top of page

Love, Freudian Style

Image of single lavender flower growing through cracks in stones. RALEIGH PSYCHOTHERAPY, COUNSELING, KATHERINE BROADWAY, LOVE

In the early 1900’s, Freud and his colleagues were developing new and radical ideas about the psychological makeup of humans. It may not seem so today, but their ideas on love were on target.

They theorized what we believe about love is based on our early experience with our main caretakers. Freud and his colleagues said these early events determine, on an unconscious level, what we experience as love.

They also proposed the idea of projection, that we see in someone else what we want him or her to be. In other words, we put our templates over the experiences we have with someone and formulate who they are, without seeing the full person. We see only our version of him or her. This happens in romantic relationships, as well as with friends, co-workers and acquaintances.


The treatment we received, and how we experience our caretakers, determines with whom we “fall in love.” We will seek out partners and friends who will treat us in the same way we’ve always been treated. We may say we want someone who is faithful, responsible, passionate and kind, with a great sense of humor, while choosing the opposite type. Conversely, we may choose exactly the person we describe, yet never feel satisfied, instead feeling like something is missing. In both cases, we are confused by our own behavior.


Everyone has their own personal, unconscious conditions that must be met to “fall in love,” that come from how they were treated as a child. These are called “conditions for loving.” For example, a man comes from an alcoholic home and vows to never live in the conditions in which he grew up. He marries a social drinker. As the years go by her drinking and her behavior gradually get out of control.

Another example would be the woman who grew up with an abusive father and vows never again will she be hit or abused in any way. She dates the “dream man.” They talk; he listens, he gives her gifts and takes care of her in every possible way. They get married and within months, the care and concern turns into control. Finally, love turns into abuse.


This can also manifest when people get into seemingly perfect relationships. They love one another, enjoy the same things, and treat one another well. Overall, it is a happy relationship, yet one partner is dissatisfied. They feel as though something is missing, and may even have an affair. The relationship ends. The discontented partner finds another relationship that is full of conflict. This seems more satisfying because the “conditions for loving” - in this case, conflict and fighting - are now being met.

The early pioneers in psychological study recognized that as humans, we are searching for healing and wholeness. We seek to recreate the experiences of the past so that we can heal the wounds of our past, change the outcome, and by doing so, fill our unmet needs. It is only as we recognize our behavior and learn what drives us that we can truly change our lives.

If you would like help identifying your conditions for loving, I'd like to help. Call Katherine at (919) 881-2001.


bottom of page