The wise teacher leads you to the threshold of your own mind (Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet)

Emotional Intimacy, Unrequited Love & Mireille

One year in university, between classes, I sometimes hooked up with a certain Calabrian girl who had married young. It seemed that our conversations always managed to find a route back to the issue of emotional intimacy, or the lack thereof in many male–female relationships. In particular, we questioned the role that one's bond with his/her parents plays in determining the level of intimacy that a person is capable of reciprocating. We hypothesized on all the permutations: father/son, father/daughter, mother/son, mother/daughter, and we speculated on how those bonds (or lack thereof) can affect the behavior of the child as an adult. It seemed to us that most of the people we considered incapable of being emotionally intimate had some sort of abandonment issue with at least one of their parents. Interestingly, we classified those kinds of relationships into three main categories that involved some sort of codependency:

  • One party was emotionally distant and the other person passively put up with it. In some cases the relationship lasted a surprisingly long time whereas in other cases it inevitably ended. Of course, if it did last, we then had to consider if the submissive person was sticking it out due to a need to try and 'change the distant partner'; and if so, was his/her self–esteem linked to the outcome?
  • Both individuals were emotionally distant. In this case, we concluded that the couple could only remain together if one person's so–called (for lack of a better word) 'dysfunction' could feed the other person's codependency.
  • Both people were initially attracted to one another but the emotionally distant one quickly noticed that his/her partner was drawing out extremely uncomfortable feelings that he/she spent a lifetime running away from. Hence, this individual became emotionally unavailable and the pursuing partner would either leave or else suffer the painful pangs of unrequited love. On this point, the Philip Carey character in Somerset Maugham's famous novel Of Human Bondage came to mind, as did the principal character in the famous George Jones' song He stopped Loving Her Today.

Ours was purely an academic, armchair analysis, but it did prompt us to explore the psychological literature of that era. Three of the books that we spent an inordinate amount of time dissecting were the earlier editions of: (i) The Intimacy Struggle, (ii) It Will Never Happen to Me, and (iii) Women Who Love Too Much. Several themes emerged from those talks that I would revisit as I got older; and some time later I ended up writing a song that eventually gave rise to the Mireille character (Nicky's love interest) in my novel In the Twilight of the Moon (click here for an excerpt that details the awkward beginning of the relationship between Nicky and Mireille). Twenty two years have passed since then but I believe the thought behind the words are every bit as valid today. Times may change but the dynamics of human behavior seem to remain the same. Here are the lyrics:

Mona Lisa, Go Away

Copyright © 1991 by Dominic Spano

He had named her Mona Lisa,
Said her smile could steal the day;
And for three years he was papa,
He'd read stories, kneel and pray.

Her emerald eyes and hair of gold
Were the highlight of his day;
But before her time, he grew too old
And to cope, he ran away.

The void took hold in both her eyes
And she prayed for his return
She bravely donned a thin disguise,
But her heart forever yearned.

The years flew by, she'd laugh and cry,
And a beauty she became;
But a painful memory that could not die,
Was seeking victims for her blame.

So she cruised the barroom scene each night
Searching for her self–esteem,
In every papa who could not requite,
But would reject and not redeem.

Too close, she feared, meant he won't stay
And Mona's mask was nonchalant.
There was a debt still left to pay
Called 'I can't give you what you want'.

By mid–life she was all alone
Though suitors came galore;
Her life had reaped what he had sown
And she chased it more and more.

He had named her Mona Lisa
But her smile kept me at bay;
'Cause 'I love you Mona Lisa'
Means 'Mona Lisa, go away'.

Note: In the Twilight of the Moon is currently available at Amazon.