Courtney Cox & David Arquette: Husband & wife or mother & son?

I saw an interview where David Arquette said that Courtney announced to him one day that she didn’t want to be his mother anymore.  Very telling of the dynamics of their relationship and a big reason why it eventually stopped working.  Seems Courtney got tired of feeding and burping him.  As well she should.

It’s easy, with this dynamic, to think that David is the problem—that if only he would grow up, things would be fine.  But David is only half the problem; Courtney is the other half.   Relationships, after all, are a two-way street—a 50/50 system created by both partners. If Courtney was the mom, and he was the kid, they were both getting something out of those roles.

What might she have gotten? David described himself as the “live-wire” and Courtney as his grounding force.  It could be that this “live-wire” part of him was just what Courtney needed. His bouncing off walls and acting the fool might have been a way for her to vicariously experience an undeveloped aspect of herself—a part that needed to play, to not be overly responsible, to just throw up her hands, let down her hair and let it all hang out.  Not to the destructive point that David did it; nevertheless, with David’s outrageous behavior, she could live the fun part of herself that perhaps had been suppressed.

Another benefit: being the mom means that Courtney would ultimately be in control—in a position of power.  For whatever reason (some kind of pain in her past) being vulnerable was highly threatening to her, so she chose the mother role, the control position, to protect herself. Problem is, while it did offer protection, it didn’t bring her the kind of satisfaction that an equal partnership would bring.

For David, there really isn’t much long-term satisfaction in being the perennial kid.  In this role, he is the underdog—the one always looking up—always falling short of his projection of her, ie, who he made her out to be.  His pain, like hers, started long ago—a terrible, abusive childhood where he couldn’t be himself.  Instead of facing and moving through that pain, he chose to anesthetize himself with drugs and booze.

Courtney finally had enough. Good for her…and good for him too.  Now the status quo is shattered and they can face the insecurities and fears that allowed them to assume the roles that worked for a while, but were no longer satisfying.  It will take a lot of inner work, but they seem ready to undertake what’s necessary to reach a higher level of living.

These two are friends. They love each other—there’s no mistaking that, which is an amazingly wonderful thing.  Whether or not they stay together as husband and wife almost doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.  What matters is that they continue their individual journeys of self discovery that will lead them to a happier, more fulfilling life, with or without each other.  Listening to David, who had Courtney’s support to do this interview, he is motivated, even excited, to do just that, and it seems she is too.  After all, she took the step that got the ball rolling.  It’s obvious that these are two good people who like all of us have come up against their limitations and are now pushing through them.  Unlike us, though, they have to do it in the public eye.  I congratulate them for their courage, and wish them well.

Check out my book, The Affair: From Breakdown to Breakthrough, A Therapist’s Real-life Journey, for great tips and insights about infidelity, and how to improve your relationships. You can read a synopsis of the book on my website, and buy it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

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