieved than in the
acute frenzy of love. If our assumption is correct that torturing feelings of guilt come from the Superego's vindictive
misuse of the Ego-Ideal, then it becomes evident why love
and self-torture are mutually exclusive. In love, the instrument of torture is wrested from the Superego; all tension
stemming from a discrepancy between Ego and Ego-Ideal is
quashed.
The overvaluation of the beloved does not mean that a
relatively intelligent person changes into a blithering idiot
only because love makes blind." The lover's lack of criticism
arises from the fact that in projecting a part of his psychic
apparatus-his Ego-Ideal-onto
his beloved, he malees the
beloved a part of himself. In a situation of despair, one is not

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too critical of the benefactor: that comes later. The lover's


enthusiasm pertains less to the real love-object than to his
own brilliant idea of cheating his cruel Superego. If the outer
world says, She loves that man," the accent is on the real
person. This requires amplification: "She loves herself in the
man." Since-fortunately
for lovers-the unconscious process of mutual projection is unknown to them, they claim
justifiably that they love each other as "real people."
Hand in hand with the overvaluation of the love-object
runs a trend of torturing doubts: "Does he (she) really love
me? Will he (she) always love me?" These torturing doubts
have no connection whatever with the typical tortures imposed
by the cruel inner conscience. They are exactly the opposite-sdoubts whether the cunning hoax imposed by the Ego on the
inner conscience will be successful.
The lover is so engrossed in his revolt against the inner
conscience that he undervaluos all difficulties presented by
reality. He is subjectively convinced that these obstacles will
be overcome. The reason is simple: A person who has just
defeated a seemingly insurmountable enemy is in a state of
extreme elation. And a victory over the torturing inner conscience equals omnipotence.
The lover's exclusive concentration on the love-object is
part and parcel of his narcissistic self-love; the moment the
beloved becomes, through the process of unconscious projec-

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tion, a part of the lover's own personality, he (or she) is


cherished with the same grotesque self-love which one concedes only to one's own person.
The lover's really astounding psychic dependence on the
love-object gives, at first glance, the impression of morbid
fascination. But the moment one takes into account the fact
that the lover sees in the beloved his own projected EgoIdeal, ergo himself, his dependence on every glance, gesture,
whim, of his beloved becomes less mysterious. Since the
beloved now represents approval, the lover's one alibi for his
Superego, by hook or by crook he must eliminate all disapproval. He mas: stick to his bargain.
The lover's sentimental behavior is a kind of self-worship,
mirroring the reduplication of himself in his beloved.
The predorl'unance of fantasies in the lover corresponds
to the protracted narcissistic pleasure of infancy. If one compares the adult orgastic type of pleasure-short anticipatory
pleasure, short climax and sharp fall-with the childish type
of imaginative or fantasied narcissistic pleasure, which is protracted indefinitely--one can fathom why so many neurotics
never can be satisfied with adult pleasures. As children they
were unfamiliar with the orgastic type of pleasure ejaculabon in the male can be experienced, for physiological reasons,
only after puberty-and indulged in the protracted, orgasmlacking type of fantasied enjoyment. The prototype of the
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adult neurotic's pleasure is infantile masturbation which does


not culminate in orgasm. And as adults, still possessing their
infantile conflicts, they are still unable to experience normal
adult orgastic pleasure. But the happy lover "cats his cake
and has it too." He combines the infantile imaginative type
of protracted pleasure with the later orgasmic type.
Only the combination of tender and sensual elements produces the emotion called "love." That some people separate
the two elements does not prove that they have improved the
combination. It proves only that a neurotic inability to love is
at work. It is like a legless cripple propagandizing the lack of
legs as an ideal for a beauty contest. He will have a hard time
convincing the leg-owners of his aesthetic point of view.

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CHAPTER

VI

Sex and Sexability


DON'T ask much of married life, just the moderate
amount of fun," Mrs. H. assured me.
''What do you mean by 'fun'?" I wanted to know.
"In any case not what my husband does, or more precisely
what he doesn't do. He is a block of ice."
"Could you be more specific?"
"Well, he is a cold and reticent person. Everything is
mechanical. If he believes that he has to be tender, he is just
clumsy. It's understood of course that men are idiots as far
as sex is concerned-I don't refer to that; I mean in daily
life. He doesn't even have the feeling that human warmth,
kindness, interest are necessary in marriage. If I complain, he
seems not to understand."
"Do you mean, he lacks tenderness?"
"Yes. A kiss, a loving glance, an understanding wordno sir, nothing doing."
"Did you observe any change during your eight years of
marriage?"

DIVORCE WON'T

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"He was always reticent. Originally, I believed that he


was scared of women, and I promised myself to defrost him.
I wasn't successful. As a defroster I'm a washout."
I spoke with the husband the next day. He gave the
impression of being under court-martial. He was tense, his
features frozen.
"What about your alleged lack of tenderness?': I asked
him.
He laughed bitterly. "I hate the word. I get it as a reproach, served for breakfast and dinner-it's my good luck
that I don't take lunch at home. My wife's first word after
awakening, her last one before going to bed, has s.omething
to do with that damned tenderness. It drives me crazy."
"Do you consider yourself a tender person?"
"I don't know any more what the word rneans. My wife
uses it as a whip. 'Tenderness' has become the bogeyman
for me. I looked it up in Webster." The man took out a piece
of paper and read:
Tender (adj.)-easily
impressed or injured; sensitive, soft; not
hard; weak and feeble; easily influenced by love, pity, etc.; compassionate; pathetic; gentle; careful.
Noun: vehicle attached to a locomotive containing coal and
water; smaller vessel attending a larger one; an offer of proposal
for acceptance; offer of a sum due in money under specified legal
conditions.
Y.t.: to offer for acceptance.
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SEX AND SEXABILITY

V.i.: to make an offer to do certain work or supply certain foods


for a specified price.

With heavy irony, he continued: "I assume my wife means


the adjective and not the intransitive verb ....
"
ccyou mean," I said, "your wife's demands are unreasonable? She asks for a (tenderness-machine,' not a husband?"
The man's face was illuminated with joy. "That's the
word! I love you for that word!" He was chewing the
newly acquired word like delicious candy.
I broke in on his enthusiasm. "All right, you have already
been sarcastic, angry, offended. How about being objective?"
"The story is simple," he said. "Our demands concerning
the damned adjective are different. She wants an incubator;
I prefer a moderate temperature. I was never a free-spender
of emotions. She knew that. What right has she to torture
me? Why didn't she marry a man of her own type?"
The statement of that couple contains in a nutshell the
whole conscious tragedy of hidden psychic masochism. The
husband was mistaken in believing that he did not correspond
to his wife's "type." He did-unconsciously. Neurotically,
her conscious and unconscious type were incongruent. Her
brand of fun was psychic masochism. Consciously, of course,
she wanted the opposite: extreme tenderness. The fact that
she had chosen a man who, because of his neurosis, was inca[ 71

DIVORCE WON'T

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pable of giving her the tropical climate she consciously desired,


proves to what degree that woman was determined unconsciously to cash in on her disappointment. She could not even
claim that her husband had aroused false hopes; he had
been as cold and reticent before marriage as after. In this case
the thin rationalization covering the psychic masochism was
her hope of "defrosting" him.'
Women burdened with the "tenderness-machine" complex come in two styles: the neurotic and the quasi-normal.
The neurotic variety is intolerant of any deviation of interest and attention on the part of her husband, whether or not
real and substantial circumstances warrant it. If her husband
is preoccupied with business troubles, the neurotic woman concludes that he has lost interest in her; she makes scenes, and
asks tearfully for a divorce. I f her husband studies the stockmarket reports, having invested heavily and being in danger
of losing money, she complains that he is more interested in
his "stupid newspaper" than in her. If he worries about his
position, she complains that he "bores her to death" with his
"stupid Cassandra tales." Such an infantile woman's motto
is: "I am the center of the universe. If you don't act accordingly, you just don't love me."
The quasi-normal variety is outwardly much more sensible;
her conflict is tragic and commonplace. She has an idea that
1 Mr.

and Mrs. H. were both analyzed, and their marriag was repaired.

SEX AND SEXABILITY

marriage means perpetual-motion-happiness. Her measuring


rod is the period of first love. She constantly compares the
situation after five, ten, or fifteen years of marriage with the
time of courtship and honeymoon. She never settles down to
the business of marriage; she cannot take the moderate
climate of prolonged marriage; she feels unwanted and neglected. Here are a few statements by such women:
(I) "I am unhappy in my marriage. My husband is nice
enough, but he lives in a world of his own. I must be wanted
for my own sake. When he makes love to me, I always feel
that he does it to be nice to me. . . ."
(2) "I must be wanted, and not because he thinks it's his
duty to want me. It's terrifying to think that my husband is
'duty-nice' to me....
"
(3) "We are drifting apart. He keeps his feelings to
himself-I am not part of his life any more. I am his housekeeper and a governess for the children. If I complain, my
husband ?oints out that all marriages are not too happy, and
cites examples, especially the marriage of my parents. That's
small consolation."
(4) "For weeks at a time I'm in a suicidal mood. It all
started with an observation of my husband's facial expression
in a moment when he believed himself unobserved. He was
sitting in his easy chair, apparently reading a magazine. I
looked at him and saw an expression of desperate loneliness,

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a personification of 'I'm all alone in the world! My God, if


he doesn't get more out of my company, I'm the wrong
woman for him!"
(5) "What gets me in marriage in the hypocrisy which
seems to govern that institution. Both husband and wife seem
to playa game of contentment. If I complain, saying 1 must
have some fun in life, that I'm dissatisfied, my husband
behaves as if he didn't understand what 1 was talking aboutin fact, as if I'd transgressed some unwritten law which says
'Don't complain! What is this all about? Is marriage fun and
companionship, or a mutual conspiracy for enduring U1ravoidable unhappiness, to cover it flp with smiles and pretenser"
(6) "Everything is on the downgrade in our marriage:
sex, tenderness, mutual understanding. I'm a fighter-I
married on the basis of real love, and I want that state of
affairs to last. Instead of that, my husband frantically seeks
company; he constantly invites people, and accepts invitations
without asking me whether I want to see these people at all.
He seems to be afraid of spending an evening with me. I
won't take it-resignation is not my weakness. When 1 complain, my husband calis me hysterical or uses the old trick
of being furious because of my 'wrong timing! I believe that
in his opinion I should complain exclusively on some nonexistent day."
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SEX AND SEXABILITY

All six of these women claimed that their own feelings were
unchanged-it

was always the husband who was to blame.

Their own hostile reactions were attributed to their husbands'


changed attitudes. They felt personally hurt, and did not look
at the situation with the slightest objectivity.
The tragedy of even happy marriage consists of more
than masculine malice. That is obvious the moment one talks
with the husbands. They, too, have a tale to tell, and it corresponds very closely to their wives' complaints. They consider their wives' demands unreasonable, say that these
women want mental and physical intimacy maintained on the
same level as during the weeks just before and after the
marriage. The husbands complain that their wives are incapable of making allowances for the passage of time, for diminished charms and accumulated disillusionments and for the
fact that they are getting older. They complain about their
wives' nagging, demanding, critical attitudes.
What happened to the early dreams of love? Evaporated
-burned

out-this

seems to be the fate of all the illusions of

young love.
This tragic intermediary phase occurs even in good and
happy marriages, but in good marriages it is only transitory
whereas in neurotic marriages the conBicts are insoluble and
permanent. To understand what has happened, one has to go
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back to the psychological situation which made the "great


love" possible in the first place.
I described tender love as an attempt on the part of the
tortured unconscious Ego to escape the constant barrage of
inner reproaches hurled at it by the Superego. This it accomplishes in the way I have already outlined-by
wresting
the instrument of torture (the Ego-Ideal) from the torturer
(the Superego) and pro jeeting it onto a love-ob jeet. That
person constantly attests to the lover that he is the greatest,
most wonderful, most ideal person ever encountered. The
Ego-Ideal's aims are confirmed as fulfilled, and since guilt
can be produced unconsciously only if a marked discrepancy
exists between Ego-Ideal and actual achievement, the lack
of such discrepancy means that no guilt is felt. In mutual love,
exactly the same process of projection takes place in the
unconscious of the beloved.
Up against the frenzy of happy love, the demonic Superego
is helpless-it has nothing to put its teeth into. More precisely, its biting paraphernalia have been taken away from
it-it is like a demagogue without a mob-exciting slogan. It
thinks of revenge, and bides its time.
Its day of revenge comes. The two people in love married
on the basis of the projection of parts of their own personality
onto each other. They dwell for a time in narcissistic selfduplication--seeing their ideal selves and loving their ideal

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SEX AND SEXABILITY

selves in each other. They use each other-without knowing


it, of course-as an antidote against inner guilt. The frenzy
of paradisaical guiltlessness and the orgy of self-love is mistaken by the lovers as love for the other person. That other
person is, however, besides a screen for projection, also a real
person-a person with definite wishes, predilections, antipathies, prejudices, little ways of his own of doing things.
The reality factor enters the picture, and the inevitable day
comes when lovers look at each other and discover to their
surprise how little they know of each other. The feeling, "I'm
married to a stranger," appears. A startling revelation for
the lovers-but one which is inescapable.
The Superego is at work. It points out conveniently all the
"little things," magnifies their importance. Irritation creeps
in, doubts are raised, the possibility of a mistake in the choice
of a marriage partner is gloomily considered.
In the beginning, the period of mutual adjustment was
helped by sex contentment. Time and again sex reassured the
lovers. "This at least works"-or so the lovers believed. But
even in relatively normal marriages there comes a time when
sex, too, begins to taper off.
The quantity of lies circulated about man's sex and sexability is amazing. The most precise statement on the matter
is Freud's remark that "Sex gives one the impression of
being a dying function." Dying, indeed; the history of

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modern marriage is, in general, the history of sex sparingly


used. Since the phenomenon is universal, a general reason for
it has to be found, making allowances for the fact that the
sexual appetite of people naturally varies to some extent.
The history of sex in the individual starts with fantasies.
These fantasies are connected with the element of the forbidden. That is necessarily the case: The first objects concentrating the sexual desire of the child are persons with a
halo, sexually untouchable-mother,
sisters, father, brothers.
Wishes present in the human being which cannot be carried
out in reality, invariably find expression in fantasy, and later
become repressed entirely. It is superfluous to add that the
first objects of attachment are not chosen because they are
relatives, but only because they are around. The "voice of
blood" has no bearing on the procedure. A boy born in
Detroit, transported immediately after birth to a South Sea
island and given to a native woman to rear, would show
the same attachment to that woman and the same hostility to
her husband as under typical circumstances it does to its own
mother or father.
The detachment of these wishes from the forbidden
person, and their eventual repression is a long, painful process. If the child develops into a relatively normal person,
the equation, "sex = the forbidden," is partially solved. "Partially" is the important word here-the typical sexual dearth

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SEX AND SEXABILITY

especially in neurotic marriages, proves this conclusively;


because sex is no longer forbidden it becomes less important,
sometimes cannot even be aroused. One gets the impression
that in neurotics, sex is an aggressive rather than a libidinous
function: if there is nothing forbidden to be overcome, sex
dries up.
When this happens, the fantasy outlet is used once more.
It seems to be the fate of sex in more or less neurotic people
to go through the following cycle: protracted fantasy, shortZi'Uedreality, protracted fantasy. "For dust thou art, and shalt
to dust return" here has application to sex: As fantasy it
started, to fantasy it returns.
This is hardly an attractive picture, but it corresponds all
too closely to clinical observation. I t is a cycle that cannot be
broken without psychiatric treatment.
Even in so-called normal people, the sexual function is
far from ideal. Man's poor sexual performance is matched by
woman's typical frigidity. Here we come to a question of
definition: The popular conception of frigidity does not correspond to the scientific one. A woman is popularly considered
frigid only when her whole attitude is sex rejecting, when
she constantly reiterates that the procedure is dirty and disgusting, and feels disgust if "subjected" to "that ordeal." A
woman capable of sexual arousal, liking preparatory acts,
sometimes even reaching clitoridean orgasm during these

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DIVORCE ""VON'T HELP

manipulations,

is classified by popular conception as normal.

The broader scientific definition classifies every woman as


frigid if she is incapable of reaching a vaginal orgasm dtlring
the sex act proper, quite independently

of whether she is

aroused during the act or remains cold, whether the excitement is weak or strong, whether it breaks off at the beginning
or at the end, slowly or suddenly, whether it is dissipated in
preliminary acts or has been lacking from the beginning.
According to this definition, the sole criterion of frigidity is
absence of vaginal orgasm. It is, of course, acknowledged that
there are different degrees of frigidity.
For the consolation of frigid women, it may be added here
that the definition given above is not generally accepted even
in psychiatric-psychoanalytic

circles. Many investigators deny

the necessity of vaginal orgasm for women, doubt whether


it can be achieved, and claim that clitoridean release is sufficient. Asked why they call sexual intercourse the basis of
normal sex life, since clitoridean

orgasm can (because of

anatomical conditions) be achieved only by digital manipulation (leaving out acrobatic positions), and do not proclaim
masturbation
deux the normal basis of marriage, they turn

to biology and point out that in the animal kingdom vaginal


orgasm is, with very few exceptions, unknown.
I had the opportunity of discussing this problem with a
group of distinguished sexologists, comprising anatomists,
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SEX AND SEXABILITY

biologists, gynecologists, psychiatrists, urologists, and endocrinologists. Unanimously, they were of the opinion that the
broad definition of frigidity is unjustified, as is inclusion of
premature ejaculation in men under the heading of potencydisturbance." That point of view is but a result of the denial
of vaginal orgasmic capacity in woman. If that faculty is
denied, then the time normally needed to bring her to a
vaginal climax is really unimportant. A biologist stated, in
this discussion, that orgasmic vaginal capacity in women is
such a rare occurrence that one should rather wonder about
its presence than about its absence.
The fact remains that [ull orgasmic capacity can be restored
psychoaMiyt;cally in the 1tJojority of cases. Its lack indicates
a neurotic inhibition.
On the other hand, if one uses the broad scientific definition
of frigidity, between 80 and 90 per cent of all women are
frigid, or at least to some degree sexually disturbed." A
wu told that premature ejaculation is no dise_ :It all, that it was a
perversion of the English term of "impotence" to use it in another sense than
complete absence of erection. This is very likely correct according to Webster;
but clinicaUy it is erroneous. Not even the fact that many men with premature
ejaculation feel (:>fter intercourse) depressed, moody, headachy, sleepless, was
accepted as an argument.
S Some women are capable of achieving org:a.sm though they are highly
neurotic: they suffer from a "character neurosis," which manifests itself in
personality difficulties. If a woman chooses, three times in succession, neurotic
men who are partly impotent and who ill-treat he.--che orgasm she experienees
is far from bring a certi6cate of psychic health. Or, if a woman unconaciously
adheru to the "condition of the forbidden"-that
is, i, frigid under marital
2 [

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grotesque situation, if one considers the fact that all these


frigid women constantly complain about their husbands'
neglect. What are they complaining about?
Obviously they are using sex as a handy intramarital
weapon with which to win some other point.
The majority of women are skeptical about the ability of
men to be tender in love. They simplify the problem by conceding to man only the drive of sex, pure and simple. Hence,
lessening or cessation of intercourse is for women a sure sign
that "He doesn't love me any more." They reach that conclusion with amazing regularity, regardless of the degree of
their intelligence, education, and social background. Women
do not acknowledge the influence of neurotic factors in that
respect; nothing can convince them on that point. Amusingly,
the famous feminine intuition does not work here. Since the
majority of women are frigid in varying degrees, and have
witnessed so frequently their husband's orgasm while they
themselves have remained cold or have had to play the
comedy of pretended enjoyment (it is rather fantastic how
frequently women resort to that comedy with success), they
cannot imagine that their husbands renounce the pleasure for
any other reason than lack of love. Immediately they suspect
conditions though she experiences orgasm in a clandestine relation, neither is
that orgasm a proof of psychic health. To express it paradoxically: Orgasm
and orgasm are not the same thing. Naive overvaluation of orgasm as the yardstick of health leads clinically to wrong conclusions.

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that another woman is involved; their husbands' neurotic


tendencies are never taken into account. What they consider
their husbands' "malicious neglect" mobilizes in them a series
of neurotic fears and reproaches. The result is aggressive
nagging, complaining, and neurotic unhappiness.
Obviously, there are many occasions in marriage on which
man and wife do not see eye to eye. In such conflicts, it is
advantageous to the woman to have an irrefutable argument
ready. Thus the sexual inadequacy of her husband becomes
a powerful feminine weapon, and his inner guilt (the poor
man has no inkling of the psychological facts of waning sexual
power) is willfully kept alive.
It would, however, be wrong to assume that the process of
keeping the husband's guilt alive is exclusively a conscious
feminine trick. The moment the pretense that the marriage
is completely happy is shattered by the husband's abstinence,
neurotic reaction regularly sets in. First comes the demanding-complaining attitude, then the "hoarding" period of sex.
The husband's abstinence mobilizes the "in justice-collector"
in the woman's unconscious. In other words, latent neurotic
tendencies become activated. Since every human being
harbors some psychic-masochistic tendencies, the raw material
for that conflict is always at hand.
In relatively good marriages, the narcissistic basis of the
choice of the partner guarantees its continuation. There is

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mutual understanding, and many common bonds are established: children, interests, hobbies. The decisive element
remains, however, the projected Ego-Ideal; husband and
wife have each acquired a chronic admirer and living alibi.
Even diminution of sex is forgiven. In such marriages, in
any case, sexual desire never wanes to the extent that it does
in neurotic marriages, because for normal people sex does
not have the connotation of the forbidden.

CHAPTER

VII

Wolves and Frigid Women


NEUROTIC woman once complained: "Men are
impossible. They look you over as if you were a head
of cattle, undress you with their dirty looks like a
prostitute, and if you pass that examination they just want to
go to bed with you. No tenderness, no pretense of interest-I
mean personal interest in you as a human being-just impersonal, dirty sex."
A neurotic man complained : "Women are impossible. They
force a man who just wants to proposition them for a pleasant
bed party to all the silly hypocrisies of romantic love, tenderness, personal interest, and what not. And the upshot?
After much time wasted in the game of seduction, they are
frigid in bed, or insatiable, for the same reason."
What is wrong with these two people? The woman did
not say anything about trying to avoid these "impossible"
men. On the contrary, she admitted that she constantly
started affairs with these neurotic women chasers, whom today's slang calls "wolves." Her description of them, however,
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corresponded to observable facts. The wolf separates completely the tender and the sensual components of love. He
claims that he does not believe in tender love; actually, he
is completely incapable of it. The result is that for him the
whole problem of love reduces itself to release of sexual
tension. Even that desire is mostly fake, since his potency is
frequently poor, his orgasmic capacity even worse. His
only pleasurable gain is that he thus "proves" that he is a
"he-man." Since his inner conscience is more than skeptical
of this claim, the alibi has to be repeated all too frequently.
These weak men-all wolves are inwardly inflated, neurotic
sissies=-become pathologically cynical, substituting in love
quantity for quality. Their happy hunting grounds are the
typically frigid women who are on the eternal search for the
imaginary men who can satisfy them.
A comparison of the two statements quoted above shows
a remarkable difference: The lady appeared to be holding
onto the ideal of "real" love, while the gentleman had abandoned it cynically. One's first impression is that the man had
more precisely appraised his neurotic limitations than had the
woman. That impression is erroneous. The amount of selfdeception varies, the variation having some connection with
the senseless yardsticks and values accepted in the neurotic
environment. The "man about town" in wolf's clothing has
an aura of smartness, the promiscuous woman the connotation
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of-tramp. Consequently, the man could afford to speak more


frankly than could the woman.
The frigid woman-inside and outside of marriage-is
attracted to the wolf type of neurotic for both conscious and
unconscious reasons. The conscious reason is based 011 a mistaken premise. Since she does not know that a neurosis in
herself makes her constant hunt for the imaginary satisfier
pointless, she clings tenaciously to the idea that her problem
is only to find the "right" man and that the process of elimination, coupled with persistency, will lead sooner or later
to satisfactory results. Since the wolf has an air of great
sexual experience, the frigid woman believes that he, a connoisseur, can evoke feelings in her where the amateur failed
and was helpless. But her search brings her nothing but a
venereal disease, damage to her reputation, and constant dissatisfaction. The sober fact is that frigidity accounts for ninetenths of all cases of female marital infidelity.

The unconscious reason the frigid woman is attached to


the wolf is deeply masochistic. That type of woman wants
to be disappointed and rejected. Therefore she seeks out
men who have a reputation of being the kind that "no woman
can hold for good." She bargains unconsciously for the disappointment, and gets it with the greatest of regularity.
I once analyzed a woman in her forties, for hypochondriacal complaints. Asked about her sex life, she acted sur[ 87 ]

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prised and informed me that all men were impotent. In


answer to my objection that her statement constituted "a
slight exaggeration," she produced her diaries, kept during
the last quarter of a century. She had every lover catalogued
and described in terse and pungent terms. She had reached a
figure high in the sixties. I asked her whether she could concede at least one exception, proving the rule of her (unconsciously deliberate) choice. "Glad to oblige you, doc, nothing
doing. They all were impotent." We finally found one lone
exception: She left that man after the first night "because
he was so brutal."
What is the unconscious structure of the neurotic male
popularly called wolf?
The wolf is (contradictory as it may sound) an Impotent
man w/lo conceals tho: bitter fact from 1111nsoiland others
by constaruly exchanging women, \Vere he to stay for any
length of time with 011e woman, he, the great seducer, would
be proven impotent. In an unconscious preventive action,
therefore, he does not allow the situation to arise; he is
"through" with each woman before his fiasco becomes apparent. But his "disgust" with her is simply an unconscious
acknowledgment of the potency-disturbance around the
corner.
If we analyze this type of neurotic, we find usually an
unconsciously passive-feminine man with an inflated pseudo-

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aggressive defense mechanism. Even jf the negative Oedipus


complex had not been discovered by Freud forty years ago,
every beginner in the art of psychoanalysis could find that
inner constellation in wolves. The negative Oedipus complex in a man denotes unconscious identification with the
mother, the wish to be passively overwhelmed sexually by
the father. This wish produces a severe veto from the Superego, making it necessary to establish a defense. The frantic
defense mechanism set up is a contemptuous and pseudoaggressive attitude toward women. That defense, however,
is built on shaky grounds; hence it works only for a short
while and has to be re-established time and time again. The
result is visible in the man's constant need to increase his scalp
collection of ((seduced" women. The wolf's internal bogeyman, impotence, follows him like his shadow; the passivefeminine wishes, kept in repression, are constantly ready to
break loose and engulf the caricature of the super-he-man.
The alleged seducer is in danger of being seduced by his own
inner femininity.
The wolf type of neurotic has great similarity to the man
whom the wolf disparages most: Caspar Milquetoast. Milquetoast is also a passive-feminine man, the wolf's brother
under the skin. Milquetoast, however, is incapable of building up the wolf's inflated defense. He typically marries a
shrew or a gold digger who mistreats him. Milquetoast pro-

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tests, "suffers," but clings to his tormentor, precisely because


she satisfies his wish to be passively overwhelmed.
Outwardly, the wolf and Milquetoast are opposites. Still,
they are carved [rom the same wood. If a wolf's defense collapses because of the progress of his neurosis or under the
prodding of external events, such as financial disaster, the
inner weakling cernes to the fore. There is no more pitiful
spectacle than a "fallen" wolf.
The wolf type of neurotic constantly assures people that
he has found the real formula for enjoyment of life. But if
you see the wolf stripped of his "conqueror pretenses," you
are confronted with a depressed neurotic. The wolf knows
that, unconsciously. Positive proof of this is to be found in
his choice of women. He seeks always the easy prey: the dissatisfied, frigid woman. With her he can maintain the illusion of conquest. Actually, of course, he does not conquer
her; she simply uses him for one of her endless experiments
in finding the "cure" for her frigidity. I once saw such a
man who had become deeply depressed when a frigid woman
told him contemptuously after an unsuccessful affair : You
couldn't satisfy me any more than your predecessors did.
You're a sexual washout."
Another neurotic of this type entered treatment, saying,
"Once in my life I made the mistake of attaching myself to
a 'lady,' surrounded with the aura of sexual correctness and
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unapproachability, She rejected me with contempt. This


awakened the hunter instinct in me and I pursued her relentlessly. Her 'no' made me sick, that's all."
A third man consulted me "for information about frigidity." He had read some of my publications on frigidity,
believed that he could "use that information" in his seducing
techniques, and wanted to hear more about it "directly from
the horse's mouth." It turned out that he, too, had been
deeply hurt by the wife of "his best friend," who resisted
him. Said the man cynically: "I believe you have something I
can use. Previously, I always operated on the basis that a
woman who didn't want to go to bed with me was just silly
and deprived herself of pleasure for moral reasons. Now, I
tell them that their neurosis and frigidity are to blame and
offer myself as antidote."
"Don't you see that your so-called conquests are poor
victories, capitalizing on the hope of these neurotic women
of Ending the nonexistent antidote for frigidity?"
"Who cares for their motives? Do you believe Casanova
was so choosy?"
"He wasn't. If you read his memoirs, you'll find out that
poor chambermaids and neurotic, dissatisfied women constitute the bulk of his Leporello list."
ceDoyou want to tell me that I'm neurotic?"
"Precisely. Look what the refusal of your cfriend's' wife

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did to you. It shattered your fantasy of invincibility. Can you


deny that you are depressed out of proportion to the ratio of
your so-called 'successes' with women?"
"I just picked the wrong woman. I have to be more careful
in choosing."
"What you don't see is that the progress of your neurosis
made you make what you call a mistake."
"Everybody makes mistakes."
ccYour mistake was a neurotic necessity."
"You are wrong there."
"There are two possibilities: Either you continue your easy
'conquests' of frigid women who take you for a sucker's
rl'de. . . ."

"How can you say that? I'm conquering them."


"That's what you believe. They hope to use you as an
aphrodisiac but discard yo as bad medicine:"

"No man can make a neurotic woman have sexual enjoyment. $0 much I've learned from you."
"That's correct. Your so-called conquests are only the
attempts of frigid women to find a cure for their frigidity.
They allow you the illusion of conquering them, although
really they are trying to use you for their own purpose. You
act the part of the cheated cheater."
The man was indignant.
"Nonsense. I don't agree with you."
"Why should you?" I asked him. "Your whole fake, he-

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man philosophy would crumble the moment you accepted


that statement."
"Let's not argue about that. What was the second possibility you started to point out before I interrupted you?"
The second possibility is even less engaging. After some
time your compensatory potency will weaken and you will
not even be able to keep your illusions of easy conquest."
It is perhaps superfluous to state that the man did not
believe me at the time. Three years later he entered treatment
because of potency-disturbance. His neurosis had caught up
with him, manifesting itself in a symptom and not only in his
personality as it had before. His potency-disturbance was
quickly solved, but he could be convinced only with great
difficulty that his whole approach to women had been neurotic.
Only the fact that his first refusal to be analyzed had had
disastrous effects," as he expressed it, convinced him that
continuation of treatment was necessary. He was fully cured,
and is now happily married.
Wolves and frigid women are complementary neurotics.
Both need each other as unconscious alibis, and as a source
of disappointment. It is not by chance that they meet and
meet again, though consciously they claim that they hate
each other. The tragicomedy of errors continues out of inner
necessity. A sad story? The conscious reverberations of neurosis are always sad.

[ 93 ]

CHAPTER

VIII

Patterns in Neurotic Marriages


EUROTICS are unconscious repetition-machines.
The end result of the infantile conflict is codified,
stenciled, and set. Nothing but death or a psychiatric-psychoanalytic cure can change that pattern.
That pattern, of course, is unconscious. And unconscious
means just one thing-unconscious. That is a less redundant
statement than one might suppose, since people constantly
try to bargain with the meaning of the term. "If it's in me, I
would have some inkling of its existence," people argue.
One cannot argue with an unconscious mechanism.
The end result of the infantile conflict is established, at the
latest, at the end of the fifth year of life. Hard as it may be
to accept the fact, the psychic elasticity of the human being is
exhausted at that age. Our intellectual knowledge increases,
we get smarter, the sum total of our recollections is augmented-but emotionally our fate was decided prior to these
achievements.
Oscar Wilde remarked ironically: "Experience is the name

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PATTERNS IN NEUROTIC MARRIAGES

everyone gives to his mistakes." The "mistakes" of neurotics,


if emotionally conditioned, are made and fixed before they can
correct them. They can only go on repeating them.
Let's pick at random three neurotic marriages and see
what the six participants repeated.
Mrs. J. consulted me in great excitement and started her
lament with the outburst: "I hope I won't faint, I'm so emotionally charged. High voltage, you know. You want to know
what this is all about. It's my husband. He's just impossible.
He started a relation with my best friend, imagine that."
"How long have you been married?"
"Ten years."
"What other complaints do you have against him?"
"He's just impossible. Do you want me to be more precise?
He drinks, doesn't make a decent living, is frequently away
-on business, he claims-how do I know? It's true that he's
a consulting engineer. At home he is impatient with me. If
I'm distant and hurt, he complains that I'm a block of ice.
If I'm loving, he complains that I'm insatiable. We quarrel
constantly."
ccHow did you find out about his affair with your friend?"
"Everybody knew about it. I was a laughingstock."
"How do you account for the fact that your best friend
started an affair with the husband of her best friend? What
kind of friendship is that?"

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"Wait till you see him; nobody can resist him. He is just
too charming."
"What is his force?"
"Just charm, you know. He has an ingratiating way with
women."
"How did you react to the disclosure of his relation to the
other woman?"
"I was hurt but I didn't accuse her. I know his ways. He
accused me afterward of being responsible for the whole
thing. Imagine that."
"How?"
"He told me that I acted the procurer. She was constantly
around. He even had the audacity to claim that he believed
I wanted him to sleep with her."
"What gave him that idea?"
"You know how men are. They pick every harmless detail,
turn it around, and make a case against you."
"Specifically?"
"Specifically, he claimed that he had the feeling that I
left them alone so much that he couldn't help but feel that
I wanted him to tryout my friend."
"Did you leave them alone?"
"Well, yes. I never dreamt that that would develop."
"Weren't you jealous?"
"Before it happened. Not afterward."
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"Why did you bring them together?"

"She was just around."


((I still don't understand your husband's line of defense."
"He claims that I was talking so much about the girl, and
about him to the girl, that the only way to get rid of her was
to sleep with her."
"How would that cure her?"
((He claims that sex is always a disappointment for a
woman."
((Your husband claims that he started an affair with your
so-called best friend to do you a favor?"
"That's what it practically amounts to. Silly, isn't it?"
((What happened later?"
((I was furious with him. I even wanted a divorce, but I
loved him so much. It's a shame, isn't it?"
((Are you sexually happy in your marriage?"
"He claims that I'm difficult to satisfy. All men are weaklings, you know."
((Did you blame him?"
"Of course. He says I'm insatiable. The typical excuse."
"Who is neurotic in your opinion, you or he?"
"He is. Definitely."
This was her side of the preliminary story. The husband's
side was different:
"To tell you the truth, my wife is half crazy. I mean it.
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She is frigid and therefore insatiable. She makes me feel like


a heel, but 1 can assure you 1 am more than normal in that
respect."
"What about being unreliable?"
"I am-but only with her. She brings out the worst in me.
It's some kind of revenge.'"
"What about your affair with your wife's best friend?"
"That's a fantastic story. My wife directly pushed me into
that escapade. For months she acted like a publicity agent;
she praised the girl's charms to me, and my alleged superman qualities to the girl. She instilled in me the idea of trying it out. Well, I'm only human and was sexually completely dissatisfied. Afterward she played the aggrieved
party, made terrible scenes. What seems suspicious to me
is the fact that she wasn't jealous of the girl at all; she just
accused me. Thinking back, 1 have the impression that she
wanted the triangle. Don't ask me why-I don't know."
"Do you want to continue your marriage?"
"I'm completely mixed up. In spite of all our conflicts,
1 believe 1 still love my wife. If she doesn't act crazy, for a
change, she is charming and we get along."
"Your wife claims that you quarrel constantly."
"Nonsense. She just picks out these situations, magnifies
them, and acts like a martyr. The next moment all her unhappiness is forgotten and we like each other once more."

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"Was the affair with the girl a singular occurrence or a


typical one?"
"Well-well-we
aren't saints, are we?"
"That means, despite your promiscuity you still want to
stay with your wife?"
"To tell you the truth, the two sides of my life aren't
connected. I am attached to my wife, although she is sexually
impossible. Logicaliy, I don't understand myself. I have the
reputation of being a good lover. She, however, always gives
me the feeling of being a washout. Stili, I always come back
for more punishment."
"Do you consider it good marital policy to start an affair
under the nose of your wife, and, to complicate matters, with
her best friend and confidante?"
"It happened only once, and after nine years of marriage.
Previously I kept these two sides of my life separate."
"Do you consider your wife or yourself in need of treatment?"
"Definitely, my wife."
Although husband and wife each considered himself an
innocent victim of the other's "craziness," analysis disclosed,
of course, that both were neurotic. Mrs. J.'s conflict centered
around an older sister, who had brought her up after her
mother's early death. The sister had been more beautiful,
had had more admirers, and had even gone as far as to snatch

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her young sister's boy friends away from her "just for fun and
malice," as Mrs. J. exclaimed. Analysis proved that Mrs. J.
was unconsciously deeply attached to that rather aggressive
sister. Unconsciously, strong homosexual tendencies were
present. That queer relationship was shifted later in life to
her friend. Mr. J. was (without understanding why) on the
right track in suspecting that his wife "directly wanted" him
to start an affair with her friend. His mistake ill evaluation
was that he accused his wife of consciously wanting the affair.
He was wrong: she wanted it, but unconsciously. She was,
since she was unaware of her neurotic attachment, justified
in claiming that he maligned her with that accusation.
What was the reason Mrs. J. unconsciously "pushed" her
husband into that affair? There exists a mechanism which
Freud called "the man as bridge to the woman." Mrs. J.
lived out her unconscious homosexuality by "sharing" her
husband; through him she was brought together sexually
with her friend. Consciously,
, of course, she wanted her husband for herself. That explains, however, why she indirectly acted as a procurer and why she was not jealous of
the girl.
The second reason was even more complex: She was not
only homosexually but deeply masochistically attached to her
sister. All this she consciously rejeered, unconsciously, however, she desired her sister's aggression and malice. In the
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unconscious identification of sister and friend, she re-created


once more an "injustice-situation," masochistically so dear
to her; once more, her sister, through projection on her
friend, "snatched" a man away-this time, even her husband!
In another layer of her personality, she repeated actively
what she had experienced passively; in her relations with her
husband, she was nagging, aggressive, demanding. She thus
acted unconsciously the aggressive sister, reducing her husband to her own role in her relation with her sister. Her
frigidity resulted in sexual insatiability.
By choosing an "unreliable" husband, she carried out in
the financial sphere also the old game of injustice.
Mr. J.'s attitude toward his wife was characterized by
the fact that (as he claimed) she "brought out the worst in
him." He believed that these traits represented his revenge
for her frigidity and nagging. Still, despite all conflicts, he
had remained united with his wife for many years and desired the continuation of the marriage. Consciously, his wife's
attitude especially the fact that he, the great sexual hero,
could not satisfy her-made him unhappy. Still, he "always
came back for more punishment." Her rejection of him was
obviously a necessary part of his neurotic game: the repetition of the childhood pattern in which the little boy faces
the hopelessness of conquering the adult female. His masochistic wish was countered by a feeling of guilt; to allay the

[ lor]

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guilt a pseudoaggressive defense mechanism was installed,


visible as his unreliability, refusal of adequate financial support, infidelity, etc. And since every neurosis increases with
age, both Mr. and Mrs. J. played, as time passed, for higher
stakes-Mrs.
J. by constructing her husband's affair with
her best friend, Mr. J. by starting, with silly rationalizations,
an affair in his own house.
Both partners misused the marital scene for neurotic
repetitions of unconscious wishes and defenses. They were,
finally, both analyzed and remained united on a different
basis.
Mr. K., a man of forty, entered analysis because he felt
depressed and generally dissatisfied. Despite external success, he was jumpy and constantly irritable, sometimes brutal
to his associates. Asked about his marriage, he disclosed that
his wife was completely uninterested in sex, which depressed him deeply.
"I've known her since we were eight; we were playmates
from early childhood. She always dominated the situation,
pushed me into a corner. At her instigation, we eloped at the
age of fifteen. The marriage was annulled by her parents.
But we remarried at twenty. She is the soul of my business:
I'm excluded and have only the right to contribute a few
ideas. I am in reality a prince consort, though not many
people know about it."
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"How did you take your wife's sexual indifference?"


"Mournfully. I started to chase other women, just to
prove to myself that I wasn't such a nonentity in that respect. My wife is reducing me to nothingness. Yes, 'reducing
to nothingness'-that's
the right expression."
"What are the mental capacities of your wife?"
"She is smart, though uneducated. What good does my
college education do? She always proves to me how ignorant
I am. She can't argue logically, but she just knows everything, or so she thinks. I must admit, though, that in business
she is as sharp as a whip. I utter an idea in my aphoristic way,
she picks it up and makes a success of it."
"Does she give you credit for the initial idea?"
"Only when she can prove them flops or inconsistent. An
idea must be developed-that's
what she's good at. She
herself, however, has no originality."
"You work well together-a good team?"
"If you look at the bank account, yes."
"Do you love your wife?"
"Certainly. Otherwise I would not have spent thirty-two of
my forty years with her. Even as children we were inseparable."
"And she?"
"The same-I guess."
"Meaning whltt?"
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"Well, twice she has attached herself to elderly men and


believed she was in love with them. Later, she discovered
that these men were just after her money."
"How did you behave during these interludes?"
"I suffered like a dog-e-what a stupid expression, by the
way. I believe dogs suffer less than human beings. Anyway,
1 told her that I wanted her happiness and was ready to step
aside, if she asked me to."
"What was your wife's reaction?"
She turned the tables and proved with her typical
domestic lack of sound logic that I didn't love her. Had I
refused her a divorce, she would have accused me of (ruining her life.' How can one satisfy a woman?"
"Who is sick, in your opinion?"
"I'm just a fool, I guess. She, however, is definitely sick
with her theory that sex is unimportant."
A discussion with Mrs. K. confirmed substantially her husband's statements.
"Is it true that you reject sex?"

Yes."
"Why?"
"It seems unimportant, and is disagreeable to me."
"What about your husband?"
"I'm a good wife. I do my duty."
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"Don't you think that your attitude is insufficient to


guarantee sexual enjoyment?"
"I cannot help it if he is childish enough to want these
stupid acrobatics."
"Are you conscious of the fact that your opinion on sex
is in itself a symptom of your neurosis?"
"Nonsense. He is sick and dissatisfied."
"Are you happy?"
"I have my conflicts, too, but I don't run around like a
chicken with its head cut off."
"What about your attachments to the other two men?"
"Transitory spells."
"Couldn't have been so transitory if you seriously thought
of divorcing your husband."
"Everybody makes mistakes. I corrected them before ruining my life."
"Don't you think that your attitude toward sex is ruining
your marriage?"
"No. Adult people have other interests."
"Do you consider sex a puerile folly?"
"Exactly."
"What's your suggestion?"
"Treat my husband if you believe that you can straighten
him out. He is sick."
"What about you?"
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"Nothing's wrong with me."


"Sure of that?"
"Positive."
Mr. K.'s analysis disclosed that he was deeply attached
to his mother, a domineering matriarch of the old school.
The fact is to be noted that he "passed the whip" to his
future wife at the age of eight! Ever since that time she
had regulated life in the same way as his mother: "The little
boy doesn't know what's good for him." Mrs. K. had an
unusual contempt for boys, and later, for men in general.
The only two things which she could not change about
her husband were the biological fact of his manhood, and
the acquired fact of his college education. She used in both
instances the method of consistent depreciation; she constantly quoted Tolstoy's "Live chastely, all sexuality is the
naughtiness of big children." With vehemence she tried to
instill in her husband the idea that "being grown up" and
renunciation of sex were identical. If he objected meekly, she
treated him contemptuously-Has if I soiled my pants."
All these conscious complaints did not contradict Mr. K.'s
unconscious wish to be treated exactly that way. Consciousness and unconsciousness are not identical; Mr. K. discovered
this the hard way.
Mr. K. changed considerably in analysis. This change had
a peculiar effect on Mrs. K. The moment her husband no
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PATTERNS IN NEUROTIC

MARRIAGES

longer acted like Milquetoast, but spoke up and refused to


accept with reverence her nonsensical ways, Mrs. K.-the
woman who prided herself on being "never, but never" depressed-became the victim of a deep depression. She even
consented to enter psychoanalytic treatment.
Her analysis showed that all her ideas on the "infantilism
of sex" were results of repression. She was attached to her
uncle, her father's brother, to whom she shifted her original
wishes concerning her father. This was visible in the fact that
twice during her marriage she became interested in elderly
men, to the point of wanting to divorce her husband. She was
a bitter, disappointed neurotic who, unable to achieve her
childhood wish to be a boy herself (a universal desire of
little girls), spent her life in proving defensively that men
were incompetent idiots, whom she castrated at every turn
of the way.
Both marriage partners lived out their respective neuroses,
using each other for the repetition of bygone wishes and defenses. That marriage has been repaired, as is evident from
the fact that it was continued, after analysis, on a happier
basis.
Mrs. L., a petite and pretty woman of thirty, consulted
me because of her "tragic marital entanglement." After
saying this, she cried bitterly for a few minutes, then told
her story:
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"I am the clinging-vine type, one of those women who


always find a man to look after them. I seem to provoke in
men the protective instinct. Everybody treats me like a little
doll, breakable and to be handled with care. I'm terribly
tired of that role and the eternal baby act."
"Why do you act that way?"
"I don't. Without being conscious of it, I always find men
who fall for it. Here my tragedy starts. I am inwardly strong
and want a strong man. What I get is just the opposite: a
chronic protector who looks for the parasitic baby."
"Are you so innocent of the impression you make on men?"
"I don't fool myself any longer. I know that I provoked
and fostered that impression. I just got tired of it. I'm like
an actress who once had success with a specifie act; later
producers always assign her that same kind of part."
"Did you try it the other way around?"
"I did. I'm not gifted. I just attract only that type of
man."
"Is your husband that type too?"
"Of course. I am the baby for him. His solicitude makes
me sick. All my male friends are of the same kind. They
constantly offer me a better and bigger dollhouse."
"Do you live in one?"
"In a pent-dollhouse."
"Can you imagine life without luxury?"
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"Why do you jump from one extreme to the other?"


"If I understand you correctly, you want the penthouse
but dislike the type of man who protectively puts it at your
disposal. "
"You are brutal."
"Playing the hurt child?"
"There you are. I'm incorrigible."
After shedding a few miniature tears, Mrs. L. continued:
((My dollhouse is dull. I tried an affair with a primitive,
rather uncouth brute. I was magically attracted and at the
same time hopelessly repelled. Sexually, I was happy; but
his mental cruelty revolted me. I reverted to my dollhouse
life and am dissatisfied once more."
"How much does your husband know?"
"He knows nothing. My depressed moods he considers a
baby's whims, to be combatted with more presents and more
consideration."
"You resent that?"
"I hate it. If the man would beat me, humiliate me, stamp
on me-well, it's hopeless. I'm obviously incapable of evoking any other feelings in him but the consideration he'd
give a puppy."
"Did you ever try to explain your conflict to your husband?"

"Why should I cut the branch on which I sit?"


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"What do you actually want?"


"I want you to change my inner attitude of acting the
baby, needing help, protection, and consideration. I know
that I must be in some way responsible for the attitude
which men take in my presence. I hate myself for giving
that impression."
"Did you consult me with your husband's consent?"
"Oh, yes. He inquired about you. He wants to see you."
Mr. L. described in touching tones the baby he called
his wife. "She needs protection twenty-four hours a day. I
give it to her, and she is happy. Like all little children, she
has whims. She calls it general nervousness and wishes to
be treated. I have no objections."
Mr. L. refused to discuss his own problems, claiming that
there was nothing to divulge. His repeated motto was simply,
"Make my little doll more happy."
Mrs. L.'s analysis disclosed that her whole life in
infancy had been devoted to collecting injustices. Occasions
were provided by practically all the members of her family,
especially her mother and brother. Her brother had been
actively brutal. Her father was distant and uninterested
in her-an indirect form of aggression which she also made
use of in order to feel victimized. Mrs. L.'s childhood had
been filled with "suffering" and the pious, conscious wish:
"I want to be loved, pampered, taken care of." She developed
[ rIO ]

PATTERNS IN NEUROTIC MARRIAGES

exactly that attitude, the attitude of one who yearns to be


taken care of, which she deplored as "boring." She was on
the right track though; that attitude was only her defense.
Inwardly, she was masochistic and wanted to be neglected
and mistreated; therefore boredom resulted when her conscious wishes were fulfilled. She actually despised men
who took her clinging-baby attitude seriously. What she
really wanted was clear from her attachment to her "brutal"
lover, although she could not stand him either because his
behavior reminded her too much of her real repressed wishes.
She escaped into the rationalization that all men were weaklings; she was on the lookout for a "strong" man. What she
actually wanted from him was never clear to her, for her
repressed psychic masochism was fully unconscious.
It was quite interesting to observe how Mr. L.'s balance
in this neurotic marriage became disturbed as his doll changed
gradually into a human being. The culmination of this protracted conflict was rather extraordinary: for the first time
in her marriage, Mrs. L. bought her husband a present. The
harmless birthday present was first furiously rejected; then
followed a period of irritation, and finally depression. Mrs.
L. convinced her husband that he should enter analysis.
Mr. L.'s analysis showed that his protective attitude
toward his doll-wife was a rather new acquisition. He had
married her really on the rebound. He had first been
[ II I ]

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"desperately in love" with a cousin of his, a wealthy girl


who did not take the poor relative seriously, and married
(for money) an elderly manufacturer. He had "suffered
hell" and never understood how masochistic his relationship
really was. "A furious determination came over me to prove
to her what a mistake she had made in the evaluation of my
possibilities," he told me. CCI was successful and amassed
a good-sized fortune, For years I was depressed and gloomy
-until I met my wife. In relation to her, I became a different person. Fulfilling my little doli's wishes became my
greatest pleasure, ... "
\Vhat had happened was that a familiar psychical shift
had occurred, The irrational conflict centering around his
wife was simply a continuation of his old masochistic attachment to his cousin. He merely expressed it differently. In
his relationship with his cold cousin, he was unconsciously
submissively masochistic, and she w'as the aggressor. In his
marriage, he was the active benefactor, making his "doll"
the beneficiary. A certain amount of the original conflict was
smuggled in, however, for his wife inwardly resented his
attitude, could not be satisfied at all, and tortured rum with
her unhappiness. But he was so busily engaged in acting his
defense that he completely overlooked the "doll's" dissatisfaction.
His masochistic attachment to both women could be traced
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to a cold and matriarchal aunt (his mother's sister), his main


educator. She was bitter because his father would not marry
her. She took out her disappointment on the child, who, misunderstanding the situation, believed that she rejected him
personally. Since his mother had died at his birth and the
aunt had taken the mother's place, he was constantly confronted with a "cold" woman.
The man's behavior in pampering his doll-wife was complicated in that he was also acting out unconsciously a "magic
gesture." He was unconsciously dramatizing his own official
wish to be loved and pampered, the formula being: I shall
show you by my behavior that I really wanted to be treated
kindly. Behind that act lay a deep masochism.
To my surprise, it was possible to repair this marriage too,
although seemingly irreconcilable conflicts were involved.
One could bring an interesting argument against the thesis
that in neurotic marriage two neurotics unconsciously look
for their complementary neurosis: planned marriages, as occur
in some parts of the world. Here there would be less chance
of a neurotic finding a fellow neurotic. Since we are concerned with modern America, where marriage is considered
"a private affair," a planned marriage is difficult to imagine
except as a remnant of the patriarchal family. Hence, sons or
daughters who allow themselves to be pushed into a planned
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marriage are ipso facto neurotics, quite as much as those who


of their own accord marry for money or social position. Certain things are just not for sale-marriage
and sex life
among them. A person who believes that he can outsmart
others by making marriage a business only outsmarts himself and ends up in neurotic unhappiness.
The question is frequently asked: What do people quarrel
about in marriage? The expected answer is as naive as the
question and is obviously a simplification. It is as if a person
were to say: Name all the cities of over ten thousand inhabitants in the whole world. Even a trained geographer with a
photographic memory would be stunned by the enormity of
the material.
In Unhappy Marriage and Divorce I attempted a classification of neurotic marriages and arrived at fourteen types:
Those involving marital infidelity-a neurotic problem
Jealous marriages-the
result of an early infantile conflict
Those marked by the compulsive tendency to abandon the marrrage partner
Those in which sexuality is disastrously associated with the
forbidden
Those in which the marriage partner is used as an unconscious
alibi
Those marked by a neurotic dread of marriage and flight into
divorce
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Those marked by a lack of affection and tenderness (mental


cruelty)
Those in which the choice of love-object is based on a caricature
of one's own traits
Those in which another man or woman is constantly played off
against the marriage partner
Those in which the marriage partner is used as a target of
aggression
Those featuring the "savior" complex as the motive for both
marriage and divorce
Neurotic marriages of ambition
MisaUiances and marriages for spite
Those in which psychic masochism is the propelling factor

Without going into clinical details, it is apparent that the


common denominator of all neurotic conflicts in marriage is
this: The neurotic leaves his or her early childhood with a set
neurotic pattern which tends to repeat itself endlessly. Without the slightest awareness of this and with the best and
most sincere intentions on the part of his conscious personality, the neurotic chooses someone for his conscious ((pursuit of happiness." That innocent victim is used unconsciously
for the repetition of the infantile conflict-whatever the contents of that specific conflict may be. The same holds true
for the person he chooses. Each partner is used as a movie
screen on which the unconscious pattern of the other is reeled
off. The resultant conflicts are thus impersonal, though both
mates take it (since they are ignorant of their respective parts
[ I 15

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in that tragedy of unconscious repetitiveness) very personally.


In neurotic marriages, two neurotics look for and meet each
other halfway. Their neurotic patterns are synchronizedunconsciously.

[ I

16 ]

CHAPTER

IX

The Illusory BasIs of Divorce


IVORCE

is based on a series of illusions and

fallacies.
Illusion No. I is the belief that the next marriage will be more successful. This belief arises from the fact
that the neurotic divorcee, unaware that the failure of her
marriage was inevitable, considers it to have been due simply
to a mistake, to be corrected the next time. The illusion is
maintained with amazing tenacity. The real reason for the
failure of the marriage-the
neurosis which created the
failure and which will continue to create new failures-is
never taken into account.
"My marriages are trial balloons-if they don't fly, I take
a trip to Reno," claimed a lady patient, four times divorced.
"You must be an admirer of the scenery in Nevada," was
my reply.
"Why-what
do you mean?"
"Otherwise you could save yourself the trouble of the
trip. With your attitude, your marriages cannot work out."
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The lady was skeptical. She assured me that one day her
"trial balloon" would have the duration of ((something
permanent." Hope springs eternal-especially
in neurotics.
Another patient (this poor woman could boast of only two
divorce decrees) informed me that she had decided to divorce
her third husband. "He is the same washout my other husbands were. My present husband ....
"
"Did you say present husband or current husband?" I
asked.
The patient was flattered and amused. ((I must remember
that one! Look up in Webster whether the word can be used
with that connotation ....
"
Thus changing the ironic tragedy of her so-called marriages into a linguistic probJem, she proceeded to explain
that her husband was "a weakling, a sissy and a Milquet oas.t . . ."
((Current" husbands, exchangeable and interchangeable
every few months or years, are part of the necessary paraphernalia of pseudo marriages, I explained to my patient.
''V,'hat's that-a pseudo marriage?" asked the perpetualmotion-divorcee.
"You go through the motions of marriage."
((You mean a mechanical doll? I object!"
"Not exactly a mechanical doll, but a living, unconscious
repeating-machine. "
[ I 18

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ILLUSORY BASIS OF DIVORCE

If one listens to neurotic divorcees, one cannot miss their


point: All of them firmly believe that their alleged mistake
consisted in choosing the wrong man. They do not realize
that their "wrong" choice was dictated by inner forces. They
are convinced that by changing husbands everything can be
corrected.
Happy marriages cannot be secured by changing husbands.
Since the neurotic is unconsciously always on the lookout for
his complementary neurotic type, the chances of finding conscious bappiness in the next marriage are exactly zero. These
are the clinical facts. But since divorcees have no idea of the
dreary facts, they cling to the illusion that it is simply a question of "selecting the right man."
Although the divorcee's senseless hunt for the compatible
mate who will guarantee happiness and contentment is
doomed to failure, the fantasy is universal. And since the
small voice of psychoanalytic science is (so far) incapable of
outshouting the millions of illusionists, the present state of
affairs will not be changed in our times. To quote a discussion
with a cynical patient, Mr. M.:
"I understand now why the second, third, etc., marriage is
only a repetition of the first fiasco. Since you yourself admit
that making people understand these facts is a task for generations, why disturb the illusionists in their pursuit of unobtainable goals?"
[ 119 ]

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"Science is always miles ahead of current prejudices," I


pointed out. "Furthermore, we have something constructive
to offer, at least for individual cases: psychiatric help. That
alone justifies the statement that the accepted way out is

futile."
"I'm not so sure. How many people can afford long and
costly treatment?"
"I am convinced that psychiatric marital clinics will be a
part of every hospital in the country, perhaps even in less
than fifty or a hundred years."
''Very consoling."
"Irony is cheap. Do you have a better suggestion?"
"Kill off all the psychoanalystsand preserve the illusions."
"I will submit your proposal to the next international
psychoanalytic convention," I told him.
The patient's irony was rather bitter-he was a socially
minded person. Science has no inherent reformative tendencies: It can discover facts, and it tries to explain these facts.
The next step is up to the reformers. I have yet to encounter
the first millionaire to donate a million dollars toward the
endowment of a psychiatric marital clinic.
The chances of repairing neurotic marriages through psychiatric-psychoanalytic treatment are favorable. However,
it can be accomplished, in general, only if both participants
of the marriage are treated. The reason is obvious: both mates
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THE

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were chosen unconsciously because they possessed identical, or


complementary, neurotic traits. With some exceptions, the
removal of one neurosis is not sufficient.
The reason for optimism about marriages thus repaired
is also based on the fact, borne out by clinical experience,
that even the most neurotic person has a normal corner in his
Ego. The mate was chosen, first, because he answered unconscious, neurotic needs, but secondly, because he corresponded
in some slight degree, at least, to the inwardly desired type.
Much depends upon the quantitative distribution of the
neurotic and normal elements of the personality. Only in the
rarest cases is there nothing but a great emptiness left after
the neurotic traits have been removed. These marriages are
beyond repair. But it is never, of course, possible to be completely sure until after treatment.
Illusion No.2 is the belief that tty 01f, can beat the marital
game with cU1~ningand smartness."
There are neurotic women who cloak their inability to
love with the mink coat of "unsentimental knowledge of how
things really are." Romantic nonsense is good for children,
they aver; they, however, know what it is all about and make
their marital decisions on the basis of clever calculations.
Here are a few statements from such women, all of whom
presented themselves as candidates for divorce.
(I) "You ask why I married my husband? To be frank,
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I married him on the rebound. I was in love, or so I fancied,


with a married man who did not divorce his wife. He treated
me with cruelty-mental
cruelty, if you know what I mean
-and I was very unhappy."
"Why did you attach yourself to a hopeless affair?"
"Childish optimism, I guess."
Psychic masochism, I guess."
I doubt it. I wanted. . .
.J)

"Who are Cyou'? Conscious or unconscious department?"


CCIwasn't so smart at the time. Consciously I loved the
man and wanted to marry him."
"That requires amplification. Unconsciously you wanted
the fiasco."
"Whatever it was, I was deeply hurt by his refusal to
divorce his wife."
"Did you have any reason to assume that the man had
any intention at all of marrying you?"
"Nothing but my hope. I knew his wife; she was a woman
who knew all the ropes."
"One argument more for the hopelessness of the situation.
Are you sure that you weren't in love with the hopeless
situation ?"
I won't argue with you any more. The end effect, though,
speaks for your assumption. When I confronted the man
with an ultimatum, he was indignant and told me bluntly
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THE

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that he wasn't responsible for any 'fancy ideas,' as he called


it, brutally. He claimed that he had never led me to believe
that he would divorce his wife. He was just scared of her."
"Did his excuse correspond to the facts?"
"You know what men are like. It's true that nothing
explicit was said. I just assumed .... "
"And after this unconsciously self-constructed disappointment you married on the rebound?"
She replied in great excitement, "What else can a girl do?
Wait for the next disappointment? Live in a one-room apartment with kitchenette? Do you believe it's very pleasant to
be always on the outside?"
"Your emotionalism is rather an indication of a guilty
conscience. Why do you defend yourself? I consider a marriage of convenience a neurotic sytnptom and not, as you
assume, moral turpitude."
''Very kind of you."
"Irony does not solve problems. Did your scheme work
out?"
"Financially and socially, yes. Emotionally, no. I'm still
the same fool I was. Once more I'm in love with a married
man who refuses to divorce his wife."
"Aren't you afraid that your present husband will get
wise to you? How important for you is the social and financial
position you achieved through marriage to your husband?"
[ 1'23

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"Very important. That's exactly why I consulted you. I'm


on the verge of jeopardizing my marriage. I'm making mistakes, I'm not cautious enough."
"Why do you specialize in 'hopelessly married' and, therefore, unavailable men? For the second time you are, as you
call it, making the same 'mistake.' "
The lady retired behind her handkerchief, shedding a
few pro [orma tears, without endangering her elaborate
make-up.
"I'm not quite certain what you want from me. Are you
giving me the ridiculous task of 'improving' a marriage of
convenience, or do you want me to eliminate your tendency
to fall in love with unattainable men? Are you conscious of
the fact that analysis could endanger your businesslike marriage?"
"Don't exaggerate. I want to get rid of my chronic tendency of falling in love with married men. If what you suspect is correct, namely that I don't love these men (it happened four times and not, as I told you, twice) but am
attracted by the situation of the unobtainable) then that
'tendency' as you call it cold-bloodedly, is dangerous."
"Dangerous-for
what?"
"For my marriage of convenience, as you put it. Dangerous
for my social and financial status."
Treatment solved her tendency to attach herself to "hope[ 124

THE

ILLUSORY BASIS OF DIVORCE

lessly married" men. However, she interrupted treatment


shortly afterward with the strange claim that she couldn't
"afford to become emotionally normal since that would
endanger my marriage." Gold-digging at its best!
(2.) "I married, believe it or not because of 'statistical
fears.' I coined that phrase, and I hope you appreciate it. It
means (fe.arsbased on statistics.' They pound in you so constantly-in all magazines, I mean-the bad statistical chances
for finding a husband in the thirties, that I just got panicky.
Nobody wants the stigma 'old maid.' How am I responsible
for the stupidity of the 'cultural' environment which glorifies
the married woman and maligns the unmarried one?"
"Were you ever in love?"
"That's the strange thing: I wasn't. I lived till I was
twenty-nine with myoId invalid father-he
was crippled
with rheumatism-and devoted a great deal of time to him.
I know it sounds suspicious, but I wasn't such a saint. I was
attached for years to an elderly man, a severe hypochondriac.
I guess he needed and tolerated me because I knew so much
about nursing-my father's illness forced my interest in that
direction."
"Did you love that man?"
"I doubt it. My first point has always been: Are you
needed? I am a sucker for people who conform to that condition. I went as far as to sleep with him because he believed
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that sex was good for his fight against his diversified hypochondriacal symptoms. As it turned out later, it did not help
at ali, he just started to worry about the results of being
weakened by sex. That made his weak potency even worse,
and he finally became impotent. This was all right with me;
sex for me was sacrifice. I had the medicine to dispense, it
seemed cruel to withhold it. So it was administered; the
'medicine bottle' didn't feel much, only slight disgust. For
the last few years there was no sex. Then my father died.
At that time I was twenty-nine. I mourned deeply, and a
strange change came over me. Without being able to explain
why, I gave up my friend. It was as if I were through with
nursing in any form. I started to review my life and found it
empty. I took courses, trying to occupy myself (my father
left me a considerable income) but all this didn't help. I was
once reading in a magazine a statistical study on the probability of finding mates for girls of my age; the statistical outlook appeared gloomy. I didn't take it seriously, but later the
thought preyed on my mind. Finally, I got panicky, and
decided to marry. The question was, whom to marry. I came
to the conclusion that love was something I'd never knowwhy, I don't know. I was tired of sickbeds, complaints, and
all that. I decided intellectually that a very healthy specimen
was in order. Frantically, I looked around and, three years
ago, married an athlete. That means, by profession my hus[ 126 ]

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BASIS OF DIVORCE

band is a lawyer, but his real hobby is fencing. He devotes


most of his time to that sport, and neglects his practice. That's
unimportant. More important is the fact that we are sexually
incompatible. My husband wants sex continuously, seems to
have a compulsion about it. He found out that I don't feel
that way, and since then hell has been loose. He constantly
. gets mood"
comp 1ains,
y. . . .
"Is he on the way to becoming a hypochondriac, too?"
"That's what frightens me, I foresee that after some time,
I shall once again be--a nurse. It's really fantastic. I did
everything possible to run away from that, and now I'm
confronted once more with the same situation. I tried all devious ways to come out of it. I tried to pretend that I enjoy
sex; it didn't work either. I'm such a bad actress, or my husband knows too much about real sexual enjoyment in a
woman. He makes what I call (complaining scenes.' My
behavior makes him sick, so he claims. I suggested divorce to
avoid making him sick, but he doesn't want that either. . . ."
This patient was cured; her husband entered analysis
with a colleague. The prospects that the marriage will continue are favorable.
(3) "I married my husband because I wanted to be taken
care of in a legal way. No fooling about that; I'm not pretending. Facts are facts. The marriage of my parents was
bad; quarrels and scenes were the order of the day. I just
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wanted to leave. I thought: What have I to offer? My beauty


was the only asset. Well, I thought, if there are customers for
that in socially accepted form, O.K. So I married my husband, who loves me very much. I am just friendly-indifferent. That life becameboring, and I tried a boy friend. The
effect was the same-the initial thrill of the danger wore off.
Result: more boredom. Perhaps I wasn't so smart after all.
I had it so nicely figured out. I am depressed. What do you
think is eating me?"
"A neurosis," I said, flatly.
But the lady was not of that opinion, and acted accordingly.
(4) "I married my husband to escape my greatest fears:
loneliness and financial insecurity. I thought that even an
unhappy marriage could never fail to protect me against
loneliness. What a fool I was! I found out soon enough that
loneliness doesn't mean just to be alone. If I'm with my husband, I feel more lonely than in an empty apartment."
"And financial security? Does that at least compensate?"
CCYes
and no. Of course, I like to be taken care of. But it
has only negative advantages-so to speak. If I think of earning my living once more, I shudder."
"Don't you think that every woman should have a profession-which she mustn't use during the fat years-for
exactly that emergency?"
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"Theoretically, I agree with you. But practically. . . "


"You seem to be caught in the old dilemma of wanting
to have your cake and eat it too."
"I think you're right. How often haven't I told myself,
'you can't have it both ways.' That doesn't help. I'm desperately lonely. I sell myself in marriage. I'm dissatisfied
))
despite 'social position' and a mink coat.
"And still you love your mink coat?"
"What woman wouldn't?"
This patient refused to' enter treatment; she was obviously
afraid of losing her gold-digger complex. One and a half
years later, to my surprise, she came back. She was a widow
-her husband had died of a heart attack, leaving her his
money. Now she was afraid to make a second "mistake." She
was helped to a considerable degree by analysis; more could
not, in her case, be achieved.
I have been repeatedly reprimanded for neglecting in
Unhappy Marriage and Divorce to consider the social factors
influencing both states.
I do not deny the importance of the social factors in marriage and divorce; but I am of the opinion that the psychoanalyst's business is to describe the psychiatric-psychoanalytic
facts. Nobody wishes to put the sociologist out of business.
Nevertheless, I consider social factors in marriage only of sur[ 129

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face value for the stability of marriage. They cloud the issue;
they seem to dominate the scene, but they are only the
palimpsest covering the decisive psychological facts.
It is interesting to observe that financial security and
social advantages are frequently strong enough to hold a
woman in a marriage of convenience, but not strong enough
to guarantee her some kind of emotional satisfaction and inner
balance. Even the seemingly cold-blooded type of neurotic
woman, capable of that rather debatable deal, is in the end
the "cheated cheater." Neurosis cannot be beaten by cunning
and smartness. The truth of this statement is evidenced also
in the neurotic attitudes of such people as the woman who
was afraid that her "lack of caution" would endanger her conscious scheme of money-marriage.
These women remind one in some respects of card-sharpers
who, in certain situations, revert to pathologic gambling themselves-and lose like the "suckers" they otherwise exploit.
The study of social factors in marriage is, without knowledge of psychiatric factors, a useless undertaking. It neglects
essential and basic psychologic phenomena and accepts as allimportant what are only the surface reverberations.
For example, a woman already quoted answered my question: "How important for you is the social and financial
position achieved through marriage to your husband?" with
an emphatic "Very important." Still, it would be naive to
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believe that the unconscious reason behind that "Very important" was the same as the consciously known and emphasized
reason. That is exactly the error so frequently encountered in
the evaluation of social factors in marriage. The future in
that science belongs to the psychoanalytically trained sociolo~st.
Another example: A woman with money and social background marries a man without either, and is rejected by her
social set. Her ensuing social dilemma can be viewed, if
one chooses to be naive, in splendid socially conditioned
isolation. But, an analysis could prove that the woman in
question used the social setting for her unconscious purposes,
being unconsciously well aware of the consequences.
Not less naive is the assumption that social factors, present
in a particular society, of themselves force specific women to
specific actions. Analysis of women tending to prostitution
proves that conclusively. They claim that life left them "no
other choice." Nevertheless, the decision to work as a filing
clerk, unskilled worker, or domestic help, or as a prostitute,
has very definite unconscious reasons. This also applies,
mutatis mutandis, to a marriage of convenience. The social
setting is identical for the woman who marries "for love"
and the woman who marries "for money." Unconscious factors determine the choice. The admirer of money or the overvaluator of that commodity will be surprised that genitalia

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are not for sale, for normal people. Only a specific group of
neurotics acts and thinks as if they were.
Important as social factors are, applied with strict consistency to marriage, they explain exactly nothing. They
correspond to the person's rationalizations. The sociologist
who is taken in by them can be compared to a not-too-smart
detective who falls for the clues planted by a clever criminal.
As far as marriage is concerned, the sociologist and analyst
view the same facts from different angles. The point is not
to create an artificial barrier, but to co-ordinate experiences.
However, it is improbable that this can be done as long as
sociologists confuse the surface with what lies beneath the
surface.
Illusion No. 3 is the belief that marriage confronts one
exclusively with reality factors.

If one listens to neurotic women in their pre- or postdivorce state, one gets the impression that "poor little me"
was thrown into a conflict not of her making and one which
arose without her participation.
All this is a convenient though unconsciously determined
blind. Psychologically, the situation is different: unconsciousiy
these women chose their husbands for the purpose of reeling
off an old repressed infantile pattern. The ensuing conflict
was then unconsciously speeded up by neurotic collaboration.
There are no innocent victims in the marital graveyard.

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This fact, stressed so frequently in this volume, can also


be proven clinically from an unexpected angle: The reaction
of women to their husband's request for divorce.
Here are a few examples of what I mean:'
Mrs. N., a woman of forty, had been married for thirteen
years when her husband confronted her with the fact that he
had decided to break up their marriage because he felt unhappy at home and was in love with another girl. He was
ready to make all reasonable financial arrangements for
her and their twelve-year-old son, understood the objective
tragedy of the situation, but was, as he stated, driven by
forces "beyond his control." Mrs. N. was at first ccparalyzed
with fear and shock"; then gave \vay to convulsive weeping.
Despite all this emotionalism, her decision was precise and
clear cut: CCI shall never give you a divorce." Her husband
left home, only to come back after eight months because of
his inability to change his wife's decision. After his return he
behaved like a prisoner; he refused to talk to his wife, spent
his evenings reading, and discontinued sexual relations.
What was the unconscious reason for Mrs. N.'s attitude?
It was obvious from the start that a powerful unconscious
mechanism was at work, since she was ready to sacrifice everything to outward appearances-her pride, her self-esteem,
These examples were first published in Marriage and Fatnily Living, 1946,
Fall issue, under the title "Six. Types of Neurotic Reaction to a Husband's
Request for Divorce."
1

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even the very contents of marriage-anything


to keep the
"prisoner" whom she called her husband.
Mrs. N. came from a family in which the father was always
considered a "weak personality." Asked what that meant,
precisely, she revealed after long hesitation that he was a
gambler, not too reliable about supporting his family. At first
she stubbornly denied but later reluctantly admitted that
there were "some rumors about other women, too. In any
case, Mrs. N. triumphantly stated, the marriage survived all
these conflicts since it was never dissolved. She was strongly
attached to her father, and had been his favorite child. One
could reconstruct the unconscious feeling of the child as follows: At the peak of the Oedipus complex, she wanted her
father for herself, alleviating her unconscious feeling of
guilt concerning her mother with the excuse "Father wants
to leave mother anyhow." Her inner feeling of guilt continued, however, and as the next inner defense she constructed
another alibi: that she wanted her father to stay with her
mother. As a part of this alibi she developed a reactive
attachment to her mother.
Thirty-five years later her husband's demand for a divorce
set in motion her old feeling of guilt: "You wanted father to
leave mother; now your own husband wants to leave you for
another woman." In irrationally refusing the divorce, Mrs.
N. unconsciously fought the old inner guilt conflict stemming

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from her childhood, her unconscious argument being CCIwant


my parents to remain united!" Her refusal to grant a divorce
was therefore not only a rational fight for her husband but a
rebuff to the old reproach of her Superego. Her willingness
to accept the empty shell of a marriage without meaning was
also a repetition of the infantile pattern, since it was the very
fact that the marriage of her parents was empty that gave her
as a child the ability to endure the parental marriage. In other
words, an old defense was activated, bolstered by self-punishment: "Your own marriage is just an empty shell, too!"
Mrs. N. finally consented to divorce. She went through
that trying period relatively well; her deep masochism,
however, could only be diminished. The time element interfered; she was called away by the illness of her mother who
was living in one of the American possessions. I doubt
whether even with years of treatment a real cure could have
been accomplished. There are limits beyond which-because
of the quantity of self-damaging tendencies-therapy cannot
reach.
Mrs. o. married at the age of forty, after many adventures
on the way, a man who called himself a "bom bachelor." He
was cold, detached, witty and charming "in a distant sort of
way," but ((unreliable." "Accidentally," Mrs. O. had found
recent love letters from other women and her husband's
replies. Severe conflicts followed. Mr.
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saying that he, being a born bachelor anyway, didn't believe


in monogamy, and that he had warned her beforehand that
he wasn't "material for marriage," and had married against
his will. He demanded a divorce. Mrs. O. refused and started
hysterical quarrels. During these "attacks," as she described
them, she was completely irrational, constantly attacking and
reproaching her husband "because of his coldness."
Mrs. O. came from a family who believed that cold and
detached behavior was the best educational medium. Her
mother pronounced the theory; her father followed it, though
reluctantly. The child became outwardly as cold as was required of her, but full of hatred for everybody. This hatred
prompted many of her sexual adventures later in life, as a
slap in the face of her puritanical family. However, her
aggression was on only a superficial level, for by indulging
in these same adventures she spoiled every possibility she
had of happiness in life. This deep masochistic pattern
prompted her to marry Mr. 0., who, as a husband, was (as
she correctly stated) an "impossible" person. What she did
not see was that she had chosen this "cold" man not despite
but unconsciously because of his detachment and inability
to love.
In her rows with her husband, Mrs. O. repeated, without
suspecting it, her whole child-mother relationship. Her cold
husband, upon whom she projected the role of the mother,

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used mental cruelty upon the victimized child. On the other


hand, her husband complained that she herself was "cold and
cruel" when reproaching him-unless they were quarreling.
There the roles were unconsciously reversed.
Mrs. O. went even further in her quarrels: she changed the
jnfantile situation by dramatizing two unconscious thoughts.
The first unconscious thought was: "1 cannot stand your coldness, Mother; even your hatred and anger would be more
pleasant." Her husband's despair, which finally succeeded
his usual coldness, made that corrected inner repetition possible. Second, in her quarrels she acted the part of the angry
and complaining mother, thereby nullifying her mother's
real coldness.
Mrs. O.'s refusal to grant a divorce was based on irrational
factors--on a repetition of conflicts which had no connection
whatever with Mr. O.
Mr. and Mrs. O. were both analyzed for a short time. The
last 1 heard from Mrs. O. was a telephone call (they live in
a foreign country) informing me that the marriage had
worked out, though the husband was rather reticent in sex.
This, obviously, was his last-ditch defense.
Mrs. P. married at the age of eighteen a young man of
twenty, and lived with him for a few years without too great
conflict. She was at times rather "nagging," as her husband
later stated, in her attempts to remodel him according to her
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wishes. She liked company; he, on the other hand, found


her acquaintances and friends "a bunch of jerks" and was not
too careful about concealing his opinion. Their next set of
conflicts centered around his predilection for studying and
reading in general. He held a well-paid position, but tried to
improve his prospects by earning an academic degree. Mrs.
P., on the other hand, failed to see the point at all, and cornplained about the waste of time and money spent studying.
Her husband's neurosis pushed him into a senseless extra
marital relation, though he claimed that sex in his marriage
was satisfactory. He started an affair with a promiscuous girl
in his office, with the result that at home he became "moody
and withdrawn." Unconsciously he was asking for trouble and
a denouement, but he had a hard time making his wife
suspicious. She attributed his depressed attitude to his worries
over his studies. Obviously, in an unconscious effort to hasten
the conflict, he started to neglect his wife and later became
impotent with her. Mrs. P., still not suspicious, "made a big
scene." "You don't love me any more." So her husband confessed his infidelity. Mrs. P. told him that she would never
consent to a divorce, declared very reasonably that he was
acting neurotically, and insisted that he consult a psychiatrist.
He refused, and Mrs. P., in revenge, immediately started a
sexual affair with one of her friends. She did not conceal it
at all; on the contrary, she even told her husband all the
[ r 38 ]

THE

ILLUSORY BASIS OF DIVORCE

details. Her husband rernained "sullen, unhappy, and impotent," to quote her.
Her revengeful attitude resulted, first, in Mr. P.'s becoming impotent even with his mistress and later in giving her
up. "I feel like a complete washout and don't care for anything," was his own resume of the situation.
From early childhood, Mrs. P. had been in competition
with boys. She openly resented the fact that "we live in a
man's world," as she put it. She even acquired a critical outlook on men in general, mercilessly making fun of man's
weaknesses and braggadocio. Though she denied it at first,
she was frigid and achieved sexual satisfaction only through
preliminary acts (clitoridean masturbation). Her analysis
revealed a typical hysteric neurosis: She had never overcome
her hatred for and envy of boys, who had something that
was denied her. Her neurotic penis envy and unconscious
masculine identification were never inwardly resolved; hence
her frigidity. Her infidelity was based, not on simple revenge
("I want to get even with my husband"), but on neurotic
competition stemming from childhood. She unconJciot~Jly
misused her marital difficulties for infantile revenge-on
the fact that she was a girl! She mistook her husband's
infidelity for the simple exercise of a masculine prerogative,
and combatted it by exercising it, too. Of course, unconscious
self-damaging tendencies were also involved.

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Mr. and Mrs. P. were both analyzed, and remained united.


The success has held for many years. Recently I received
an amusing letter from Mrs. P., informing me that "the job
done on us was so good that you cheated yourself out of
treating my adolescent children; both are developing beautifully. No psychiatrist will get any fee for treating them."
Mrs. Q., a woman of forty-two, found out through an
anonymous letter that her husband was having several relations with a widow. She engaged a detective and collected
evidence for weeks, meanwhile concealing her knowledge and
actions from her husband. She considered her marriage of
eighteen years "neither good nor bad." She had become
skeptical during the last years of whether her marriage "still
made sense" to her. Confronted with the fact of her husband's infidelity, she said, ((A cold fury and determination
took possession of me; it was as if a new content in life
opened up. The same weakling of a husband whom I had
wanted for years to throw out suddenly became important.
More precisely, I felt that I couldn't bear giving him to
another woman, though the 'gift' would be a poor one, as I
had to admit ironically to myself. A strange pleasure crept
into my boring life. For instance, I observed my husband in
his silly attempts to conceal his coming home late with the
excuse of business conferences. After having collected the
material, 1 presented the dossier to him. My husband col[ 140 ]

THE

ILLUSORY BASIS OF DIVORCE

lapsed, didn't say a word, left home 'for a businesstrip,' and


wrote me a Jetter asking for a divorce. I didn't answer, and
after his return I told him that he could have a separation but
never a divorce. I warned him that if he continued to see
the widow I would sue him for divorce and name her as
corespondent. This was six weeks ago. We still live under
the same roof. He is depressed, and we are hardly on speaking terms."
What was the reason for Mrs. O.'s decision? She was not
too clear on that score. She admitted that she was not interested in her husband at the time she was informed of his
extra marital affair; she was not indignant morally; she was
financially independent. And still she felt that she could
never "give" her husband to this "harlot," as she called her
competitor. The very husband whom she herself had shelved
as a sexual being for years became for her part of an oversexed fantasy involving another woman, She spent hours
torturing herself with jealousy, imagining their relationsa trend foreign to her previously.
Mrs. O.'s analysis revealed typical unconscious homosexual tendencies. Consciously she was jealous; behind the
scenes (unconsciously) she was deeply attached to the image
of a woman. She used her husband, again to quote Freud,
as a "bridge to the woman." In other words, she identified
unconsciously with the man, her repressed real grievance
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being that the other woman loved her husband rather thau
herself. The objection that she didn't even know the "real"
woman, her husband's friend, is irrelevant, since the whole
problem had nothing whatever to do with reality; the "real"
situation was used as a screen upon which to project an
infantile conflict. Jealousy represented the defense against
her wish, providing her with an alibi: "I don't want the
woman; I want my husband."
In her early childhood, Mrs. Q. had been deeply attached
to her sister. Her sister, three years her senior, paid very
little attention to her and was inclined to ridicule her. During
the period of puberty, her sister (like Mrs. J.'s) took pleasure
in stealing the boy whom Mrs. Q. liked, "just for the fun
of it."
Decades later, Mr. Q.'s infidelity activated all the jealousy, attachment, and reactive fury that she had originally
felt for her sister. The unconscious situation was that just as
her sister had appropriated the boy she loved, so now her
husband was appropriated by the woman she loved, so ((just
for the fun of it" she now refused the divorce, not seeing that
in the end she damaged herself, also, since she, too, could not
remarry.
Mrs. Q. solved her conflict partially; she consented to
divorce, but declared that she was too old for longer treatment.
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THE

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Viewed logically, the problem of refusal of divorce in hopeless marriages is replete with paradox. But the mystery is
resolved if we take the unconscious factors into consideration.
To complicate matters, the actions of neurotic women are
not less irrational when they do consent immediately to the
demand for a divorce. These women feel emotionally that
they should refuse the divorce, and give their consent on the
basis of "logical reasoning." Here are two examples of this
type of reaction.
Mrs. R., aged twenty-five, entered psychoanalysis in a
dangerously suicidal state. Her husband had told her a few
months before that he had decided to divorce her. His reason
was that she was "unsatisfactory in bed" and "indifferent, if
not nagging, during the daytime." Mrs. R.'s reaction was
first fury and then deep depression. All this happened, she
claimed, during the five minutes immediately following the
announcement. Afterward she consented immediately "against
my feelings" to his demand for a divorce. Her husband took
financial advantage of the situation; their settlement was very
unsatisfactory for his wife.
"After my husband left, a strange change came over me. I
started to think, and came to the conclusion that his reproaches
were unjustified. The beginning of our marriage was sexually
unsatisfactory because of his inexperience; later it was unsatisfactory because-of his weak potency. We didn't get along too
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well, because he ran around with a guilty conscience, because


of his poor sexual qualities, and started quarrels over nothing.
I could understand that he was shifting the blame onto me.
All this became clear to me-his neurosis, his guilt. Butand here I was helpless-I became attached to him more and
more. It was as if the very fact that my husband rejected me
served as a chain attaching me to him. I started to follow him,
to arrange 'chance' meetings-well, I was like a dog following his master though the master kicked him out into the
cold." During these months Mrs. R. seriously tried to commit
suicide twice, and was rescued and sent into psychoanalytic
treatment.
Mrs. R. was, she said, "disgusted" with her humility
toward her former husband. She saw through his neurosis
(correctly, as it happened). And still she used him as the
means of feeling mistreated. \Vhat was she repeating without
knowing it? The answer is to be found in her childhood situation. Her father was a drunkard who, during his sprees, "beat
hell" out of his children. The patient and her sister were
forced to bring in a bamboo stick, kiss it, and say, "Please,
Father, punish us as we deserve." This went on until her
father died of a heart attack. Mrs. R. was at that time nine
years old. Interestingly enough, her conscious feeling for
her father was hatred, and she did not develop any masochistic perversion. All her enjoyment of his sadism-it took
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BASIS OF DIVORCE

a long time in analysis to make her remember a "queer feeling of excitement" while these tortures were going on-was
shifted to the unconscious. She became unconsciously an exquisite psychic masochist. Years later, her husband's leaving
her revived the old masochistic pattern of her childhood, and
she projected it upon him.
The question remains of how she could have used her
weakling of a husband, whose neurosis she nearly understood, for the sadistic father of her recollection. The answer
was that in leaving her, her husband acted unjustly. And
injustice was the keynote of her father's beatings. Thus the
gulf was breached. This explains also why Mrs. R consented so readily to a divorce. She did so only because she
didn't feel guilty, as she had not felt guilty when her father
punished her "unjustly."
Mrs. R. was treated and cured. She remarried and has
children, and looks at her past (to quote her) "with great
surprise. "
Mrs. S., a woman of thirty, had been married for eight
years to a man fifteen years her senior. Her husband was a
cold and reticent person, the personification of a kill-joy. She,
on the other hand, was buoyant, full of life and fun. None
of their acquaintances could understand their choice of each
other. Nevertheless, she loved her husband and claimed that
she was "perfectly happy." One day Mr. S. told her that he

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had decided to divorce her because he wanted to marry a


friend of his sister, an elderly woman who had just lost her
husband. He gave no further explanation and her consent
was taken for granted. Mrs. S. left for Reno without further
complaint or delay.
"If you ask me how I reacted to my husband's decision, my
answer is that I was surprised that it came so late. I'd always
felt that my great happiness with him wouldn't last forever.
I was speechless when he announced his intention, and felt
as if someone had hit me over the head with a sledge hammer.
I felt emotionally like refusing, but my common sense told
me that every hope was gone. I recovered and told myself:
'Be a good sport; if this is the way he wants it, nothing can
be done about it.' "
A few days of depression followed. Then she became gay
once more, slightly manic, and started sexual relations with
different men. One acquaintance in Reno admonished her:
"Take it easy! Don't overdo! We all go through such
periods. There's no reason to throw yourself away on every
bum that comes along." Her promiscuity was accompanied
by frigidity; her gaiety was artificial. When her friend told
her that she just wanted to prove to herself that she was not
so worthless as her husband made her out to be by sending her
away, she was surprised. She didn't feel that way about it at

all.

[ 1+6 ]

THE

ILLUSORY BASIS OF DIVORCE

After her return from Reno, her promiscuity continued and


one affair followed another, all with the same result. One day
an old family friend forced her to see me. Mrs. S. had no
objection to treatment, though she confessed that she didn't
understand what one could do for a "completely normal"
person.
Analysis showed a strong Oedipal attachment to her father,
who was a gay and friendly person, unlike her gloomy and
unfriendly husband. There was apparently no connecting
link between the two. The truth was that her early Oedipal
wishes were counteracted by a severe sense of inner guilt. To
appease this guilt she allowed herself the father-image only
on condition that she change it into an image of opposite
character (gay, friendly, kind father-gloomy,
unfriendly,
unkind husband). In this way she also paid her inner debt
to her conscience in the form of suffering. This compromise
lasted for years, until her husband "threw her out," as she
put it. Then a strange masochistic tendency came to the fore,
of course covered up with pseudo aggression. That is, under
the guise of hitting back at the father-image, in reality she
damaged herself. "If Father doesn't want me, I'll make him
sorry; I shall become a prostitute in revenge." This was the
unconscious reasoning behind her short-lived affairs.
Mrs. S., after a very long treatment, was cured and is now
happily married to a man of her own age. The amount of
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self-damaging tendencies was so great that for long periods I


her prognosis looked more than doubtful. Her case shows I
that it is not always possible to predict the outcome precisely ..
In this one-sided selection of neurotic patterns, six types of
feminine reactions toward the husband's demand for divorce
have been isolated.
Study of them leads to the conclusion that there are casest
in which, quite apart from practical considerations, the
woman intellectually understands that she is fighting a losing
battle in refusing divorce and yet is emozionally incapable of
giving her consent. There are also women who feel emotionally that they should refuse the divorce but still give
consent on the basis of "logical reasoning."
All six types described reacted to a real situation by reviving unconscious, repressed, infantile patterns, which only
psychoanalysis can solve.
Of course, one could ask ironically: "How should a woman
normally behave if her husband asks for a divorce?" There
is no answer to this question, since divorce is in general a
neurotic procedure of neurotic people. In the great majority
of cases, people arrive at the point of divorce not by chance
but because they have unconsciously provoked the situation,
even if only by their choice of a neurotic partner, although
this is usually only the initial provocation. Freud's statement
that every person harbors in his unconscious an apparatus
j

[ 148 ]

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ILLUSORY BASIS OF DIVORCE

enabling him to understand the unconscious of another peron still holds true. There is less chance in the choice of mariage partners than is generally assumed. It cannot be too
often emphasized that two neurotics unconsciously seek and
find each other. Outward appearances are often deceptive,
since the neurosis of one marriage partner may at a specific
time be more advanced than that of the other. In such a case,
it appears to the untrained observer that one partner is normal and the other neurotic.
Illusion NO.4 is the belief that CCI don't need a husband
anyway."
The statement, "I'm better off without a husband," is a
theme song of marriage-weary women. What they are doing
IS whistling in the dark to conceal a lurking fear, and sometimes they are fooled by their own whistling.
For fear it is. The wish to be alone is never an original
wish. Such a wish simply does not exist. What is clinically
observable is a stubborn refusal to acknowledge defeat sustained in the battle of marriage. The defeat is denied by the
compensatory claim that nothing was lost. The grapes which
ere just too high. . . .
The emotions pushing a person into marriage are beyond
rational control. They are deeply ingrained from the first
iYearsof life. The explanation is simple. The wish to supplant
the parent of the same sex and replace him in the relation[ 149 ]

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ship with the parent of the opposite sex is a universal human


phenomenon, though on the unconscious level. Anyone who
believes that he can altogether escape that wish in childhood
is simply deluding himself. The decision to marry was implanted in you long before you could read, write, and think
clearly.
Illusion NO.5 is the belief that children will adapt them-.
selves to the new situation.
A woman patient, fighting desperately against her husband's desire for a divorce, exclaimed during one of their
heated discussions:
"Imagine that your child has broken his arms and both
legs on a voyage, and is suspended in a surgical position in
bed in a ship's cabin; then ask yourself how great are his
chances of survival if the ship sinks. Would your child have
an equal chance as compared with a good swimmer? If you
can face your conscience with an answer in the affirmative,
then get a divorce, regardless of your children."
Did the woman exaggerate in her simile? Is her argument
faulty or clinically provable? What are the facts?
There is no doubt that the divorce of their parents invariably presents consequences of the most serious nature for the
children. However, the assumption that divorce automatically produces neurosis in the child is unjustified. An UJlhappy marriage is no less dangerous to the child psychologically. And, to make things even more complicated, a happy
[ ISO ]

THE

ILLUSORY BASIS OF DIVORCE

marriage is no guarantee, either, against the development of


neurosis in the children.
How can we explain this bundle of contradictions?
Childhood is a period of complicated inner conflicts for
every child, quite regardless of whether his environment is
favorable or unfavorable. The myth of the invariably happy
childhood is-a myth, based on the fallacious notion "small
child, small conflict." Every childhood is filled with inner
emotional conflicts.
These conflicts center, first, around the universal childhood
fantasy of omnipotence. Every child has a complete misconception of reality. He considers himself omnipotent, and
reality destroys this illusion only gradually. Consequently,
even small disappointments (small as seen through the eyes
of adults) are magni tied all out of proportion by the child.
The problem of securing his parents' exclusive love and attention is a case in point. For the parent it is quite logical
that their emotional expenditures are bound to have limits.
It is not at all logical from the child's point of view.
Megalomania follows the child like a shadow. The persistence of that fantasy explains why all the emotional wishes
pertaining to the pre-Oedipal and Oedipal situations are
such a tragedy for him. These wishes are doomed to be renounced and repressed, but the process is painful and protracted. Thus the child suffers a double frustration.
At this point, the danger to the child from a bad marriage

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or divorce enters the picture; likewise the advantages to the


child of a happy marriage become apparent, and we can see
why it is that normal and happily married people are more
apt to rear normal children. There are a number of factors
involved in this.

(I) The child of a happy marriage finds out sooner or


later that the wall confronting him-the wall of his parents'
love for each other-is impenetrable. He sees no opening,
no hope of being able to creep in and replace his rival (the
father in the boy's case, the mother in the girl's). They seem
to be established in their places for good. Accordingly, realizing that his desires are hopeless, the child accepts the inevitable and projects his wishes elsewhere, or modifies them.
In short, he accepts reality. But in an unhappy marriage, the
conflict between the parents offers the child some hope that
he will be able to displace and supplant his rival, the parent
of the same sex. Divorce, especially, opens up a danger
point, since one of the parents disappears from the infantile
stage, and the forbidden wishes then seem to have a chance
for fulfillment.
One great danger here is that the child may develop a fixation, with an increase of conflict. Since in the rnajority of
cases the children of divorced parents remain with the
mother, this means, for the boy, an even stronger Oedipal
attachment; for the girl, a deeper Oedipal antagonism. This
[ 15Z ]

THE

ILLUSORY BASIS OF DIVORCE

can develop not only during the Oedipal period (two and a
half to five) but also during puberty, when there is a revival
of these unconscious wishes. Moreover, I have received the
impression in a number of cases where the pre-Oedipal attachment to the mother hung in the balance-that is, where
it might have been overcome or might not-that it was revived by the divorce, and the child relapsed into the oral
(pre-Oedipal) stage. In other words, for the girl, divorce is
the danger point of unconscious homosexuality; for the boy,
of hysteric mother-attachment. It is impossible to know
whether the same development would not have taken place
had there been no divorce, but I am inclined to believe that
the divorce was the decisive factor.
The statement that if the father is off the scene, the girl's
antagonism toward the mother deepens and that this can lead
to homosexuality, may seem contradictory to those unfamiliar with the unconscious reasons for female homosexuality.
The popular conception of Lesbianism assumes that the
basis of the perversion is love of one woman for another.
Clinical experience shows that it has quite a different basis,
that Lesbianism is an unconscious three-layer structure: (1)
deep masochistic attachment to the mother; (2) warded off
with compensatory hatred; (3) finally counteracted by compensatory love. In cases of parental divorce, an additional
factor enters the picture. The girl holds her mother respon-

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sible for the loss of her father. This increases her hatred for
her mother. The hatred had originally quite different reasons; it was part of the unsolved pre-Oedipal and Oedipal
conflicts. The old conflict is now reinforced by the new grievance: "Mother has deprived me of my father." Accompanying the neurotically inflated hatred is a deep unconscious
feeling of guilt because of that hatred, which leads in turn
to compensatory love. It is a kind of chain reaction which
can, under unfavorable circumstance, lead to Lesbianism.
(2) In a harmonious marriage, not only are such dangers
avoided, but also the child is actively equipped to overcome
them. Happy parents are more likely to give their child real,
tender love than are neurotic parents. And it is precisely this
tender parental love that helps the child to endure the inevitable blows to his megalomania and the necessary denial
of his libidinous wishes. The parents' tender love offers the
child's mortified narcissism a way out, the unexpressed formula being: "Give up certain (impossible' wishes and you
can still be loved by your parents." To express it differently:
Tender parental love helps the child to accept the reality
principle, which 1S one of the prerequisites of normalcy.
(3) A happy marriage avoids the situation with which
the child is confronted when his parents separate. In the
latter situation, the child, in his megalomania, behaves as if
his father or mother left because they did not love him, or
[ [5+ ]

THE

ILLUSORY BASIS OF DIVORCE

because of his misdeeds. Guilt, stemming from other sources,


is thus activated and the reality of the parent's departure is
taken by the child as proof positive of his inner guilt and
that he is unloved because of some fault of his OWn.
(4) Every child sees reality through the spectacles of his
misconceptions. The greater the discrepancy between fantasy
and reality, the more difficult it is for him to maintain the
fantasy. Obviously, then, in a home where the parents are
happily married, the child can give up his misconceptions
more easily than in a home where the marriage is unhappy
and where reality, therefore, fosters his projections. In an
unhappy marriage, the child simply uses the raw material at
hand. He "takes sides" with one parent or the other not only
as a result of their quarrels, into which he is directly or indirectly drawn, but also because he projects his own emotional conflicts onto the situation, although actually they
have nothing to do with it. Let us take a boy of four or five,
at the high point in his Oedipal conflict, who witnesses a
violent quarrel between his parents; mother reproaches
father. The boy, quite apart from the actual quarrel, at this
time is filled with the unconscious wish to supplant his father
in his mother's love, and to take his place. Feeling guilty
about this wish, the child uses the quarrel as one more argument to diminish his sense of guilt: ccpather is bad to Mother.
I would act differently." The result is a still stronger fixation
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on an irrational libidinous wish, which cannot be fulfilled


anyway. Thus reality reinforces an already existing neurotic
fixation.
Facts are stubborn things, even when unacknowledged by
parents. But the facts are that the child must psychologically
digest and overcome the pre-Oedipal and Oedipal libidinous
and aggressive attachments. If reality gives him an excuse
for not solving the problem, he may well use it. I say may"
because not all children do use it.
The marriage of his parents inevitably leaves its mark on
the child, although the results may be visible only decades
later. By way of illustration, one can point to the behavior
of neurotic women in a particular situation of conflict-s-when
confronted with their husbands' demand for divorce. We
have already looked at some examples of this.
To sum up, there is obviously a great deal of truth in the
general assumption that happy marriages produce happy
children and unhappy marriages unhappy, neurotic children.
However, one cannot always be certain that this will be the
case. Even the happiest marriage does not insure that the
children will be normal, or automatically immune to the development of neurosis. It is up to the parents to do the best
they can-the rest is out of their hands. It is out of their
hands because reality is only one of the factors determining
the development of a neurosis.
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THE

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BASIS OF DIVORCE

The statement that a neurotic child can develop in a happy


family life, and that a normal child may develop in spite of
an unhappy family life, sounds unreasonable and is contrary
to popular belief. But popular belief rests on the simple fallacy that the child perceives reality as it is. As has been
pointed out, nothing of this kind happens. The child sees
reality through the spectacles of his projections and misconceptions. English analysts especially have stressed the fact
that the child uses the mechanism of projection extensively.
When his aggression toward his mother or later his father
becomes too great for the accompanying guilt, he shifts his
aggression; he is not angry with Mother, or Father, but
Mother, or Father, is "cruel" and "mean." The result, if
the process becomes neurotically stabilized, is that the child
creates the image of "bad" parents, though in reality they
were sacrificing and kind.
The point is that neurosis and health are the result not of
reality as adults see it but as the child conceives it. One
should never lose sight of the fact that neurosis elaborates
unconsciously on the child's fantasies, and not upon realities.
Were this not the case, children brought up in the same environment would of necessity develop in exactly the same
way. But as a matter of fact, one child of a family may develop into a mentally healthy specimen, and another in the
same family into a neurotic, even though the parents love
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them both equally, play no favorites, and their marriage


does not change.
Time and again, during nearly twenty years of analytic
practice, I have been confronted with the following tragic
situation: The necessity of discussing with their parents some
young man or woman's need for psychoanalytic treatment.
The poor parents were invariably on the defensive, behaving
as if they were being accused of having brought their children
up badly. There would be an audible sigh of relief when
they were assured that neurosis has no direct connection with
good or bad education." Like many others, they were the
victims of an unfortunate misconception; because psychoanalysis has proved that unconscious elaboration of early experiences and fantasies is one of the bases of neurosis, people
have jumped to the conclusion that education (used in its
broadest sense) is per se responsible for all the good or all
the damage done.
To exaggerate deliberately, the best possible education in
childhood will not automatically guarantee psychic health;
similarly, the most stupid handling of children will not automatically produce neurosis. Parents tend to overestimate
their influence in both cases-good and bad. The fact is,
however, that they are not quite so powerful.
How then shall ,ve explain the fact that even the most
harmonious marriages can produce children who become
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THE ILLUSORY BASIS OF DIVORCE

neurotic? First of all, parents are constantly confronted with


the child's megalomania, as expressed in his wish for their
exclusive love. Out of necessity, the parents can give only a
limited amount of time to their children-they have lives of
their own as well. The child, therefore, is faced with refusal.
The same holds true in connection with necessary educational
restrictions, such as the forbidding of cruelty to siblings and
animals, the destruction of objects, etc. No mother or father
can handle children with leniency only. They can, it is true,
sugar-coat these necessary restrictions by employing kindness and persuasion. What can they do, however, when despite these methods the child still feels that only ((injustice"
has been meted out to him? What can they do when the child
indulges in merciless provocations? A point, often unconsciously provoked by the child himself, is bound to come
when the need for firmness is inescapable. Here is where the
roads part. The one child takes it in his stride; the other cannot, and instead builds up the fantasy of a cruel and unjust
mother or father, against whom he is CCjustified"in using any
means at his disposal, from stubbornness to hypocrisy. Unfortunately, the outlet most commonly sought is the one
called masochization. The child misuses the actual situation to provoke "injustices," in order to enjoy them as an
inward form of self-flagellation.
Neurosis, the illness of the unconscious, is never a direct

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photographic copy of external experiences. It petrifies the


child's unconscious fantasies and leads to a series of repetitions in later life. The blame is typically shifted on the parents. Every neurotic blames his family, whether the blame is
expressed or unexpressed. Every neurotic drags out his family skeleton, such as Father was cruel" or "Mother was
distant and cold, she preferred my brother" or My sister
hated me" or "Our neighbor's brother seduced me!' Even
assuming that all these observations are correctly registered
(they are frequently distorted to an amazing degree), they
explain precisely nothing. Without taking into account the
part played by the unconscious Ego, the process of environmental influence is unintelligible. Assuming, for instance, that
the mother in a specific case was really hostile to the boy,
why should that child not create later in life a situation in
which a woman loves him dearly? That is the decisive point:
a normal person, confronted with such a childhood experience, will unconsciously look for a correction of childhood
disappointments and choose a kind and loving wife. A neurotic person, confronted with the same experience, will elaborate on the conflict masochistically and look unconsciously
for a perpetuation of the painful situation; he will choose a
shrew.
What determines, basically, whether the child will use or
misuse the real situation? The answer lies in the strength or
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THE

ILLUSORY

BASIS OF DIVORCE

weakness of the child's Ego. And here we are confronted


once more with the mysterious factor in the child's development. A strong Ego is one which is less prone to direct aggression against itself when this aggression is connected with
inner guilt. The quantity of aggression that each child has at
its disposal is different but there is always aggression present.
Every offense" directed against his megalomania provokes
his anger and fury. In restricting the child's aggression, the
parent employs not only educational penalties but moral
suasion as well. "How can you do this to your mother
(father) !" Thus the child learns that aggression against his
parents, both in thought and deed, is not only unrewarding
but is morally wrong besides. As a result, the child cannot
show aggression toward his parents without experiencing a
sense of inner guilt. In more or less normal circumstances,
the child with a sufficiently strong Ego either curbs his aggression or redirects it into more profitable channels. Under
neurotic conditions the sense of guilt is inwardly accepted
and "sexualized." This fantastic process-making pleasure
out of pain-is called "psychic masochism." And psychic
masochism is one of the bases of every neurosis.
Taking all these emotional difficulties into consideration,
we can understand the advantages of a normal home life. In
the midst of the child's emotional instability, there is at least
one fixed point: home. If the parents break up that home,
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the child is thrown into an additional. psychic turmoil. The


divorce of the parents is not the direct cause of the conflict;
but it adds a new difficulty for a child already emotionally
upset.
Parents are usually ignorant of these dangers and are
aware only of "perfectly happy children." One of the difficulties of judging future neurotic behavior from the reactions
of the child is that there is no direct congruity between them.
There are "difficult children" who later develop normally.
On the other hand, there are children completely inconspicuous in their attitude who, when grown up, show severe neurosis. Divorced parents, observing the child who gives the
impression of being "perfectly happy," frequently fool themselves to alleviate their own guilty conscience. Children feel
this selfish unconcern of the parents, and their emotional instability increases.
In general, one can say that divorce carries grave dangers
for the child, and the assumption that children will automatically adapt themselves to the "new situation" is a
dangerous illusion. Frequently the gift of divorce, which
parents present to themselves, is complemented by the Trojan horse of unhappiness, involuntarily presented to the
innocent children. It is quite conceivable that couples of
future generations will decide to have children only after a
Few years of marriage, when they are already reasonably sure
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THE ILLUSORY BASIS OF DIVORCE

that their marriage is a stable one. It will be-in some distant


future-a commonplace that having children involves the
voluntarily accepted obligation on the part of two people to
make their marriage a stable one. By "stable" is meant, first,
that there will be no divorce, and second, that the conflicts
of the parents themselves will not reach such proportions
as to endanger the psychic health of the children. There is
much truth in Elizabeth Barrett Browning's stanza (in "The
Cry of the Children");
The child's sob in the silence curses deeper
Than the strong man in his wrath.

[ 163 ]

CHAPTER

Defense in Depth in Marital


Conflicts
HE unconscious is a stern taskmaster: it insists on its
own rules with uncompromising consistency. In matters of marriage, "mistakes" and "oversights" are out
of the question.
We sometimes find examples of apparently contradictory
behavior, but when viewed through the analytic microscope,
the contradictions are seen not to be real. What seem to be
contradictions are the result of a lack of understanding on
the part of an untrained observer, or of a more than usually
complicated defense mechanism.
Basically our understanding is furthered by taking into
account the following simple but impressive fact. The end
result of the infantile conflict is finally petrified at the age of
five. What happens later represents endless repetitions of
the same conflict. But the defenses against that inner conflict
vary, since every defense mechanism wears out olld 1nust be
replaced. Hence the specter of "contradictions."

[ 164 ]

DEFENSE IN DEPTH
In marital conflicts, these pseudo contradictions are apparent in cases in which only the surface reverberations are
taken into account. That is exactly what the untrained observer does. He then blames the other person's "inconsistencies" rather than his own misunderstanding.
Here are a few clinical examples.
Mr. T. consulted me. The telephone call from a general
practitioner who referred him described him as a man who
wanted to straighten out his marital conflict. The man was
impotent with his wife and fully potent with other women.
His sexual "lack of interest" in his wife dated back "at least
fourteen years."
A successful manufacturer, aged forty-three, he gave at
first glance the impression of being a typical be-man. He
spoke about his "difficulties" with his wife without emotion,
'Slightly regretfully; otherwise he was very sure of himself.
However, it became clear that he was not really interested in
re-establishing his marriage, since he was (he believed) in
love with another woman and "nearly determined" to get a
divorce.
"What do you mean by 'nearly determined'?" I wanted
to know.
"Well, it's not easy to break up a home after sixteen
years."
"How about admitting that you are not clear yourself
what to do?"
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"Don't misunderstand me. I consult you only because my


wife asked me to see a psychiatrist before taking the decisive
step."
"You mean a last charitable act?"
"Something like that."
"Why do you deceive yourself about your motives? Were
you really determined to divorce her, you would not have
accepted her proposal."
"Do you think so?"
"More important, what do you think?"
((I don't know. I don't deny that this whole divorce makes
me jumpy."
"Is this the first time that you've found yourself in such
a conflict?"
He looked at me suspiciously and asked:"Did my wife
telephone you?"
"Never heard from her."
"That's strange. Why did you ask me that?"
'<Becauseconflicts in neurosis are repetitive. It is easy to
figure out that in a diseased marriage, with an unbroken record of fourteen years of sexual retirement, such situations
must have occurred previously."
"To tell you the truth, it has happened four times."
"And four times you decided for your wife?"

[ 166 ]

DEFENSE

IN DEPTH

"It was rather that the ladies involved lost patience


broke the whole thing off."
"How do you explain your indecision?"
"Perhaps social pressure. Of one thing I am certain, it
not exactly love for my wife."
"Still, though you are not sexually attracted to her,
must represent something important to you. Have you
children?"

and

was
she
any

"No."
"Why?"
"You must keep ill mind that we had only a year and a
half of sexual contact. Then my interest waned and couldn't
be restored."
"Give me a personality sketch of your wife."
"She is a friendly, rather submissive person. Everything
I say goes without contradiction. She is not bad looking, but
lacks all attributes of the smart set."
"Meaning?"
"Glamour."
"And all four successive ladies possessed what you call
glamour?"
"They did."
"1 still don't know your definition of glamour."
"Smart clothes, sophisticated attitude, a woman around
town."
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"Is the attribute of glamour the only point of difference


between the four ladies and your wife?"
"I don't know what you're driving at."
"Could you find a common denominator among these
ladies?"
((No. They looked different."
"How did they treat their respective husbands?"
"They dominated them, of course."
"Why 'ef course'?"
"A sophisticated woman does that, as a rule."
"Only if she marries a passive man."
"I didn't think of that."
"Has it occurred to you that you would automatically
have shared the fate of these dominated men if you had married one of these four women?"
"No."
"How else could it have been?"
"I don't know."
"But you are not sure that it could not have happenedj "
"I never thought of that."
"How did these ladies treat you?"
"The usual dance: love mingled with scenes."
"More love or more scenes?"
"I don't know. I didn't keep books on it."
[ 168 ]

DEFENSE

IN DEPTH

"That is an evasive answer. You are not on the witness


stand."
"Do I sound so?"
"You do."
"What do you suspect?"
"That you are scared of your own choice of the four
ladies."
"I never thought of them as being aggressive."
"That doesn't prove anything."
"Do you mean that there is trouble ahead?"
"There could be-divorce or no divorce."
"Let me think it over."
He spent two weeks deep in thought, then telephoned me
saying that he had decided to "give it a trial." I had no time
available just then and, since he refused to let me refer him
to someone else, he had to wait four more weeks.
His analysis showed that the preliminary suspicion was
more than justified. In childhood he had been completely
dominated by his emotionally unstable mother, whom he "detested." This rejection, however, was merely a defense, a
cloak covering a masochistic attachment. The mother was a
hysteric and hypochondriac who spent most of her time in
bed nursing her imaginary diseases. Consciously, he hated
the atmosphere of "scenes," and his first choice, his wife,
corresponded to his defense, being a weak, kind, submissive

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woman. Soon afterward, however, he began to associate himself with his original type-the aggressive termagant, the
emotional, if glamorous, woman.
The importance of glamour to him could be traced to a
twofold source. The first was an outburst by his weak father,
who in a moment of exasperation exclaimed to his wife: "Do
you believe you are something special and better than other
people that you always act like a princess?" The child overheard this scene. The second was of a defensive nature. His
mother was a rather simple person, coming from humble
surroundings. By attaching himself to a socially (as he believed) higher stratum, he could counteract the reproaches
of his Superego which pointed ironically to the identity of
mother and the four "ladies." They were not "identical with
mother."
The interesting and seemingly confusing contradiction was
that Mr. T. married first after the principle of defense, only
to recur later to his original type of aggressive woman. He
held onto his wife as a defense against being submerged in the
passivity into which he would have fallen completely by
marrying one of his aggressive mistresses. He used his wife
as a ((rescue station" against his real danger: that of passivity.
On the other hand, since every defense has its drawbacks,
his sex worked only when he was mentally mistreated.
In a vicarious way he extracted masochistic pleasure also
[ 170 ]

DEFENSE

IN DEPTH

at the end of each of the four escapades; the ladies became


disgusted with his "indecision" and left him. He then felt
"un justly treated."
After Mr. T.'s neurotic craving to be mistreated had been
cured, he returned to his wife. She was more than flabbergasted about the fact-and even more flabbergasted that his
potency had been restored.
One must constantly keep in mind that unconscious processes are dynamic. A person who forgets that, even if he has
some superficial knowledge of the processes of the unconscious, is as naive as is a person who throws a piece of wood
into a rapidly flowing stream, comes back after a few hours
and expects to find the wood at the same place. He ((just
forgets" that the stream was not standing still.
Both action and cownteraction have to be taken into consideration. Otherwise one is confronted with a plethora of
nonexistent contradictions. For another example:
In the complicated analysis of Mr. U., the following incident occurred. He was in treatment because he, too, wanted
to "straighten out" his marriage of twenty-four years' duration. He, too, was impotent with his wife, a kind, friendly
woman) and potent with his mistresses. The real reason
prompting him to enter treatment was, however) different:
He had attached himself during the last few years to two
aggressive women in rapid succession) who "put him on the
[ 171

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spot," and tortured him to such a degree that this otherwise


successful man had come, as he put it, "near to a nervous
breakdown."
His neurosis had caught up with him in the early fifties,
and he had reverted in his unconscious passivity to the type
he had successfully avoided for a long time (every neurosis,
if not treated, increases with age). His tragic experience"
with these two aggressive women had a peculiar result: He

did not worry about himself, but about his business. His
reasoning ran as follows: If it was possible for him twice in
succession to make a mistake in evaluating
must be on the downgrade.
shrewd evaluation

Since his business was built on

of people, something

remedy the situation.


The patient understood

women, then he
must be done to

and accepted, at least intellec-

tually, that his real trouble lay in his passivity, that he used
his wife as a rescue station only, that his illusion of "conquering" women was but an alibi of pseudo aggression, etc. One
dar, three months after entering treatment,

he came in tri-

umphantly

and stated:
"Yesrerday I had an experience which shatters all our as-

sumptions so far."

"Why are you so triumphant about it?"


"Am I?"
"You are. Don't you see that (assuming for a moment,

17'1. ]

DEFENSE IN DEPTH
for the sake of argument, that something so shattering really
happened and we are on the wrong track), you would suffer
more? Your attitude is revealing of your resistance to overcoming your neurosis. Every time I explain to you that you
unconsciously have your neurotic pleasures, mainly passivity,
you laugh. Why don't you laugh now?"
"You're a killjoy, and begrudge me even my resistance. I
know that you will extricate yourself from the hangman's
noose."
"You being the hangman? Riding high your hobbyhorse
of pseudo aggression once more?"
He had had a day of extreme tension, he related, had had
to argue with people he disliked without being able (because
of the "large deals" involved) to give vent to his anger. He
suffered a double discomfiture: 'normal displeasure from suppressing justified aggression, and the neurotic reproaches
meted out by his Superego which misused the actual situation
to reproach him: "This could happen only to a weak, passive
fellow such as you are." In the evening he saw his current
mistress with whom he was angry because he suspected her
of infidelity. The girl, however, was "nice, loving, kind, and
motherly."
"It was amazing-as if something melted inside of me. I
felt a warmth I never felt before. My tension disappeared."
"What does that show?" I asked him.

[ 173 ]

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It proves that I can't enjoy masochistically tinged passivity, as you assume. Were the latter the case, I would have
provoked the girl once more until she gave me my (daily
dose of injustice,' as you call it."
"Very specious and very naive."
How so?"
You are applying analytic interpretations schematically
and not dynamically."
"I am at fault?"
"Decidedly. I have explained to you often that unconsciously you enjoy passivity. Consciously, you have frantically avoided for decades situations which would demand
your passive submission to aggression-you even married a
kind woman. Later your neurosis pushed you into situations
where you were confronted with aggressive women."
"If unconsciously I enjoy passivity, I should be Immune
to kindness. But yesterday, just that kindness worked
miracles. "
"Once more, you conveniently forget that your Superego
objects to your type of masochistic pleasure. Therefore you
have to create a new edition of the old alibi. That's exactly
what happened yesterday. In an unconscious dramatization
you tried to refute the Superego's reproach of psychic masochism and created your defense: If I'm loved, I respond perfectly."
[ 174 ]

DEFENSE IN DEPTH

"And I was so proud of myself!"


"Why didn't you think about your broken marriage?
Were kindness your cure, you would love and desire sexually your own wife, who, from your description, is the very
incarnation of loving affection."
ccI don't like you," he said laughingly.
CCI can understand that."
What the patient did not like, and even resented bitterly,
was the fact that his defense mechanism was not taken at face
value. That, however, is what psychoanalysis does: It goes
after not only repressed wishes, but defense mechanisms besides. The danger of these transitory and spurious defense
mechanisms is their lack of solidity j they are houses built
on sand.
One final example:
Mrs. V. entered treatment because of her "hopeless love"
for a man who, though '(kind and loving," wanted her to
stay with her "boring husband."
"What kind of person is your friend?"
"Kind, friendly, understanding."
"Why does he want to get rid of you?"
"He doesn't. He believes that he can't support me in the
style my husband does, and can't take the responsibility for
my two children."
"Why did you marry your husband?"

[ 175 ]

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I-IELP

"I just wanted to leave my father's home. He was brutal,


stingy, and tyrannical."
"Did you love your husband?"
"I liked him, but he has been a bore. An ordinary, though
reliable, person."
"How does he treat you?"
"With consideration."
"And you?"
"I cannot stand him. He irritates me in a thousand little
ways."
"Is your present lover the first one?"
After some hesitation, Mrs. V. asked, "Must I answer that
question? "
"If you want help, I must have the information."
"The answer is the one you expect."
"What kind of people were they?"
"Stiukers. "
"Would you care to be more specific?"
((They were brutal, uncouth swine."
"Why did you choose that type?"
(CIdetested myself for my taste, but I couldn't help it."
"And your present lover is different?"
"Completely. I was so glad to come out of the dirt. That's
why I love him so desperately."
Mrs. V.'s analysis showed that she was masochistically at-

[ 176 ]

DEFENSE ~

DEPTH

tached to the "brutal and uncouth" type of man, a caricature


of her distorted image of her father. She was halfway between being a perverted masochist and a psychic masochist.
Her present lover was for her an escape valve from her real
masochistic attachment. Her great "desperate" love was a
mirage, an alibi presented to her Superego which reproached
her for her love of pain and humiliation. She "loved" him
not because he was kind, as she believed, but because his
kindness could be used as an alibi against the accusation of
her Superego that she had no use for kind men at all. She
was not clinging to her lover, but to the living alibi he represented. Positive proof was the fact that although her husband was the same kind of man, she ((could not stand him."
Fortunately, it was possible to restore Mrs. V.'s marriage.
One could enlarge the gallery of pseudo contradictions.
All these cases boil down to the same thing: It is only by not
taking the dynamic quality of the psychic mechanism of the
unconscious into consideration that one arrives at contradictions.
The iron consistency of the unconscious forces the poor
unconscious Ego to constant and changing defenses. The old
joke quoted by Freud in another connection applies here: A
man borrowed a pot from his neighbor and returned it
broken. To the neighbor's complaints he answered: "First,
I never borrowed a pot from you; second, I've already re[ 177 ]

DIVORCE WON'T

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turned it; third, the pot was broken when I borrowed it."
A desperate person is not the incarnation of common sense.
And the neurotic, under cross fire of his primitive unconscious mechanisms, is in a situation of desperation, too.

CHAPTER

XI

Hang-over After Reno


great state of Nevada has just granted you a
divorce. You are free, free, free. Free with a capital
F. You don't want to think about your past; the future calls you. What next?
First-if you belong to what I call type No. I-YOU reiterate your sacred resolution never again to be fooled by an
"impossible" man. Your past experience will be your guide.
You imagine a happy new marriage-tenderness,
harmony,
love at its best. You pass in review the few men interested in
you, smile condescendingly, and reject them all. They are
nice, but-marriage with one of them? No. Your next marriage must be a journey into a dreamland. Didn't you suffer
enough? Suffer, as a completely innocent victim?
If you are the less naive variety of divorcee (type No.
2.) you have less idealistic notions of your future marriage.
Men, you decide, are tyrannical fools. Happiness with them
is obviously impossible. Only one alternative remains: a
marriage of convenience. With a gold digger's cynicism you

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HELP

decide to take advantage of men. Let them pay, and pay


dearly, in a legalized relationship.
If you are the third type of divorcee, you reject future
marriage altogether. You will build a great career for yourself. You will retire from sex completely; the whole business
is disgusting, anyway. If a man approaches you as a woman,
you will give him a piece of your mind. How helpless he
will look! You will contemptuously offer him ten dollars
and advise him to buy a few minutes' working time from a
prostitute. Revenge is sweet.
I f you are type NO.4, you build up a cocktail dream of
"sex on my own terms." What this amounts to in practice is
promiscuity: short-lived affairs with great pleasure imagined.
Nothing but sex, pure and simple. The emotional trimmings
of love, you feel, bring only conflict, heartbreaking disappointments, despair. You will eliminate the romantic trimmings; get down to brass tacks. If you are dissatisfied with
one lover, you will get rid of him and find another. You
want to enjoy life. Didn't you suffer enough?
As type NO.5, you are in an entirely different mood; you
are completely self-sacrificing. You write "finis" to your sex
life and promise yourself to devote your life exclusively to
your duty as a mother. You give up your individuality, identify yourself completely with the future of your children. In
a vicarious way, you will enjoy your children's fate.
[

J 80

HANG-OVER AFTER RENO

If you are type No.6, you are sister under the skin to type
NO.5. You are the only one incapable of building up a suitable defense. As type No.6 you are plainly in despair. You
have, as someone ironically remarked, a bad case of blurred
vision, and your constant tears and despair account for it.
Everything collapses; you consider your chances for remarrying nil. All is black. You view yourself as a candidate for
suicide, or at least for a "nervous breakdown."
If you belong to one of the first five types, your hectic
plans and determination merely conceal the depression so
plainly visible in your sixth sister. The fiasco of your marriage has hit you more deeply than you are willing to admit.
More than a marriage collapsed; your belief in your infallibility was shattered. You have a hard time covering up your
self-deprecation. Nothing succeeds like success, but nothing
promotes more inner guilt and self-reproach than does
defeat.
And defeat it is. Slice it as you like, your Superego calls
your divorce your own defeat. You heap the blame on your
husband and revel in fantasies of the "poetic justice" which
will overtake him, Still the inner voice belies your alibis,
blaming you.
Here apparently is a contradiction. Didn't I say earlier
that divorce is an unconsciousalibi, enforced by the Superego which objected strongly to too much neurotic pleasure,
[ 181 ]

DIVORCE WON'T

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lived out behind the mask of conscious suffering in marriage?


Why should the same Superego which is indirectly responsible for the whole set of alibis, known as divorce, object to
the execution of its own commands?
The contradiction resolves itself when one considers the
antilibidinous structure of the Superego. As I pointed out
earlier, that department of the unconscious personality has
but one purpose: to torture you. You cannot do business with
that cruel monster, nor can you appease it for any length of
time. New and more stringent demands are presented. If
you fulfill these, you are still not left in peace. It is the old
story of the blackmailer: The more you pay, the higher is
the next demand of the extortionist. The only possible way
to combat the Superego is to mobilize a good part of your
aggression against it to fight it with its own weapon. That is
exactly what the normal person does. In a normal person,
aggression is at the disposal of the Ego; part of it is used to
checkmate the Superego, the other part to fight (and sometimes even win) the battles of reality. In a neurotic person,
however, the greatest part of the inner aggression is accumulated in the Superego, which uses it to beat up the Ego.
With this explanation in mind, one can understand the
apparently paradoxical fact that the neurotic woman who
was indirectly forced by her Superego to divorce her husband
[ 182 ]

H.ANG-OVER

AFTER

RENO

is reproached after the divorce by that same Superego and


forced to feel guilty and self-deprecatory about it.
That self-deprecation has some extraordinary results. It
leads in some cases directly to promiscuity.
It is a well-known fact that most freshmen" in divorce go
through a period of real or fantasied promiscuity. The phenomenon is typical, though seldom openly discussed j and
every prowling male has a stock of such conquests in his
ledger. This does not mean that every newly divorced
woman actually is promiscuous. It implies, however, that
nearly every freshly established divorcee toys, at least, with
the idea, whether she puts it into practice or not. Women
who never before, or after, were susceptible to that neurotic
reaction (promiscuity is a neurotic symptom) do go through
such a period immediately following divorce. Why?
Here again, there are a number of considerations involved.
One of the cruel tricks the Superego has in its bag is the pretense that it believes in freedom of will. It pushes the victim
into some sorry position, such as divorce, then turns the tables
and reproaches the victim severely: Why did you do it? The
result, as was pointed out, is that the conscious Ego becomes
depressed, remorseful, self-accusatory. And since the conscious Ego has no awareness of the real interplay of forces
in the unconscious part of the personality, it rationalizes its
feelings of guilt-that is, it looks for and finds some appar[ J 83

DIVORCE ,\VON'T HELP

ently logical reasons for its feelings. Actually, of course,


these are not the real reasons.
The more conscious self-reproaches which emerge in the
Ego focus on the woman's sex life. With strange and persistent singleness, the fiasco of the marriage is attributed to
her own sexual insufficiency.This is so even in cases in which
the marital conflict centered around completely different
complaints. The regularity with which exactly that reproach
emerges in the woman's self-accusations shows that it must
have roots in something beyond personal volition, sometimes
in something even beyond her personal experience. The joker
in the pack is, as usual, the Superego. In a simplification, and
in deadly malice, the Superego charges: "Sexually you are a
washout , if you were any good, you wouldn't have lost your
husband."
The poor Ego is nearly crushed under the weight of that
reproach. One could ask whether the reproach is not justified.
One could argue that a great majority of neurotic women
are sexually disturbed, hence the charge of the Superego is
not so farfetched. True, there are such cases. Since, however,
the reproach is encountered with regularity in every casefrigidity or no frigidity-that
cannot be all of the story.
I have had the opportunity of analyzing a long series of
newly divorced women. With amazing regularity the following set of facts was found.
[

J 84

HANG-OVER

AFTER RENO

First, the marriage fiasco inflicted a deep wound to their


childlike megalomania. Every human being runs around
with vestiges of childlike omnipotence. Reality forces the
child to abandon that fantasy, but is only partially successful.
What is commonly called optimism is at bottom only the
shabby remnant of that magic omnipotence. That omnipotence is never fully relinquished and the collapse of a marriage is one of the strongest possible blows to the individual's
fantasy that he is capable of handling situations even against
overwhelming odds.
Second, the moment the fantasy embodied in the feeling,
"This cannot happen to me," is shattered, the ego looks for
and finds some other reason to account for its inner guilt,
which accompanies the revival of the omnipotence fantasy.
Typically it seizes upon the individual's submerged fears
that he suffered sexual self-damage through childhood masturbation. Since every child has such fears, a marital (sexual)
fiasco simply activates the old pattern. This explains why
every divorcee blames (without admitting it) her sexual inefficiency, regardless of whether or not the divorce had anything to do with that at all.
Third, every human being, it will be remembered, goes
through the phase of Oedipal attachment. Normally, that
attachment (pertaining in the girl to the father) is given up.
But the process of giving up that cherished fantasy in child-

[ I8S ]

DIVORCE 'VO~'T

l-IELP

hood entails a complicated, prolonged, and painful conflict.


Decades later, the loss of a husband activates the old conflict
in which the girl felt rejected.
The fourth, and actively decisive clement in that it leads
directly to actual (or at least fantasied) promiscuity, is a
desperate act of the unconscious Ego. In a retluct10 ad absurdum, the inner argument runs something like this: All right,
if I'm so guilty, why don't you go one step further and accuse me of being a fallen woman?" The retort is acted out
and leads to promiscuity. Thus, what appears to be a morally
objectionable feature starts as a desperate attempt to counter
unbearable inner reproaches! To be sure, the alibi thus presented is self-damaging and masochistic. But the divorcee is
tormented to such a degree by the reproaches of her Superego that the desperate medicine seems the lesser evil.
The question remains; why does she choose a method of
counterattack which affronts the moral sense of her environment and of her parents who have been introjected into the
situation? The answer is that the Ego, pushed into a masochistic corner, has a desperate compulsion to take pseudo
aggressive action. The woman's entire moral education has
given her the concept of the respectable woman." The direct
opposite is the fantasy of the "Fallen woman," i.e, promiscuity. The Ego using the fallen woman fantasy in its desperate counterattack, mobilizes the argument most hurtful to
[ 186 ]

HANG-OVER

AFTER

RENO

the parents, and-with the boomeranglike action characteristic of all pseudo aggression-to the woman herself. Thus the
tragicomedy of errors and defenses is installed, the outward
sign of which is promiscuity.

[ ! 87

CHAPTER

XII

The Myth of the Superior Male


E LIVE in a man's world." Laws, institutions,
mores, commercial conduct-all
seem to be
fashioned by and for the he-man-s-the glory and
the shame of the universe, to quote Pascal. Very slowly the
women are trying to modify that state of affairs.
In their attempts to gain real equality, women are confronted with emotional rejection on the part of men. These
objections are irrational and have nothing to do with all the
social and economic rationalizations advanced against accepting women as equals.
Many books have been written to explain to naive men the
"mystery of women" and the "psychology of marriage."
The idea behind this is that man, the "superior" human
being, must be made acquainted with the peculiarities and
whims of "infantile" woman. It is time to examine this notion
critically.
I am of the opinion that the fate of every normal marriage
is decided mainly by the wife. I believe that the typical
[ 188 ]

THE

MYTH

OF THE

SUPERIOR MALE

woman intuitively does not take the man too seriously. Inwardly she knows only too well that he is at best a grown-up
baby with big words, gestures, and aspirations, but little
behind them. This is common knowledge among women,
though seldom openly expressed. (It is, indeed, woman's
best-kept secret.) Strangely enough, it was Kipling! who
formulated this precisely: "The silliest woman can manage a
clever man; but it needs a very clever woman to manage a
fool l " Every woman "manages" her husband-for better or
for worse. The responsibility is hers and hers alone.
Does the idea that women manage their husbands correspond to observable clinical facts, or is it simply an expression
of feminine megalomania, impressed upon naive men? Impartial observation shows that the four-flushing and shouting
baby in adult's clothes, euphemistically called "man," psychologically never outgrows the nursery. Even women who
are not too clever see easily through masculine braggadocio.
Instinctively they act accordingly: They appease, flatter, and
compromise with the man's "will," knowing only too well
that in the end-after "logic," shouting, and threatening have
subsided-the automatic balance of marital power will decide
things in their favor. Women treat men like naughty children; unconsciously, they reason that they can well afford
to let men shout and brag, and even pretend that they are
1

Plain Taus: "Three and-an Extra."

[ 189 ]

DIVORCE WON'T

HELP

right, for in the end they will "see reason." By chance, "reason" is identical with the woman's decision.
One cannot escape the impression that the whole husbandwife relationship in our culture is based on a colossal bluffthe pretense that the man rules or is at least a full partner,
whereas in reality he is not even a minority stockholder.
Women know this only too well. In support, let me quote
the statements of a few former patients of mine, taken from
among a number of others.
(I) CCI came to the conclusion while giving birth to my
girl that all men, including my husband, are children who
have not grown up. The contrast between my labor pains
and danger and his running around in the hall of the hospital
like a chicken with its head cut off was just too great. He was
worried, embarrassed, and had only two duties-to buy the
cigars for the other men and to pay the bills. Afterward he
was brought into my room and behaved like a frightened
boy who had committed some mischief which, to his surprise,
had serious consequences. My God, and that is the species
that runs this world!"
(2) "If I compare my two boys with my husband, I find
that they are both more amenable to reason, though they
are only nine and eleven, than that overgrown baby of forty
who, for some mysterious reason, is their father. If he is
angry he is just unreasonable, and I don't mean unreasonable
[ 190 ]

THE MYTH

OF THE SUPERIOR MALE

as the boys are, but incorrigible. I don't remember who said


that there are no heroes for butlers and wives....
"
(3) "My poor husband spends all his energy in pretending
to be the man equal to any occasion. He is not; faced with
problems, he loses his head and is helpless, though he is
always quoting teasingly the only writer he will read, Mark
Twain: 'All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence,
and then success is sure.' Perhaps he is so helpless because,
instead of thinking, he uses his energy in pretending to be
a tower of strength. First I was angry that he disappointed
me; later I pitied him. Are all men such poor children
inwardly?"
(4) "The best I can say for my husband is that I love
him in spite of his babyishness. But sometimes he makes me
mad because he is such a first-rate worrier. He picks out
some detail, attaches a string of dangerous possibilities to
it, and chews it like delicious candy. Afterward, he 'discusses'
it with me. In small doses I don't take it too seriously. I feel
that he suffers, and I just take it for granted that that is one
of his peculiarities. What amazes me is the impenetrable
mask he wears in front of the rest of the world. I believe he
is a baby inwardly, but I like the baby in him."
(5) "I like my husband, but in many respects he is an
unreasonable fool-if you want my frank opinion. I'm an
artist and want to work, though financially it's not necessary.

[ 191

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If I do so and have my studio, he is jealous. If I don't, he


reproaches me for being a parasite. He's self-centered to the
nth degree, incapable even of acknowledging that anyone
else could have ideas but himself. That applies to me, too j
every time I want to get anywhere with him, I must first
implant the idea in him, then make him think it's his own, and
finally admire him for 'his' brilliant thought. This was fun
for awhile j in the long run it gets to be boring. Something
should be done to make men grow up. I believe my husband
just wants an admiring nurse concentrating day and night
exclusively on His Majesty. Why, he is so conceited that he
made a row a few days ago because I mentioned laughingly in
the morning that he had said a few words in his sleep and I
didn't remember what he'd said. I told him: '1ust buy yourself a dictaphonc and let it work during the night so that none
of your precious words will be lost to an admiring postcr-

.,iry: . ..

))

These women were not easily fooled. Their neuroses


made them bitter, slightly unjust, even belligerent, but their
observations were nevertheless correct.
How was this bluff of male superiority established? What
are the unconscious reasons for it?~ I belieu that deep in the
man's unconscious there is a bitter anger over the fact Ilia 1
: I am familiar with the truism that economic and social facts exist and
in8uence our lives. In this book, by :1 deliberate selection of examples, I arn
focusing my auention on ps),chologic-unconscious hccls of the problem.
[ 192 ]

THE

MYTH

OF THE

SUPERIOR MALE

once upon a tim he was cotnpletely dependent upon a


WOmat1.

Born of a woman, fed and reared by a woman, taught

and educated by a woman:


Ye children of men! whose life is a span
Protracted with sorrow from day to day,
Naked and featherless, feeble and querulous,
Sickly, calamitous creatures of clay.
-ARISTOPHANES,

The Birds

The child, depository of weakness and dependence, retaliates


with narcissistically tinged anger. But first he denies reality,
pretends that he is the center of the universe, and fantasies
even that everything given to him is the result not of his
mother's kindness, but of his own omnipotence.
The layman's conceptions of the infant's reactions are
colored entirely by his understanding of facts. He sees a
mother caring for the baby, preparing food according to
formulas or giving her breast even at impossible hours of the
night, sacrificing sleep, convenience, and freedom of movement. All this is true, but what is the infant's reaction? Does
he have any appreciation of this care? Well, babies don't talk,
and their occasional crying, refusal of food, or spitting up of
it, can be interpreted i.n. various ways. But from the neurotic
reactions of the individual in later life we have reason to
assume that the infant lives for a long time in a magic misconception of reality. Since he misconceives the kindness of his
[ 193 ]

DIVORCE WON'T

HELP

mother to be a result of his own omnipotence, the slightest


refusal-and
"refusal" may mean simply waiting a few
seconds for milk or care-is a terrible blow to his megalomania." We can say that the child experiences in his earliest
life a great deal of libidinous satisfaction (sucking is more than
a caloric necessity: it is a pleasure as well), and also some
libidinous frustration. However, his aggression is completely
inhibited, since he is physically helpless, and his narcissistic
(megalomaniacal) tendencies are even more frustrated; he
must learn that his megalomania does not correspond to facts.
The few moments spent in waiting for milk and care, and
later the inescapable tragedy of weaning, are his great school
of experience. It is in these experiences that the "reality principle" (Freud) is learned and the "pleasure principle" is
gradually discarded.
A great poet, Romain Rolland, has glimpsed this conflict.
In Jean Christophe he says of the child:
... He is also a magician. He wanders with great strides
through the fields, gazes at the sky and gestures with his arms. He
commands the clouds. He wants them to move to the right. But
they move to the left, so he scolds them, and repeats his command
more rigorously. With beating heart he watches from the corner of
his eye to see if at least one little one will not obey him. But they
all sail quietly toward the left. Now he stamps with his foot and
Following a hint of Freud, Ferenezi was the first to point out the facts of
childlike megalomania.

[ 194 ]

THE MYTH

OF THE

SUPERIOR MALE

threatens them with a stick and calls to them to move to the left.
And sure enough, this time they obey orders. He is happy and
proud of his power.

The author describes a transitional phase: The child realizes


that be is not an omnipotent wizard, but saves a part of his
fictitious omnipotence by approving the fait accompli.
I find it most amazing that so few people have asked
how the transition between the parasiticbaby and the giving"
man who has to support his family takes place. The baby is
merely a recipient, "takes in" continuously, is a personified
"gimme," completely dependent on the ((giving" mother.
Twenty some years later we see the parasitic infant in the role
of husband, playing the opposite part, that of provider. We
seem to take it for granted that the normal man should
assume family duties. This is a convenient assumption which
does not explain anything and evidences a lack of psychologic
insight and even of curiosity.
Psychoanalytic reasoning leads me to assume that normality
in men means simply that the parasitic baby has identified
unconsciously with the giving mother. The first step
to normality is that of identification." If it is not accomplished,
various neurotic symptoms and personality-disorders are the
inevitable result.
The later Oedipal identifications with the father are superimposed and
not less necessary for that end effect. The same holds true of the phallic
"castrauon fear."

[ 195 ]

DIVORCE WON'T

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What psychologic mechanism underlies this queer identification with the mother? Freud, the psychologic genius who
proved that without an understanding of the child the adult
is incomprehensible, described in another connection a process
which he called the "unconscious repetition compulsion.!"
The tendency to be repetitive has two characteristics: In the
first place, it is beyond the pleasure principle, that is, certain
experiences are repeated whether they were originally
pleas tnt or unpleasant. In addition, the later repetitions are
by no means photographic copies of the original experiences,
but are rather active repetitions of originally passive experiences. The active role supplants the passive one in order to
eradicate the wound to self-esteem which is suffered whenever a child is forced into a situation in which he is a helpless,
passive victim and in which his megalomania (exaggerated
self-esteem, or narcissism) is offended. To reverse and overcome this "humiliation," he repeats this experience actively,
victimizing someone else. Freud mentioned as an example a
very young girl forced to open her mouth in the dentist's
chair. Upon coming home, the girl played dentist with her
little sister. On the surface their play seems to be a repetition;
in reality, it is not. The decisive, face-saving device is the
fictive repetition of a passive experience. In this circuitous
way, the child "saves face."
6 Beyond

Ihe Pleasure Principl, Ccs. Schr., VI.

[ 196 ]

THE MYTH

OF THE SUPERIOR lVlALE

It is this strange compulsion to repeat actively what one


has experienced passively that causes the child to identify
with the mother." Thus the dependent child grows up to
reverse the roles and become the adult provider.
We have reason to assume that the transition is not an easy
one. Deep in the unconscious of even the most normal men
there are remnants of his infantile resentment. Otherwise the
typical complaint of many a husband that he works hard to
earn money and his wife spends it "like a drunken sailor" is
not explainable. Neither could we otherwise explain man's
constant underestimation of housework. Housework is a fulltime job, and still men do not esteem it. "She just takes care
of a few meals, plays with the children-and she calls that
work," a husband complains with every sign of righteous
indignation. The basic reason for their disparagement of
housework is that it has something to do with food. The old
narcissistic wound of complete nutritional dependence on the
mother is inwardly not forgotten and must be repressed. One
way to enforce the repression is outwardly to deprecate the
provider of food.
Man's greater immaturity, evident from infancy to old age,
is particularly revealed in marriage. In this country many
o This application of the principle of "unconscious repetition compulsion"
to the development of man's normality, explained here though oversimplified,
was first made by the author in collaboration with L. Eidelberg in "The Breast
Complex in the Male," International Z I. PsycholnlaJ,yse ('933), NO.4.

[ 197 ]

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couples marry very young. A young man or girl in the late


twenties or early thirties who is not yet married is usually
made uncomfortably conscious of that fact. The situation was
quite different in prewar Europe, where the man had to
achieve a stable position before he married. Marriage in the
early twenties has its great advantages and slight disadvantages. It eliminates for the man the period of acquaintance
with prostitutes, so typical in middle and west European countries. That "preparation" for marriage was a disadvantage in
every respect, because the psychic situation in marriage and
prostitution is quite different.
One disadvantage of early marriage is that the man is
sexually inexperienced, even clumsy. After some experience
in petting, the facts of genital sex are romanticized by the
youngsters, and reality does not always live up to their
exaggerated expectations. One must admit that nowhere else
in the world are women so justified in complaining that their
husbands "change" after marriage; these women simply
witness the development of relative immaturity from complete immaturity. Two young people of the opposite sex in
their late teens show marked differences: the girl is emotionally more mature and stable. The superficial he-man attitude
of the boy only covers his greater immaturity.
Soon after the honeymoon comes the protracted period of
adjustment, with the unspoken reproachful question, "Is this
[ 198 ]

THE

MYTH

OF THE

SUPERIOR MALE

all?" In favorable cases, this uneasiness is a transitory and


harmless intermezzo. In neurotic cases, that "strange interlude" leads to more serious consequences-such as infidelity
(with or without mutual agreement), divorce, neurotic remarriage, second divorce, etc.
Let us concentrate first on normal cases. The young man
expects from marriage a paradise on earth, and instead he
finds a series of duties (work, support of his wife, domestic
complications, financial worries. . . .) mingled with an infinitesimal amount of fun. The ratio of duty to fun in marriage is unfavorable for fun. The trick is to make fun out of
duty. The not-too-neurotic male does this automatically in
his reversal of the baby-mother situation; unconsciously he
acts the role of the providing mother-and likes it, since it
represents his favorite inner defense mechanism.
"Time marches on"; the number of children increases, the
amount of sex decreases, and the "mistress" becomes the
"companion." Why does this change occur? Is it true that
sex automatically decreases in the thirties, as many husbands
claim after a few years of marriage? Or is it that his feeling
of attraction toward his wife decreases? Has his interest for
other women increased proportionately? I don't believe that
a patient of mine, a sexual abstainer for years, was correct
when he stated that sex "disappears automatically in marriage
after a few years." He seemed surprised when I contradicted

[ 199 ]

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HELP

him, and told me that he had discussed the problem with his
friends, who all agreed with him. This is evidence only that
every neurotic gathers about himself friends who are similar
or even worse neurotics. Asked whether in his and his friends'
opinion sex died out only with regard to the wife or "disappeared" completely, the man replied with a smiling
innuendo about ((girl friends." In other words, for this patient
sex was possible only when it was forbidden. His case is
typical.
Another factor endangering sex in marriage is the tendency
of neurotic men to project on sex their unconscious feeling
of being drained by a "parasitic" woman. In a man of this
type, the fact that the wife expects sexual attention counteracts even normal desire on his part. His unconscious "refusal"
complex is set in motion, showing up in his disinclination to
indulge in sex.
Thirdly, we may note the failure of women to make allowances for their age and diminished attractiveness. They often
live in a fantasy of timelessness. The ridiculous fact that
women in late middle age often continue to dress as young
girls is an indication of this.
It should be pointed out, fourthly, that women often fail
to take into account the fact that real or imaginary worries
and preoccupations at ti1nes sap a man's whole energy like a
sponge, and exclude even sexual desire. Of course, this facl
[ 200 ]

THE MYTH

OF THE SUPERIOR MALE

can be used by the husband as an excuse, but facts remain facts.


For example, a woman once consulted me, complaining that
her husband no longer loved her. She gave as proof the fact
that they had indulged in no sex during the last three weeks.
Her husband said that he had been "worried to death" over
his partner's absconding with a large amount of money. "This
is true," replied his wife, in tears, "but if he still loved me he
wouldn't think constantly of his stupid business."
Finally, we may take into account one very interesting
neurotic reason for masculine sexual grievances against
women: the fact that the man may prove to be impotent in a
specific instance. "In bed these women just wait," exclaimed
one such indignant man, "and we have to go through a
potency examination, sometimes helped by the condescending
woman." True, the man quoted was a severe neurotic, but
remnants of that feeling are often found in men, who claim
in self-defense that potency is not a forceps to be opened at
will. And it is true that neurotic women often demand sex at
a time when they know their husbands are (notin the mood."
These frigid women do not really want sex; they simply
want to "humiliate and torture" the husband, as one victim
put it. Since potency depends on psychological facts which,
even in a normal mal1, may not be too favorable in a specific
instance, every man has to repress at least some disagreeable
experiences. Normally a certain self-assurance prevails. The
[ 201 ]

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more neurotic a man is, the more he feels every sex act to be
an "examination." Some develop, as one patient called it,
"examination fright," which in such cases simply means
potency disturbance.
In the late forties or early fifties, short-lived men enter
the period which Bacon characterized as that in which man
requires woman as nurse. In the late forties, typically, organic
diseases start to manifest themselves. Whether the man must
avoid getting overexcited (blood pressure), or stop certain
types of strenuous sport, or observe a diet, or abstain from
alcohol or smoking (heart) or sweets (diabetes), bis wife
must take over the execution of the doctor's orders. Few men
accept the situation with the necessary resignation; the
majority rebel. And once more the infantile game of concealment starts. The man who shouldn't drink does so behind
his wife's back. The man who must stop smoking seems to
have the idea that his enemy is not coronary disease but his
wife, who refuses him the cigars. In other words, man's
infantilism comes to the fore even in this late stage. Once
more he enacts the tragi-comedy in which his wife is the
refusing mother.
A patient of mine objected to this presentation, stating that
man's pretenses, embedded in his he-man attitude, are flimsy
any\va}': why shake them? He said, furthermore, that he had
the feeling that this one-sided presentation followed Arthur
Schnitzler's principles: Schnitzler in one of his satirical come[ 202 ]

THE MYTH

OF THE SUPE.RIOR MALE

dies has a writer proclaim his program by saying, "I let the
curtain go up when it gets interesting and let it fall the
moment I have proven that I am right." I assured my skeptical patient that scientific research has no such tendencies.
The psyche is comparable to a diamond with hundreds of
facets. We do not exhaust the problem by stressing one
facet.
In my opinion, the male's original dependence on the
mother, later shifting onto the wife, is inwardly never fully
overcome. True, on the psychic surface, in consciousness, we
see the exact opposite of dependence: a whole conspiracy of
male negation of that dependence and reactive anger mixed
with superciliousness. Nevertheless man rests psychologically
on that unconscious "conspiracy of negation," in other words
on an unconscious defense mechanism. To fight his inner
knowledge that his whole being works on borrowed strength,
man has established the unconsciously based illusion that he
is, of himself, strong and independent. Here we have in a
nutshell one of the bases of male arrogance and of man's
pretense that he is something better than woman, that he has
a "perfect right" to look down on her.
It is one of the amusing symptoms of naivete in psychological matters that a generation which prides itself, unjustifiably, on having a minimum of illusions has not yet debunked
the bluff of the "he-man." Though women have privately an
intuitive knowledge of "the baby in the man," they try to
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emulate his "strength" instead of understanding the basis of


his inherent weakness. In short, one can state without exaggeration that the conception of the "he-man" is the most
successful hoax ever put over for centuries on half the population of this globe.
Today we are witnessing one of the most exciting spectacles
in human history: This same half of the population, in pro. gressive countries at least, is changing from sexy toys into
human beings. "Sexy toys" is the precise term for the role
to which masculine megalomania consigned women until the
first decades of the twentieth century. Before that, a woman
changed from a sexy toy into a socially accepted houseworker
or representative of society only when she married or grew
older. Even then, she had no name of her own. She was Mrs.
John Smith. Only divorce gave her back at least her first
name-Mrs. Alice Smith.
Women have been so busy these last decades emulating
men that they have not had time to create their own special
style in the business world. They have been torn between the
impulse to ape men and the desire to retain at least the vestiges of their feminine privileges. As a result they are a series
of contradictions. These child diseases of emancipation will
disappear, and the next generations will probably see what
today is only a dim possibility-inner
feminine freedom
expressed in a new and original way.
[ 204 ]

THE

MYTH

OF THE

SUPERIOR MAL.E

The statement that women have been trying to emulate


men raises another but highly relevant aspect of this general
issue. "Should uiornen work?" and ((Are the roles of career
womarl, good wife and mother com-patible?" are questions
loaded with emotional dynamite, and have been the topic of
never-ending controversy for the last eighty years.
Recently the idea has been promoted that many neurotic
sex ills of women are reducible to the fact that women have
entered into competition with men: Women should abandon
work in factories, office,free professions; accept their "biologic
destiny," have a large number of children, and thus achieve
satisfactory sex life. This whole theory, viewed unemotionally, is in my opinion quite untenable. There are ten objections to it.
First of all, many married women work from economic
necessity and not because of a neurotic compulsion to compete
with men.
Second, the argument that women can achieve a satisfactory sex life by restricting their external activities is based
on a psychological fallacy. The women who compete with
men do so because they are neurotic; the competition is the
result. of their neurosis, not the cause of it. One has to distinguish the neurotic woman full of undigested pseudo masculinity from the normal woman who wants a more satisfactory
outlet for her inherent activity. The whole conception of the
[ 205 ]

DIVORCE WON'T HELP

"passive" woman is a remnant of patriarchal times, basically


a masculine myth. Biologic facts point in the same direction.
I quote an authoritative textbook on pathology: ... There
is a higher mortality for the male throughout all periods of
life. This cannot be explained away, as is commonly done,
by references to overwork, industrial hazards, abuse of alcohol and tobacco, venery, etc. for the difference in the sex
mortality is most striking in intra-uterine life and during
the first years of childhood. There appears to be an inherent
weakness in the male, a sex-linked inferiority, so that by
comparison with the female he is a weakling at all periods
of life from conception to death. This holds true throughout
the animal kingdom, the males being shorter-lived. As Allen
remarks, the price of maleness is weakness, and the woman is
far from being (the weaker vessel'."?
Reliance on the simple expedient of giving up "competition" with men overlooks the fact that specific women are
dissatisfied with housework. In some cases this 1nay be a
neurotic sign; it may, however, in other cases, be the result
of abundant energy looking for an outlet in satisfactory
work. The distinction is easily made: If a woman rejects
motherhood emotionally, and hates the whole business of
creating a comfortable home atmosphere, that is neurotic.
If, however, a woman is a good mother and wife and still
r Boyd, William, Pathology (Philadelphia,

[ 206 ]

Len & Febinger, 1935), p. .i I!.

THE MYTH

OF THE SUPERIOR MALE

finds outside work pleasant, there is nothing neurotic about it.


The unsatisfactory sex life of neurotic women is the result
of neurosis, and external restrictions will not cure it. Quite
the contrary, take away the external outlet and you increase
the conflict of the whole personality. Neurosis cannot be
changed by changing the external setting.
Third, even assuming that a woman takes over home
duties exclusively, she is still confronted with the superciliousness of the male, who does not take housework seriously. Full acknowledgment of the "distinguished profession
of being a mother," as a writer correctly called it, presupposes a change in masculine philosophy. And that change is
not around the corner. Man considers his wife a parasite.
This is true not only in families where the wife stays home
and the man is the family provider. If the wife works, he
still acts the medieval potentate, blaming his wife for every
discomfort. If he has to wait for his dinner, he forgets that
his wife is just as tired as he is after a day's work. If the
maid is unsatisfactory, his wife is "responsible." If they eat
out and the meal does not satisfy him, inwardly he accuses
not the restaurant but his wife: She doesn't make him a
comfortable home. If the laundry is not delivered, he blames
not the Chinese laundryman but his wife, "who didn't take
care of that trifle." And if a button is missing from his
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pajamas, the poor wife is so "superficial" that she doesn't


even take care of that.
Fourth, the slogan ((full equality for women in every
field" is an accepted fact among women. To turn the clock
back---even if it were desirable, which it decidedly is notis a hopeless ideological task. The lure of satisfactory sex
will not change it, especially since this lure is a mirage.
Fifth, orgasm and normalcy are by no means identical.
It is true that the majority of symptomatic neuroses (neuroses producing symptoms such as hysterical manifestations,
hypochondria, obsessions, compulsions, heart neurosis, etc.)
are connected with a disturbed sex life. There is, however,
a group of neurotics, the so-called "personality difficulties"
(character neuroses) who sometimes achieve orgasnl in spite
of their neuroses. These are people who are constantly confronted with unconsciously self-created troubles; every friend
betrays them, evel-y partner they choose is unreliable, every
person they love is unfaithful, etc. These neurotics may have,
superficially at least, normal orgasm. Sex life is one of the
yardsticks of normalcy; the personality per se is no less
important.
Sixth, there is no connection between having children and
having a satisfactory sex life. Under 11or111olconditions, children promote and increase marital happiness. Under neurotic
conditions, the opposite happens and children arc the poor
[ 208 ]

THE MYTH

OF THE

SUPERIOR MALE

victims of neurotic parents. The old advice to "regulate an


unsatisfactory sex life (basically frigidity) by the expedient
of having children" is without foundation. Such a disappointed and neurotic mother unconsciously takes revenge on
the innocent children and unduly increases their conflicts.
Seventh, observation shows that the combination of good
wife and mother and successful career woman is possible.
That some neurotic women fail in this double task proves
nothing against the thesis, no more, anyway, than is proved
by the fact that some neurotic men cannot combine business
success with a good marriage.
Successfully to combine the roles of wife-mather-career
woman, however, the wife must accept the fact that usually
it means double work for her; the husband's working day
ends at five, his wife's task is only half done at that time.
True, he "helps her with the dishes," but the wife is expected
to market, cook, keep the house in order, with all the innumerable little details attached. Supervision and organization
of a household through a maid is no less time- and energyconsuming after a working day. If a woman is willing to do
this, there must be strong propelling factors behind it.
A second prerequisite to the successful performance of this
double role is man's acceptance of his wife as equal. Men
are far from this, however loudly they proclaim the opposite.
It would be more to the point to educate men in the idea
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that women are their equals than to try to pound into the
poor wife's head the notion that she "has no business" competing with men.
Eighth, in thinking about the combination of wife-mothercareer woman, attention is unduly focused on the first years
of marriage. What about the middle-aged woman of forty
and fifty? Her children have grown to maturity, her husband
has become more distant, her looks are waning-the tragedy
of "not being needed" besets many women. A career compensates for many of these disappointments.
Ninth, nobody claims that every woman has to work. She
should be trained for a profession; whether or not she actually works outside the house depends on personal factors
in those cases in which work is not a financial necessity. Being
trained for professional work is insurance against "rainy
days," emotionally and otherwise.
Tenth, the bitter complaint of many men that women,
through work, have become "too independent," as evidenced
also by the increased divorce rate, overlooks the fact that
marital. unhappiness is as old as neurotic marriage. Such men
simply begrudge women their right to regulate their own
lives, viewing with nostalgia the "good old days" when
women were forced to live after the proclaimed principle of
the kaiser, Wilhelm II: "Kiiche, Kinder, Kircbe" (Kitchen,
Children, Church). A masculine prerogative is thus cloaked
[ 210 ]

THE

MYTH

OF THE SUPERIOR MALE

as an "argument." In 1890 the divorce rate was 1 :18. The


comparison with 1945, when it had increased to I :3, cannot
be blamed on feminine emancipation

alone. Had

divorce

been socially more acceptable in 1890, the divorce rate would


have been identical. A tyrant, forced to abdicate, is not
exactly the best judge of the new age: Men, confronted with
the change of women from sexy toys to full-fledged human
beings, are biased, to say the least.
Every new movement shoots beyond the mark. Ridiculous
exaggerations will be eradicated by mutual consent, simply
out of inner necessity. This will entail the removal of "emancipation chips" from the shoulders of both sexes. What we
see today are dissatisfied men and dissatisfied women. One
cannot say that women were unprepared

for their great

journey into freedom; the propelling energy with which


they have undertaken it proves the opposite. The unprepared
person was the average man. He is still confused and dumbfounded, and fights back with anger, irony, and constant
reminders that women are, at bottom, sexual beings.
A successful business executive, a woman of forty, complained: ((I can cope with men on every level in businesswith their pseudo shrewdness, irony, superciliousness,

and

arrogance. But there is one spot in which they really get me


-when they look at me appraisingly, as if to say, 'You work
because you couldn't get a husband and a couple of kids .... ' "
[ 2II ]

DIVORCE WON'T

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The weak spot in this woman was exactly that-her inability


to attach herself to a man. She tried repeatedly, only to
"throw out the weak guys." In other words, her material
achievements were counteracted by her neurosis.
Another woman complained: CC\Vhycan't men forget in
business that a woman is a woman? They look at you either
as easy prey or as the frigid, (out of the question' type."
What this woman didn't want to understand was that people
fight their wars with all the weapons at their disposal, even
when these weapons are not too clean.
The typical man has been psychologically unprepared for
feminine emancipation. He clings in his anger to his historic
prerogatives, which are no longer accepted. He is still trying
to use Confederate money. He clings to the fantasy of the
ccinferiority of women," which is daily proven fallacious.
He clings to his "manliness," as if this biological fact in itself
proved something. He feels pushed into passivity and blames
his wife for his own neurosis. Confronted with a free woman,
the man finds his house of cards of alleged masculine superiority collapsing, his disguise exposed to unmerciful scrutiny.
We are witnessing today the rear-guard actions of a beaten
army of masculine die-hards. The shouting and the tumult
are loud, but the battle of the masculine prerogative bas
already been decided. Some day the children of the die-hards
will smile condescendingly at their fathers for futilely hitting
their heads against the wall of emancipation.
[ 2I2 ]

THE

MYTH OF THE

SUPERIOR MALE

One day-a day which is sure to come-husband and wife


will meet each other on the basis of a real and not a pretended
equality. A man will not feel "pushed around" by his wife's
independence. Two separate entities, each respecting the
other in his special field, will have something in commontheir love, their home and their children. Even then women
will have the advantage; they are the only human beings
who are really grown up.

[ 213

CHAPTER

XIII

The Minimum Requirements


for a Good WIfe
OMEN must fight their marital battles with
two disadvantages: Man's neurosis and man's
infantilism. If a neurosis is involved, women are

50 per cent "partners in crime," otherwise they would give


the neurotic man a wide berth. But even in the most favorable
cases-in practically healthy people-women are confronted
with the burden of man's infantilism, hidden under his cloak
of superiority.
Although I have no wish to give advice since normal
women do not need it, and neurotic women are not helped
by it, I cannot resist trying to summarize briefly possible
feminine measures of defense against man's greater infantilism. There must be in every good wife an inner acceptance
of the following facts:
I. That her husband is inwardly a little boy, who must
not be taket~ too seriously, though seriously ad11nred. "In
every man is a child who wants to play" was one (;f
[ 214 ]

THE

MINIMUl\!l

REQUIREMENTS

Nietzsche's intuitive remarks. This is literally true. The man


is forced into a world of activity, and the child in him starves.
He tries to console himself inwardly by reversing the babyhood situation: he becomes the giving mother, his wife the
((baby." He may even call her baby, or talk baby talk to her.
All this furthers his defense. But one cannot live on a diet
of good conscience alone. The poor "he-man" even identifies
himself unconsciously with his wife's "childishness" to get
once more a substitute diet. He feels vastly superior to her
"infantilism"---once more, substitute diet. He identifies himself with his children's "childishness," and this makes him
a good father. So he goes through life, misunderstood and
misunderstanding himself. This is visible only as dissatisfaction. He wonders what it is all about, and gives himself a
few rationalizations in answer.
Relatively the best solution is that of the man who is
married to a woman who understands him intuitively and
admires him as an adult admires a child building castles in
sand. Since there are few normal and many neurotic women,
his cbances of finding such a wife are slim.
2. That her husband needs to feel sure of her. Men have
the conviction that they are not sufficiently appreciated. Only
a not-too-neurotic woman is capable of creating an atmosphere of real tenderness. Too often the wife's own neurosis
interferes. She, too, wants to be the center of love and adrni[ 215

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ration. Two such people, looking for a perpetwum mobile of


tenderness and exclusiveness, are meeting at a tangent, since
their inner loneliness is not overcome. Since each is looking
for his or her own brand of "fun" alone, no fun is forthcoming and disillusionment results.
The factor of exclusiveness causes insurmountable difficulties. The child's desire for exclusive attention is insatiable.
Freud once remarked ironically that even in a primitive
society where it was the prevailing custom for every suckling
woman to give her breast to every child who wanted it, even
up to the age of five or six, the children, if analyzed, would
complain that they didn't get enough milk ....
In view of
this background of insatiable greed, men's disillusionment is
understandable.
3. That her husband needs to know that her aggression is
directed toward his enemies, never toward him. In this connection I shall describe the situation in which the idea of
"minimum requirements for a good wife" first occurred to
me. The wife of a patient had complained about her husband
to her brother and sister-in-law. These two very cultured
and highly intelligent people conferred with me about her
complaint. I had to concede that my patient was by no means
an ideal husband, but added that the cause of their marital
difficulties lay not entirely with him. "How would you feel,"
I asked the patient's brother-in-law, "if, when you came
[ :2 r6

THE

MINIMUM

REQUIREMENTS

home furious with one of your adversaries, your wife, without even hearing your case, automatically blamed you for
everything and sided aggressively with your enemy? Don't
you think that it's th~minimum requirement of a wife who
wants to make a success of marriage to identify herself with
her husband's interests?" The couple agreed, the woman
with the reservation that in the case of my patient, the unhappy situation had been started by his constant provocations.
"How is he responsible for her hyperaggressiveness-except
perhaps in permitting himself to be married by her?" I
asked. "Do you want to blame him for his neurosis?" We
compromised amicably on this basis.
4. That she must identify herself with her husband's
troubles-listen, console, and help hi1n if she can. Having
once discovered the baby behind the mask of the "he-man,"
the wife must manage the immature part of her husband's
personality. The watchwords are: Patience, tenderness, understanding, forgiveness.
5. That the 1170neywhich her husband earns is a reality
factor and not a weapon to be sed against him. Women
must understand that for unconscious and therefore irrational
reasons, her husband has constantly to fight against the feeling that his wife is a parasite for whom he works himself to
death. She must understand the impersonal quality of this
feeling. It has nothing to do with her personally. His role
[ 217

DIVORCE WON'T

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as "provider" is a compensatory male attitude built upon


resentments of early childhood. Therefore her complaints
about money endanger a delicate balance. If the marriage
is a good one and the man is not too neurotic, he will give
gladly. If he and his wife are neurotic, money becomes a
battleground for every unsolved inner problem. On the other
hand, husbands either are insensitive in not understanding
the disagreeable and rather humiliating position in which
their wives find themselves when they have to ask for every
cent, or (more often) enjoy their wives' dependence upon
them. In my opinion, no reasonable woman should allow
herself to be railroaded into such a position of dependence,
except in those few cases where the husband is normal and
gives gladly, without making a marital weapon of money.
Every woman, I believe, should have a job or profession, or
at least be trained for one. Whether she actually earns money
is immaterial-the
point is that sh<:should have something
upon which to fall back, and a profession means potential
security. Even neurotic husbands of the "purse-string-apronstring" variety are less aggressive in money matters if they
know that their wives are only relatively dependent.
6. That sex is fun" and not a marital. weapon. Even
under the most favorable conditions, husbands and wives
have to adapt themselves to each other's peculiarities. Even
in the most propitious circumstances not every sexual act is
a success. Mutual understanding is the best guide.

218 ]

THE MINIMUM

R.EQUIREMENTS

An old tradition holds that every woman wants to "look

up" to the man of her choice. What this amounts to is that


women want to identify with the man's achievement, therefore prefer (insofar as they are normal) a decisive, active
man. This does not prevent these same women from seeing
through the pseudoheroic attitude of the same men. The
"normal" dichotomy, hero-baby, achieved automatically by
normal women, is complicated by the fact that in sex the
man has to take the lead. To quote a patient: "I've often
wondered how I could see two persons in my husband: the
strong man in sex and the baby outside the bed." Woman's
preference for the strong man in sex is fostered by the
sadistic-masochistic misconceptions every girl has in early
childhood about sex. Since love has a narcissistic basis, the
man is merely a projected executive organ of the woman
herself. That woman sees through the baby in the man does
not contradict this fact, since in this case the woman seesthe real man. Expressed differently: In sex, women work
with unconsciousfantasies, outside sex with a reality factor.
Moreover, neurotic women, who constantly complain that
they cannot respect a weakling, are often picturing an unattainable and inwardly not even desired situation; these
women are simply creating an alibi for their neurosis by
projecting their own inner inability to love onto the man.
In neurotic conditions, what is at best a complicated situation becomes hopelessly entangled. If the wife asks for sex
[ 219

DIVORCE WON'T

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at a time when her husband is ill disposed, she meets with


refusal, failure, or an automatism that revolts her. She meets
the same response if she makes disparaging remarks about
her husband's sexual ability or technique. The greatest difficulty lies in the fact that the majority of women are frigid
and therefore dissatisfied. But wives either disregard this fact
or shift the blame for it onto their husbands.
The number of conflicts resulting from frigidity, weak
potency, and mutual ignorance is endless.

7. That the successor failtlre of a marriage is mainly the


wife's responsibility. To listen to married women talk, one
would believe that husbands are an impossible lot. Husbands
often are, to be sure, but what these faultfinding women
neglect to mention is that they are incapable of inRuencing
their husbands. A rnan in love gives in to his wife in so many
respects that I am automatically suspicious when the whole
blame is shifted to him. It is more likely that these women
are neurotics who are re-enacting some infantile conflict with
their neurotic husbands, whom they have chosen for exactly
that purpose.
In normal conditions the success of marriage is shaped by
the wife. Since she is the more mature person, she manages
the man with invisible diplomacy.

8. That marriage 1naymean at its best relative happiness,


provided it is not unconsciously misused as a stage for the
[ 220 ]

THE

MlNIMUM

REQUIREMENTS

repetition of infantile neurotic conflicts. A neurotic is comparable to a person who carries around one single phonograph record, which he insists upon playing whenever a
phonograph is handy. The record in this simile is the unconscious neurotic pattern, the phonograph the innocent and at
the same time guilty victim of that unconscious repetition.
The phrasing "innocent and at the same time guilty victim"
is purposely chosen: "Innocent" refers to the fact that the
pattern repeated is prefabricated in early childhood and
therefore has no actual reference to the person against whom
it is used; "guilty" refers to the fact that the victim has
certain unconscious tendencies which make him (or her) a
suitable object for that repetition.
In normal conditions, husband and wife are, relatively
speaking, real people to each other. Even so (as was seen in
previous chapters) they smuggle in a good many unconscious
tendencies. The more neurosis is involved, the more both
participants become a movie screen upon which to reel off
an automatic film.
9. That the balance of marital power automatically favors
the wife. Man's greater dependence, based on his greater
immaturity, guarantees to the wife an advantage which cannot be offset even by the fact that the man may hold the
purse strings. One cannot state emphatically enough that
man keeps his grasp on the purse strings only to disguise
[ 221

DIVORCE WON'T

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from himself the fact that he holds onto his wife's apron
strings.
The real power in marriage, the power behind the throne,
governing with invisible diplomacy, is the wife. But (and
this weighs heavily) she must -preserue appearances before her husband and the world. The reason is obvious: Man's
narcissism is his weakest point, since his whole defense
mechanism of superiority is based on the denial of a narcissistic wound of early childhood, when he was completely
dependent upon his mother. If a woman, because of her own
neurosis, stresses too obviously the fact that she manages her
husband, she resuscitates all his old unconscious trouble, with
sorry results: She forces the man to increase his inner defenses. As far as the outer world is concerned, the old tradition that the man should be the boss in marriage still holds
good; if he is proven not to be, he becomes ridiculous.
A clever WOlTIan,after listening attentively to my list of
minimum requirements, objected: "What does the woman
get out of the deal?"
The answer is that she gets a loving and devoted husband
and the repetition of a great deal of infantile pleasure. She
gets it directly through being officially "the baby" and indirectly through identification with her infantile husband. In
addition, she gets the narcissistic satisfaction of the successful
"educator."
[ 222 ]

THE MINIMUM

REQUIREMENTS

"Shouldn't one complement these minimum requirements


of a good wife with those for being a good husband?" she
objected next.
"Well," I answered, "if you write a manual for mothers
on how to educate their sons, would you also give every child
a compendium on how to be educated?"
The woman still was not convinced. "And what about the
woman who cannot manage her husband because of his neurosis?"
"In that case, the woman is necessarily neurotic, too," I
pointed out. "Why did her instinct not prevent her from
tying herself to such a man? A woman who can't manage her
husband is a neurotic who gets what she unconsciously asks
for ....
" With this reply, the conversation drifted to other
subjects. I do not know whether it was the finality of my
answer or the hopelessness of convincing me that prompted
the change of subject.
A masculine reaction was supplied by a misogynist friend
of mine to whom I read my list. He looked at me ironically,
with a shocked "et tu, Brute" expression, and remarked:
"Without going into the merits of the case, I should say it's
a big order. By the way, why do you say 'minimum requirements'? Isn't that an overstatement?"
I defended myself with the old adage, "Ask for the impossible to get the possible."
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"Oh," retorted the friend, "you mean to say that the man
will get the minimum anyhow .... "
We compromised on the basis that fantasy and reality
seldom coincide. My friend tried a last attack in defense of
men:
"In your opinion man's situation is hopeless. Do you think
victorious women will some day organize a society for the
prevention of cruelty to men?"
I replied with the story of an incident which a patient once
told me. A masculine friend of hers made the mistake of
allowing himself to be introduced to a big financier by a
mutual woman friend. ceOf course," she said, "the financier
never did business with him; the fool did not understand
that men have so little to say at home that they hold on
jealously to the power or illusion of power in their last
refuge, in business. The woman's introduction made the poor
devil of a connection-seeker automatically a playboy in the
eyes of the financier. . . ."
"Q.E.D.," remarked my friend ironically. He added
seriously: "Why do you give these shrews ammunition?
They will only misuse your investigations to make men
suffer."
My serious answer was: "Scientific investigation is impartial. Facts can't be concerned with pleasing people. Are you
of the opinion that the inventor of a machine should with[ 224 ]

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REQUIREMENTS

hold his invention because it will cause a number of persons


to be unemployed?"
My friend looked at his cigar and said nothing. His silence
meant that he definitely gave me up as hopeless. It was clear
that he looked upon me as a deserter of the army of male
solidarity .

[ 225 ]

CHAPTER

XIV

The Case for Monogamy


EUROSIS is so widespread that anyone who seriously proclaims monogamy the normal basis of
marriage is considered a liar, a wit, or a hypocrite.
Because monogamy is endorsed by official authority, the
smart set considers itself above such nonsense. But by chance,
official preachment corresponds to the clinical observation, as
far as the behavior of normal (i.e. not too neurotic) persons
is concerned.
First let us clear up a confusing "moral" issue. A relatively
balanced person finds out sooner or later that sex "tastes"
better when combined with tender love. This is an experience
that has nothing to do with moral attitudes. The fact that
moralists (because of sex-restricting attitudes) preach monogamy too, has no relation to this fact. Two groups of people
can have identical experiences, though their motives may be
quite different.
It is senseless to reject the clinical experience that sex is
more pleasant when combined with tender love, simply
[ 22.6 ]

THE

CASE FOR l\10NOGAMY

because that conclusion leads to monogamy. The whole introduction of narrow and moralistic attitudes is beside the
point-particularly
since the official sex-restricting attitude
stresses the procreative aspect of the sex act and practically
rejects the element of pleasure involved.
Let us assume that a puritanic sect rejects a certain type
of food as sinful, on religious grounds. Quite independently,
a group of nutrition chemists discovers that the food in
question is detrimental to the digestion of normal people. It
does not follow that in reaching these conclusions the chemist
has been bribed by the puritanic sect. The conclusions of the
two groups may coincide, though their reasoning is utterly
different.
Our opponents object that this analogy is dangerously
specious. There are, they claim, different kinds of bribes.
They do not mean to imply that the scientist who accepts
monogamistic attitudes has simply "sold out." There are, they
say, more subtle forms of influence, such as "indirect infiltration tactics." The pressure of the puritanic idea is allegedly
so strong and insidious that it influences the scientists too, even
without his knowledge. In other words, they intimate that
the scientist, without even having been paid, has made an
idiot of himself.
The traitor-idiot theory has a catch: It makes a dishonest
use of psychological interpretations. One learns from lawyers
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that every point of view can be defended with sophistic


arguments. To make a case does not prove that the case is a
just one. The fact remains that clinical experience does prove
that running from one woman to another is the typical behavior of neurotic wolves, and running from one man to
another the typical behavior of frigid women. Under the
disguise of greater sex enjoyrnent,

these neurotics cover up

their inability to enjoy sex in the first place.

One man with whom I discussed this problem objected:


((Have a heart, and don't make it so difficult for the average
person." Here we have the problem in a nutshell: Neurotics
object to the fact that it is possible to concentrate one's tender
and sensual feeling on one person for a long period of time
because they are incapable of doing so, and then they use
their disability to try to prove the soundness of their objection. Their formula is: Don't give me additional guilt feelings for my neurotic difficulties!
1t is not science's job to furnish alibis for neurotics; the
scientific approach is totally unconcerned with the friends and
enemies it acquires with its published results. The idea of
appeasing everybody, even if it should be present consciously
or unconsciously in the mind of some scientist, is foreign to
science itself.
"But," exclaimed my patient, ((what about elderly men
married to women who have lost their charm? How does
your monogamistic theory operate there?" He overlooked,
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THE

CASE FOR MONOGAMY

however, the fact that I was talking about typical behavior


on a long-term basis and not the behavior of people who
temporarily become panicky because of their inability to
adapt themselves to their age.
No one claims that the normal person cuts an ideal figure.
Temporary "transgressions into the forbidden" are indulged
in by almost everyone. What matters is the basic attitude.
Neurosis cloaked in pseudo-modernity does not spell
psychic health. It is not to everybody's taste to whistle the
latest neurotic tune. To be out of step with the neurotic
environment does not prove that the neurotic is right. Monogamy is not the illusion of hypocrites.
To call monogamy the result of puritanic teaching and
preaching, as the sophisticates do, is a convenient out, but it
does not hold water. If only external factors were involved,
monogamy could never have achieved the strong unconscious
support that it really has. For the fact is, as has been repeatedly stressed, the insistence on monogamy is acqu-iredin the
nursery. In the typical family in our culture, the child is confronted with one father and one mother. Every child passes
through the phase in which it identifies with the parent of the
same sex and wants to take his place with the parent of the
opposite sex. That Oedipal substructure leads in the end to
the unconscious pattern of monogamy, long before preaching
and teaching can have their limited effects.
It is easy to conjure up a mental picture of a baby learning
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by way of identification the ABC of monogamy, and to


ridicule it. It is easy also for the moralist to deny that these
are the determining factors, preferring to see in monogamy
an inherent moral problem. But, the unromantic facts are
that the child is instilled with the idea of monogamy at a
time when he cannot reject the concept on any moral, logical,
or ideological grounds. The emotional (later repressed)
experience of the Oedipus complex predestines the child to
become monogamous, whether he likes it or not.
If, however, later in life, the same child, now ccgro\vnup,"
rejects monogamy, that rejection is also based on emotional
grounds. If he still attaches the OedipaJ connotation to
woman, he is inwardly afraid of monogamy, for in his unconscious vocabulary it means incest. Or, to mention another
neurotic solution, if a male child identifies with his mother
and wants to be sexually overwhelmed by his father (CCnegative" or "inverted" Oedipus), he becomes inwardly effeminate and is constantly reproached by his Superego for being
a sissy. To counteract that reproach, he develops the characteristics of the Casanova, "seduces" equally neurotic, frigid
women, and comforts himself with the alibi that he is a real
he-man"-as
he misunderstands it. Thus the rejection of
monogamy, in this type as well, has a neurotic basis.
To enlarge the gallery of neurotic rejectors of monogamy:
There is the homosexual who, before becoming conscious
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l\1.0NOGAMY

of his inversion, runs from one woman to another and is


constantly hurt, impotent, and totally dissatisfied, because
without knowing it he is looking for a man. Obviously, his
aversion to monogamy is also neurotic.
The current idea that there is a direct relation between
the number of women a man has "looked over sexually"
and his psychic health is, to say the least, misleading. A great
quantity of scalps denotes not greater ability in sexual enjoyment but exactly the opposite; inability to enjoy sex at all.
The same applies to women of the nymphomaniac type.
This observation, together with many others that have
been set forth in this book, is hardly the kind that will please
all readers. To some readers, my conclusions will seem "too
conservative"; to others, they will seem somehow indecent"too much concerned with sex."! To many, my contentions
will hit too close to home for comfort, and to reject them will
be easy. Still others, not themselves affected, will feel, "Must
I believe that ali my friends are neurotics? One friend of
mine is divorced, another is about to be. . . . Better let well
.. That objection is based on a misunderstanding, and confuses the earliest
discoveries of psychoanalysis with the later development of that science. All
human actions and reactions represent a combination of libidinous and aggressive components, as Freud himself proved a quarter of a century ago. People
who $tiU maintain that analysis is "pansexualism," are simply uninformed. In
the unconscious, libido and aggression are equal partners. Psychic masochism, f.i.,
SO frequently stressed in this book as a troublemaker, is basically an undigested
aggressive con8ict, only secondarily libidinized.

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enough alone." Moreover, it is inevitable that the majority


of assertions made by psychoanalysts will seem as fantastic
as fairy tales at first, because it takes awhile to move at ease
in thinking in terms of the unconscious. The unconscious is
not accessible to introspection; people are not born with a
knowledge of it, and they usually expect every psychic revelation to follow the lines of common sense, which the unconscious unfortunately does not.
But whether these contentions are accepted or not, the
facts which they are intended to illuminate, and if possible
to change, remain. Here are some of them:
The latest official figures available on divorce in the
United States indicate that 502,000 divorces were granted
1945.2 This means that 502,000 women and 502,000 men
were directly involved. Besides these 1,004,000 persons, the
fate of at least 500,000 children was at stake, even if we
assume (rather too conservatively) that all the couples concerned had but one child.
Besides these 1,500,000 people directly concerned, an
even larger number is indirectly involved: the 2,000,000
parents of the divorced men and women, not to mention the
brothers and sisters.
This is not all, even from the purely statistical point of

it;

The figures for 1946, released just 3$ this book goes to press, are even
more tragic: There were 6zo,000 divorces granted in 1946.
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THE

CASE FOR MONOGAMY

view. Many of the marriages that ended in divorce were


shattered by the neurotic infidelity of one of the participants.
In such cases the "correspondent," and sometimes his or her
family as well, are thrown into the conflict too. Not all marriages in which the husband or wife committed adultery end
in divorce; some are maintained because of social pressure,
children, convenience, financial considerations. It is almost
impossible to calculate precisely how many more people are
thus directly or indirectly victimized. At any rate one can
guess that besides the 1,500,000 people directly involved,
three or four millions are indirectly involved. Thus at least
5)500)000 people are directly and indirectly victimized by
divorce tragedies d1wing one single year.
And still the divorce rate is climbing; more and more
millions are beset by the illusion that getting rid of their
husband or wife will guarantee their happiness.
This tragic illusion will not make divorced men and women
any happier. It will rather increase their unhappiness, particularly when they discover, during the second or third
marital experiment, how futile the attempt was to run away
from their own inner conflicts by changing husband or wife.
The underlying neurosis is persistent-without
psychiatric
help. And unfortunately, this help cannot be supplied by
"common-sense advice." Common-sense advice may sometimes be of temporary help; but the real solution of these

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problems lies in the unconscious. And the key to unlock the


unconscious is not easy to come by j it can be acquired only
through extended psychiatric and psychoanalytic training. It
is an unfortunate fact that only those who have learned highly
specialized techniques over a period of years-and there are
all too few of them in every country-are equipped to give
permanent help in the problem of neurotic marriages.
I am the last to advocate that inwardly decayed marriages
should be maintained only for marriage'S sake. Marriage is
not always necessarily an ideal state; it can be an empty shell.
The point I wish to make is that neurotic conflicts in marriage should be treated psychiatrically and not 1n divorce
courts.
Unfortunately, mass treatment of diseased marriages is
not yet possible. Every case must be treated as an individual
one. The amount of time, effort, and money needed for individual treatment makes such treatment available only to the
very few. In the meantime, no preparation has been made
for remedy on a larger scale: understanding, money, trained
psychiatrists.
In the future, there will, I believe, be marriage clinics,
which will treat neurotic couples with irrational and infantile
marital conflicts. Only a rough blueprint of the shape of things
to come is possible. Since such marriage clinics do not now
exist, one can get an idea of their potential effectiveness only
[ 234 ]

THE CASE FOR MONOGAMY

by studying actual cases of couples treated in private psychiatric practice. These cases show that optimism is justified;
by treating both partners, the majority of neurotic marriages
can be repaired and brought onto a normal basis.
However, both husband and wife must be treated. Since
they sought and found one another unconsciously because of
their corresponding neuroses, changing only one of them
would endanger the "neurotic balance."
For example, suppose the husband is a weakling of the
Milquetoast variety and his wife a neurotic termagant. Constant reproaches are the result: she treats him contemptuously,
even in company; he suffers, objects meekly, and still sticks
to her. Outwardly, they both give the impression of being
unhappy people. Unconsciously, both get exactly what they
want: he, his share of suffering (neurotic feminine-identification); she, the pleasure of a neurotic aggression (neurotic
masculine-identification). If this woman were treated and
changed into a normal person, she would long for an active
husband whom she would not want to use for neurotic
revenge. But, should the husband not be treated, he would
continue to want to be mistreated and would be anything but
delighted with her transformation. If the husband were to be
treated too, and his unconscious passivity changed into normal
activity, the caricature of a marriage could be transformed
into a normal marriage.
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The psychiatric marriage clinic of the future will have


three departments: a diagnostic-therapeutic, a preventive, and
an educational.
The diagnostic-thera peutic department will diagnose and
treat neurotic couples. This means that psychiatric-psychoanalytic treatment will be applied to make adult people out
of neurotic children in adults' clothes. The technique of treatment will depend on the severity of the case. Not in all cases
is a full analysis necessary; in deeper neuroses it cannot be
avoided. Whether or not the future will produce a shortened
method is uncertain. So far, all attempts to create short
psychotherapy in complicated neuroses have been (despite
great publicity) failures.
The preventive department will, as time goes on, become
more important than the therapeutic section. Why wait until
the damage is done? Prevention is better than cure. In other
words, young people who contemplate marriage will consult
the department before marriage. I doubt whether, as a patient
of mine suggested, the time will ever come when a "certificate of psychic health" will be required for the marriage
license, as the Wasserman test is a prerequisite in some states.
This would be too stringent an interference with people's
private lives. However, I can imagine that education concerning the dangers of neuroses will be profound enough and
widespread enough to move people to ask for treatment be-

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THE

CASE FOR MONOGAMY

fore marriage. I can also imagine that judges in the divorce


courts of the future will not grant divorce without asking for
proof that both candidates for divorce have been treated
psychiatrically, particularly if the couple has children.
Preventive action brings up the question of whether one
can, before marriage, detect the neurotic warning signs of
future trouble. This is possible to a limited degree when
symptoms are visible: for instance, extreme jealousy, moodiness, depression, nagging, indecision, shyness in sex, addiction to drink or gambling, aversion to marriage in general.
Where personality difficulties are concerned, the problem is
more complicated; frequently the unconsciousrepetitiveness
shows up only in marriage. This is understandable when one
considers the fact that the repressed infantile material pertained to the marr,iags of the parents. The neurotic's own
marriage brings that material into the foreground.
The educational department of a marriage clinic will
organize lectures and courses about the preventive and
therapeutic aspects of the problems. It will collaborate with
other existing facilities. Many colleges have already such
lectures in attenuated form, though concentrated too much
on common-sense advice and statistical data. Dissemination
of useful knowledge can, of course, never prevent or CUrea
neurosis. But it can make the warning signs of a neurosis
generally recognizable and thus enable neurotics to seek
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treatment at an early stage, preferably before they damage


themselves and their wives and children.
In a rudimentary stage, prototypes of future marriage
clinics do already exist; many organizations-philanthropic,
religious, humanitarian---even today offer some marital counsel. Marital counsel, if competently given, is useful in eliminating or lessening external conflicts; nobody denies tbat
there are some problems in marriage which are not necessarily
the result of neuroses. The best marital counsel is futile when
a neurosis is involved. These cases must be treated psychiatrically.
No psychoanalytic psychiatrists of scientific standing ever
claimed that every neurosis is curable." Some neuroses are
unchangeable in spite of treatment. One has to take into
account the fact that every neurosis involves deep unconscious
pleasures and self-damaging tendencies. A small group of
neurotics is unconsciously not willing, or more precisely, not
capable, of renouncing them. Hence the marriage clinic of the
future will not guarantee to eradicate all neuroses. It will
have its successes and failures.
Marriage clinics will need a trained psychiatric personnel.
There are at present four thousand psychiatrists in the whole
term "cure" in the therapy of neuroses is very ambitious. It denotes
change of the personality structure and not simply removal of neurotic
symptoms. Frequently patients believe that they were helped more than they
really were-+e.g., Mrs. B. Other incurable neurotics arc those who, despite
clear-cut neurosis, refuse to enter treatment, e.g., Mr. A. and B. In many QStS
one can speak euphemistically of "improvement," not of cure.
3 The

[ 238

THE CASE FOR l\10NOGMfY

country, more than half tied down to institutional work. More


psychiatrists are needed and cannot be produced overnight.
The training is a matter of many years.
The number of neurotics is incalculable. I know of no
device for arriving at a precise figure; the figures usually
given are of dubious value. The only estimate possible consists of guesses based upon the two million men rejected by
the army and navy during the last war, or discharged during
service. These people were examined psychiatrically in an
atmosphere of a high-pitched danger. It does not follow that
in quiet times these neurotics, though correctly diagnosed,
could not live a mildly neurotic) hence inconspicuous and
fairly adapted, existence. Moreover, one should not overlook the fact that the distinction between relative normalcy
and neurosis is only one of degree. While there is no doubt
that the neurotic danger does exist, alarming figures do not
help to eradicate it. On the contrary, they may bring mildly
neurotic cases into an acute exacerbation.
A simple yardstick for recognizing neurosis is the lack of
ability to work, to love (tenderly and with normal potency
retained), to have normal social contacts and interests, to
enjoy one's hobbies. As long as there is relative contentment
on that quadrangular score, there is no reason to become
alarmed. Since neurosis is a curable disease, there is even less
reason for overexcitement. Sometime in the future, the psychiatrist's service will be taken for granted in the same way

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that the dentist's is today. There is nothing disgraceful about


a neurotic conflict, nor tragic-if it is properly treated.
To conclude: There is no reason to become panicky when
confronted with the dangers of neuroses. The complete
ignorance of the lay public concerning neuroses has been
supplanted in recent years by a feeling that everybody is hopelessly neurotic. This is an exaggeration; neuroses are as old
as mankind, though their manifestations are different in
different cultural orbits. It is not even true that neurosis has
increased quantitatively: The method of detection and treatment has improved; hence many neuroses are "visible" which
previously passed unnoticed. The number of neurotics in this
country is no greater or smaller than in progressive countries
of Western civilization. The outlook for licking neuroses is
even more optimistic in the United States than in Europe. The
great vitality of the people, their energy in fighting dangers
once they are understood, and the great resources of the
country make it more than likely that the problem of neurosis
will be solved, as many other problems have been.
Let us hope that psychiatric marriage clinics will before too
long become an integral part of every psychiatric outpatient
department, and that they will eliminate a large amount of
avoidable unhappiness. Until then, little can be done, except
to state the tragic problem.
[ 240 ]

PS VCHOI.O{; V

Divorce Won't Help


EDMUND BERGLER, M.D.
A psychiatrist trained in Freud's Vienna shows that divorce is
neither glarnorous nor a cure for bad marriage: and that
nlonogarny-,~'ontrary
to much of present-day opinion-is
the
normal and healthy state of man. Dr. Bergler shows that unhappy
marriage is usually not the cause but only the symptom of the real
difficulty-that
unless estranged partners understand the unconscious neurotic patterns which set them at odds. any future marriage
will involve the same mistakes.
Out of his practice. Dr. Bergler parades a cross-section of the
unhappy husbands and wives who have not yet learned that love is a
combination of both the tender and sensual clements of man's
nature. Here arc the "wolves" (inwardly "inflated neurotic sissies")
and frigid women who unerringly seek each other out; the coquette.
the weeper. the gold digger. the nagging wife. the tight-fisted
husband. the dissembler, and the schemer, He explains the "hangover after Reno"; the neurotic basis of frigidity. promiscuity, and
homosexuality in women; impotence and Don Juanism in men:
defines the minimum requirements for a good wife; explodes the
.myth of the superior male": and discusses the problems of the
children of divorce.
The author bases his arguments on the findings of modern
psychiatry and buttresses them with clinical evidence. He writes
clearly and with the layman always in mind.

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