The psychological nature of intimate relationships

Back to Blog

The psychological nature of intimate relationships

Author: Marty Ferreira

“Whenever we speak of a “psychological relationship” we presuppose one that is conscious, for there is no such thing as a psychological relationship between two people who are in a state of unconscious.” (C G Jung 1925)

Jung places great emphasis on the mammoth task of becoming conscious. He states:

“….The critical survey of himself and his fate enables a man to recognize his peculiarities. But these insights do not come to him easily; they are gained only through the severest shocks.” (1925)…

He goes on to allude to a model of intimate relationship where one partner is contained by the other :

“It is an almost regular occurrence for a woman to be wholly contained spiritually by her husband and for a husband to be wholly contained emotionally in his wife.  One could describe this as the problem of the ‘contained” and the “container” (Jung, 1925).

“Spiritually” is not used in a theological sense. Rather it suggests “a certain complexity of mind or nature, comparable to a gem with many facets as opposed to the simple cube” (Jung, 1925).

In addition, the container has a tendency towards dissociation and so may appear to be simpler than he/she essentially is.  On the other hand, the contained “….feels himself to be living entirely within the confines of his marriage (relationship); …outside the marriage (relationship) there exist no essential obligations and no binding interests…..The great advantages lies in his own undividedness..” (Jung, 1925).

When a relationship is strong and solid, a couple may feel they can conquer the world.  However the flip side of the coin highlights the shadow side i.e. – the likelihood of discontent.

“The unpleasant side of this otherwise ideal partnership is the disquieting dependence upon a personality that can never be seen in its entirety, and is therefore not altogether credible or dependable (Jung, 1925).

This may result in the contained experiencing feelings of insecurity or have a niggling suspicion that “’s so good, it can’t possibly last”.  He or she believes they have already found completion but question it for the duration of the relationship.

The container on the other hand, has an unconscious drive to belong and be undivided with the contained

“.. with the onset of middle age there awakens in him a more insistent longing and …. undividedness which is especially necessary to him on account of his dissociated nature. He becomes conscious of the fact that he is seeking completion.” (Jung, 1925).

Can one therefore really speak of a “marriage” of two hearts and souls, in other words, true togetherness?   Generally during the initial “rose-coloured spectacle” phase of a relationship, one possibly could as our unconsciousness continues to lull us into complacency and self-deception.  What is evident however is that life interrupts the intimate relationships we forge.

In these instances we are unempathetically reminded that we are compelled to dance to the tune of the conscious piper.  Therefore, as the “contained” we hope for and search for the “container” or  vice versa; – the ideal match – only to discover over time that sadly he or she was in essence, no match for us after all.



Jung, C. G. (1925). Marriage as a Psychological relationship. In The Development of Personality CW 17.


Share this post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to Blog