where a woman can build her strength and freedom

How can I tell if the person I meet would make a good partner?

Photo shows a newborn baby, mouth wide open and eyes clenched, crying hard and painfully and depicts a difficult relationship for a mother. You want a partner that has acheived a positive relationship with their mother.

Most of us don’t do much of an evaluation before we get into a relationship.

Until we have made painful mistakes that cause us to ask:
“What was I thinking???

If the answer is that we weren’t thinking, our next step is to ask
how can we do better next time.

Is it possible to tell beforehand if the person we meet would make a good partner?

Yes. Yes, it is.

There are many positive qualities we can look for and many great places to search
for a person who has these qualities.

(See my earlier post: Where can I find someone to love?)

But there is one quality that I believe is most important.

If this one is absent, none of the others will make up for it.

And if this one is present, flaws in other areas are more surmountable.

Are you curious?

Shall we look at this together?

Let’s DO this!

Early misperceptions

Every mother knows that no two babies are alike.

One is born placid and content, the other screams bloody murder.

One is easy to feed, the other resists as if her milk is poison.

Right from the git go, infants perceive their mother and the world differently.

I learned through psychoanalysis that how I had perceived my mother as an infant
had negatively colored how I see the whole world.

When I was born I was afraid of the breast.

I thought it was a bad and dangerous object being forced upon me.

This misperception was present in the content of my dreams,
and was confirmed in my mother’s account of my behavior.

She said I refused to breast feed, and screamed for hours on end with colic.

My father was attempting to write a book at the time so I can imagine how little silence
he had in our tiny rented house on the beach of Lake Erie.

Overcoming my misperceptions, my fear and mistrust of my mother,
who was in fact gentle and kind to me and my brothers,
has been long hard work that continues to this day.

I still have difficulty making friends with women.

Still have to remind myself it’s more about me than it is about them.

So what does this have to do with choosing a partner?

Well, the infantile fantasy that our mother is bad and dangerous
is unfortunately quite common.

Everyone has some degree of fear and misperception of their mother.

The question is: How much do we have? How much have we overcome it?

The spectrum of remaining mistrust goes from mild to major.

The patients I treated in the psychiatric hospital were filled
with paranoid fantasies about their mothers, and saw the whole world that way.

Fantasy is not reality

In the vast majority of cases, our fear of our mothers isn’t based in reality.

We just use any actual negative qualities we observe later
to support our first unconscious judgment.

If we don’t achieve insight that allows us to challenge our own misperceptions,
we carry this fantasy through life, projecting it onto innocent others.

We view others with suspicion and bitterness.

We see ourselves as innocent victims of their malice.

Those caught in this self defeating perception of the world
make poor choices for love partners.

No matter how much “love” they may lavish on you initially,
it’s only a matter of time until they see you as just another round of their “bad” mother.

Like all their other previous partners!

The negative words they use to describe their mother and their previous partners
will now be used to describe you.

It’s a blind unconscious repetition.

Has nothing to do with you personally.

You didn’t cause it, can’t control it, and can’t cure it.

They will repeat it over and over in one failed relationship after another.

The power of prevention

SO, how do you prevent getting involved in a relationship with such a person–
one who perceives the world in a negative way, and is therefore unable to love you?

Answer: You find a way to get them talking, and you do lots of listening.

You set up opportunities to talk during daylight hours.

Before, not after, you have any physical contact.

Yes, you will need to change your whole idea of dating.

The purpose of dating isn’t to attract and seduce.

The purpose of dating is to actually get to know this person.

Before, not after, you have gotten involved with them.

You must first THINK about whether it is wise to have a relationship with this person
BEFORE you get physical.

Very old fashioned, yes.

And a very intelligent way to prevent suffering.

Instead of going out to bars and evening hangouts
instead of trying to please and attract and seduce
you simply meet for coffee or lunch at a cafe or bookstore.

There, you get the person talking and you listen to how this person sees life.

What do you listen for?

You listen for one primary thing:

How do they speak about their mother?

This will tell you how they see life.

As I explained in a previous post:
What is the most important relationship in my whole life?
it is the relationship with our mother that is the central and far reaching one.

So listen carefully.

Do they respect her?

Are they bitter about things she has done or not done?

Are they angry with her, filled with undigested rage that goes way back?

Do they blame her for their failures in life?

What exact words do they use to describe her?

How they speak of her is how they will end up speaking of you.

Look for a person who loves their mother deeply,
is grateful to her, holds her in high respect,
but is not controlled by her.

A person who spends time with their mother, meeting her needs,
but does not sacrifice their own life for her.

A person who sees their mother’s failings and imperfections with compassion,
recognizing that she does the best she can and none of us are perfect.

Maturity is key

In sum, a person who would make a good partner for you is one who has achieved
a positive relationship with their mother based on mature acceptance and respect.

They will therefore be capable of having a mature acceptance and respect for you.

You can listen for further evidence of maturity in how they speak of their father,
siblings, previous partners, friends, teachers, fellow students, employers, fellow workers.

You will hear recurring themes.

If these themes are negative, wish this person well in your heart but let them go.

It’s OK. Just keep looking till you find someone who speaks of others
the way you want them to speak of you.


Can you see that this kind of dating puts you in the position of choosing well,
rather than trying to make an impossible person into your partner?

Go ahead. Have the self respect to be choosy, and save yourself
a whole lot of suffering!

Let me know how it goes.

Dr. Hall