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Heart & Soul Counseling Publications

Ghosts in the Bedroom
by Tina Calabrese, LCSW

When you become romantically involved with someone something strange happens to your mind and heart especially after the infatuation stage which typically lasts about three months. The transference phenomenon occurs. This means your emotional memory of who you loved deeply in your past reappears. This memory is triggered because, in a sense, you are returning to an old feeling of love, intimacy and attachment. Sometimes you can actually fall in love with someone because they remind you, unconsciously, of that prior love attachment. If there is emotional work to do with that person in your past your mind will especially seek out a similar personality.

What does this all mean? Well its means that you have an opportunity in your relationship to heal past wounds. This will only happen if you are aware of your past issues in relationships and you are willing to work them out. We’ve all heard the sayings and comments:

“She married her father.” or “He married his mother.”

Sometimes we are the last to realize this! What is most important to do is to identify the DIFFERENCES between your partner and the past relationships. It is key to separate the past from the present by processing (talking, feeling, thinking) about the prior love and at the same time work towards being that healthy and mature adult in the relationship.

There is a strong tendency when the mind and heart feels that familiar feeling of a prior love to act as you did in that old relationship. By prior love I mean your relationship with a parent, caregiver or old love relationship. The most powerful past relationships are with our parents. Those relationships hold the intensity of emotion since we were children and did not have defense mechanisms to ward off emotional pain.

How to deal with the ghosts:

  • Identify the issue like fear of abandonment, feeling neglected, feeling betrayed
  • Identify the triggers to these issues like when your partner does not call or contact you for awhile, when another person feels more important
  • Talk to your therapist and process (thinking, feeling, talking out) the past, deeper issue
  • Access your “Adult” or mature self to realize what you feel may not be equal to your partner’s intent. In other words if he doesn’t call or answer your text he may later on and it does not mean he will abandon or neglect you.
  • Learn how to be patient with yourself and your relationship. Try not to react if you have strong feelings take a time out, process it and if it does not go away talk to your partner not with blame but with a sharing of how it was for you in the past and how you were wounded so that he can understand your feelings.
  • Try to feel compassion for yourself. There is a tendency to project out onto others what we feel for ourselves so if you are critical or unhappy with yourself you may be unhappy and critical with your partner.


Remember that the “ghosts” in the bedroom are just that—ghosts—they are not real. There may be an aspect or feature of a past hurt in a relationship but you are not that old self or that child and most likely your partner is not completely like that other person. If your partner is like someone in the past who has hurt you then you will need to evaluate with your therapist if the relationships is healthy or unhealthy for you.

As always remember that you are only human. You will have reactions, judgments and you will make mistakes in your relationship. The most important thing is to remain open to analysis and feedback, to take responsibility for your behavior and to process the past wounds.

It may feel difficult at times but it is worth it!  ■

References: CG Jung, “The Psychology of the Transference,” Princeton University Press, 1954

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