The Lover Archetype: Its Drives and Desires

The Lover in his fullness, the mature Lover, allows you to connect in a healthy way with other people, the planet, and yourself.

Some qualities of the Lover archetype in men:

He lets us enter in to the flow of life, feel our connection with our vitality, and holds an awareness of life and death.

He acknowledges and celebrates connection with others and allows us to feel grief when we lose something we valued, or when we become aware of something we should have had, but which we never felt (e.g. unconditional love from mother or father).

He feels compassion, love and empathy. He softens the energy of the King archetype

The Lover is our primal archetype, the first one to grow after birth, when we seek connection with mother. That connection is about acceptance and love, and represents the natural way for each one of us to be met in the world as a baby: feeling that we are the centre of the world, and mother revolves around us, meeting our every need, and accepting our needs as they are presented.

This is the area of sensual pleasure: of bodily feeling, of the pleasure of food, touch, holding, love.

The primal satisfaction of the mother-baby connection is mirrored in the later pleasure we feel in such sensual pleasures as massage, holding and being held by a lover, sensual pleasures of food and drink, and so on.

This is the archetype that drives our search for love and relationship, i.e. connection, throughout our lives.

If we do not have good connections, or we have experienced major loss, we can carry immense grief.

This archetype seeks pleasure, satisfaction and self-indulgence. At his core, the energy of the Lover is not interested in boundaries. One of the Lover’s drives is to merge with others, to feel at one with them, as for example in the loss of self some people feel at the moment of orgasm.

The Lover Archetype on video

The emotional wound here is “I am not lovable”

Or other forms of that belief such as “There’s something wrong with the way I love” or “I can’t love others” or “I’m not worthy of love.”

Children who experience a lack of connection as a baby or during childhood will always assume that this is their fault, and come to the conclusion “I am not lovable” or “There’s something wrong with the way I love.”

Children seem to reason that if something bad is happening to them, it is because there is something wrong with them. They appear to be incapable of seeing that what is wrong is actually all the fault of the parents. And perhaps this makes sense, because no matter how dysfunctional the parents, the child may still literally be dependent on them for survival. Better, perhaps, to find strategies which deal with the situation as it is, than to blame the parents for what is wrong.

However, the deeper the wound (roughly equivalent to how severe the deprivation of healthy relationship is after birth) the more the wound affects a man’s later behaviour.

The pain of the Lover’s unmet needs for connection seem to be so great that as an adult we will do anything to soothe it or avoid feeling it, no matter how self-destructive: addictions to drink, drugs, sex, and love are the obvious coping strategies, but more subtle ways of being in the world like putting the needs of others first can also be seen as a way to avoid the pain of the loss of connection or as an attempt to get connection.

This is especially true for men who cannot relate to a woman as a mature man, or who lose their sense of their own boundaries around women, or who regress to a child-like state in relationship with a woman.

Since no child’s needs can be met 100% of the time, no matter how good the parenting we had, we are all inevitably wounded in this archetype to a greater or lesser degree.

In response to any emotional wound, a man will put a particular kind of archetypal energy into shadow. In shadow, this energy does not go away. It may “inflate” or “deflate”, causing certain behaviours and causing a person to switch between two polarities of behaviour. When the wounding is around a man’s belief about his ability to love, the energy of the Lover archetype is put into shadow.

Typical qualities of the inflated shadow lover

The guiding principle of the Shadow Lover might be represented as “leisure & self-indulgence today; anything productive tomorrow.”

The feeling of the shadow Lover is often unremitting sadness. The behaviour is that of neediness and always being a victim.

The shadow Lover seeks relief in pleasure to the point of addiction with food, drugs, alcohol, co-dependency, sex & love, and so on.

The shadow Lover may move in relationship from idolization, through some kind of love, eventually to demonization, blame and hate.

The shadow Lover never finds enough connection. His unmet need for connection may never be satisfied, not matter how much he receives.

The shadow Lover may firmly and unconsciously have a true scarcity mentality.

The shadow Lover avoids any pain; pain is bad.

The shadow Lover is the original victim and seeks to keep that story alive by the situations he creates in your life.

The shadow Lover avoids working on his wounds because he believes this will be too painful. Or he approaches them, cries, feels the pain, and then refuses to enter into the centre of the emotional wound and do the work of mourning the loss which would heal the wound.

Typical qualities of the deflated Shadow Lover

The Shadow Lover (or wounded Lover) sabotages you and the world around him.

He may become cold and stoic, and deny his need for connection.

If we do not grow and separate from our connection with Mother and move to identify with the healthy masculine, our shadow Lover archetype will keep us locked into a dynamic with women which reflects our relationship with Mother, the all-powerful one who literally had the power of life and death over us.

The shadow Lover may be more powerful than any other archetype in a man’s psyche and may run his life.

Additional descriptive words for the shadow Lover include: abandoner, dependent, loathing, manipulative, martyr, rescuing, seducer, selfish, shameful, smothering, needy, narcissistic, co-dependent.

The Mature Lover

You know your mature Lover archetype, your Lover in his fullness, is supporting you when you’re connected to other people, to yourself, and to the word around you, with abundance and love. This looks like taking care of yourself first, and then loving the world.

The Shadow Lover

The Lover is the primal archetype, the one which comes into play when we are born, and it is the basis of survival.  (In our species, like all other primates, survival – physically, perhaps, emotionally for certain – depends on bonding with our mother after birth.)

That is why emotional wounding in this archetype can be so powerful. And the consequences of such wounding  can maintain a powerful hold over men and women who have been wounded in this archetype. The shadow Lover grows. Indeed, it takes control, for all it wants is to feel the connection that was not experienced in infancy.

You know your shadow Lover is sabotaging you when all you see is scarcity: scarce love, scarce hope, and poverty thinking which leads to a mentality of “I’m the victim.”

This mentality can bring about a life-long search for healing that may manifest as a constant re-experiencing of the original pain. Tears and grief may be frequent, but the grief never dries up. Or, perhaps, the emotional neediness never lessens, no matter how much love and reassurance is offered. Beneath this lies an unfulfilled desire to connect, to love and be loved.

Some people refer to this re-experiencing of the emotional wound as “Wound Worship” or “Wound Diving”. Yet those are derogatory phrases which do not reflect the pain that lies in Shadow, out of consciousness, but which may be running a man or woman’s life.

Alternatively, emotional abuse, neglect, abandonment, and loss can wound someone in a way which leads to a constant search for self-soothing. The behaviours associated with the need to self-soothe are generally addictive in some way: drugs, alcohol, sex, sugar, caffeine, relationships, porn…. the list goes on. Why? Because the pain of the original abandonment or loss was so great, so unbearable to the infant human, that the wound may sear the soul, and lead to a lifetime of self-soothing behaviour.

So you will know your shadow Lover is sabotaging you when you’re under the control of a sensual addiction like drugs, food, sex, alcohol or love.

And yet there is another way of responding to these wounds: to become a person who does not need. A person who denies any need for human connection, contact or relationship. Perhaps the pain of the original loss (or the pain of what should have been given but was never received) was so great that it is simply too risky to ever trust in relationship again. 

People like this tend to be stoic and deny their needs rather than acting them out. They may get close and then break off a relationship.  Or they may never try to get into relationship, because to re-experience the pain of the original loss would simply be too much.

One way people deal with this is to become super- spiritual. They devote themselves to a lifetime of spiritual pursuits and somehow “by-pass” the pain. Meditation, healing, devotional singing, chanting, cults: all these and more can be the sign of someone seeking to escape their pain.

The possibility of diving into the Lover wound and healing it seems unbearable, impossible even, yet that is what is needed for true healing for these most profound archetypal wounds in the Lover. 

Discover Your Archetypes and Explore the Shadow In You!