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Forums / Relationship and family issues / The Madonna Complex

Topic: The Madonna Complex

17 posts, 0 answered
  1. BunnyMuffin
    BunnyMuffin avatar
    20 posts
    15 January 2017

    Hi There,

    This is maybe a bit of an awkward topic but I wonder if any one has any information or experience with the Madonna Complex?

    My ex recently admitted to feeling "dirty" after sex. He sees me as pure and "too good" for sex. But admits looking at other women for sex, but not love. He has not had sex with anyone is 3 years (even after we split up...)

    I am so confused by this all.

    We broke up over 6 months ago because he said he "didn't look at me like that anymore" and had been having "urges".

    Then 2 months ago he came to me crying saying he has only ever been happy with me, that he loves me and it is "just the sex thing" that is stopping him from being with me. He feels like he is throwing away his one chance at happiness. He has started seeing a psychologist about his issues but I haven't been able to find much support or advice for myself about it all.

    I have started having panic attacks and anxiety because of all of this. I am seeing a psychologist myself but I'd like to know if anyone has experienced this time of thing themselves? I believe it is called The Madonna Complex.

    1 person found this helpful
  2. Croix
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    Croix avatar
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    15 January 2017 in reply to BunnyMuffin

    Dear BunnyMuffin~

    Thanks for your post, it's a most puzzling situation and I hope someone here has more answers than I. I do know you will find more about this as the Madonna–whore complex and that even such notables as Elvis are supposed to have suffered from it.

    From what you say there are two problems, your health and well-being, and your ex's. I'm not sure there's much you can do for him, he has his professional help - particularly as you do not say you are back together.

    If you are back together then a measure of understanding can help I guess, you might have to talk to his psychologist to see. From the tiny amount I know I have the idea that the man might think the relationship can continue 'sexless' but the woman becomes hurt, and possibly bitter with a corresponding reduced feeling of self-worth due to constant rejection or lack of advances.

    Your own situation is a much more trodden path, and if you are already undergoing medical assistance you are definitely on the right track. Panic attacks and anxiety are something familiar to me personally. A great frightening burden. Coping techniques, therapy, possibly medication, and support all play their parts.

    Do you have anyone to support you? Parents, siblings, good friends?

    May I suggest you look at The Facts menu on the top of this page for information on Anxiety, causes, symptoms (including panic attacks) and treatments. Also have a browse though the Anxiety section of this Forum, there are very many there who experience similar symptoms and lots of hints on how to cope.

    If you feel overwhelmed you are welcome to ring our 24/7 help line on 1300 22 4636 and have the comfort of talking to an understanding professional voice.

    Please feel free to post as often as you like - you will be met with understanding and warmth.

    My best wishes

    Croix

  3. BunnyMuffin
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    20 posts
    15 January 2017 in reply to Croix

    Thanks Croix for your reply.

    It is a super confusing situation to be in. I feel so low about myself right now and it's not my issue, it's his. I just feel like he is stringing me along, even though I don't think that is his intention.

    I have tried researching the the Madonna–whore complex and most of the information is about the mans point of view and there seems to be little information or research on the affects of the partners of these men.

    Part of me wants to wait and see if therapy can help, part of me wants him out of my life immediately, never to look back. I am angry and hurt by all of this.

    All of his past behaviors now make sense. It is like he was grooming me to become the "Madonna". While he did what he wanted.

    I am seeing my GP tomorrow and have been seeing a psychologist (thought the panic attacks just started and I haven't been able to see either professional since). I'm just sick and tired of feeling like this.

    1 person found this helpful
  4. Quiettall
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    15 January 2017 in reply to BunnyMuffin

    Hi there

    I found your postings very concerning. My first and strongest reaction is to say I read that you are a very caring, intelligent and positive person. It is right that you dont let this problem, which is his, get you down and destroy your confidence. It is ok to be caring for him, but there are many others out there that would give their right arm to be your partner and show you the respect and care you truly deserve.

    1 person found this helpful
  5. Just Sara
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    15 January 2017 in reply to BunnyMuffin

    Hello and welcome BM;

    Your post is hard hitting for me as my last long term relationship was fraught with this very same syndrome. Do I have advice for you? Yes...leave, nurse your emotional wounds, and learn how to promote yourself first!

    Sounds really harsh I know, but I had 3 yrs of rejection resulting in me having panic, anxiety and a type of sexual post trauma effect. I loved him more than any other in my life. He proposed to me and we planned the wedding together. It tore my heart to pieces when we split.

    Madonna/Whore syndrome relates to issues in men who had confusing and attachment/detachment issues with their mums or those who took on this role. In my ex's case, it was his mum, sister and nan.

    Madonna refers to the virgin mother; Mary. She gave birth without sexual contact. This legend is reproduced in men who can't imagine their mothers being intimate with men, not even their fathers. Sex with women who aren't seen this way might be easier, but it's an individual thing.

    It becomes so ingrained, the thought of it scares them to death. When young, their libido's create (unemotional) intent to physically be able to satisfy normal youthful urges, but as yrs pass, the libido lessen's. This means it's more difficult for them to make an effort; their head, body and heart are at odds.

    If you're loved by this person, you'll take on a maternal image within him, especially if you spoil him or treat him as a mother might...his mother.

    Please don't take this on as your fault; it's nothing of the sort. His beliefs and how he acts on them, belong to him alone, not you.

    I'm still friends with my ex, but the thought of being intimate with him had to be pushed out of my mind for this to occur. Basically, I had to stop loving him.

    This isn't easy for me to talk about, but as you seem to be in a similar place, I think it only right I share my experience.

    I totally empathize with you...

    Sara

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  6. Just Sara
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    15 January 2017 in reply to BunnyMuffin

    Hi again BM;

    You posted at the same time I did, so I didn't read your second post.

    You can ask me anything ok? I've been through the gammit of trials, research, therapy and arguments. I've cried a million tears, and blamed myself because he told me about other women he'd had sex with. His behaviour and wishes, ended up as the be-all and end-all of life with him...just like it was with his mother!

    Manipulation, lies, excuses and a lack of empathy for me and what I endured was a daily thing. And the secrets!!? Don't get me started. Ok...I'm taking a breath. Whew..

    If my words are resonating with you, let me know. Ask away...

    Sara (hug)

  7. BunnyMuffin
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    20 posts
    15 January 2017 in reply to Just Sara

    Sara,

    Thank you so much for sharing your experience with me. It is completely heart breaking. I understand when you say it is difficult to talk about.

    We have split up. I think part of my anxiety now is that perhaps I am moving towards making my own decision about this situation and that is to completely leave it all behind. I don't know if I would be able to remain friends with him if I know he is going to be intimate with random women rather than be in a loving, grown up, mature relationship with me. I think that would tear me up inside.

    His Madonna/Whore syndrome (he hasn't been professionally diagnosed with this...it's just a conclusion I have reached from my own research based on what he's told me) steams from his childhood. His parents used to make him watch them have sex. He now sees sex as "dirty". He has commenced counselling with a qualified psychologist.

    In that case, do you think he actually has a madonna/whore complex or is he just damaged from what has happened to him as a child? Is it something that he can recover from?

    Part of me wants to find out, part of me wants to run for the hills.

    1 person found this helpful
  8. BunnyMuffin
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    15 January 2017 in reply to Quiettall

    Thank you Quiettall :)

    It is his problem and I think it is time to walk away. I deserve to be happy. I want to be happy.

  9. Just Sara
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    15 January 2017 in reply to BunnyMuffin

    Hi BM;

    I've spent an hr with a counseling service dealing with the fall out from my post to you. This of course isn't any reflection on you hun, it's just the nature of the beast I'm afraid.

    I was a basket case from my experience with 'ex'. He and I have both changed for the better, and we're getting on with our lives independent of each other. That's the only reason it's working. Mind you we don't see each other very much either; this makes a difference.

    Re your man's childhood, please don't go there ok. HE CAN'T BE FIXED! He may find a way to cope with his thoughts, but basically, he'll be this way forever.

    The thoughts he has about sex are likely to pervade other areas of his decision making processes; there's so much distortion about right and wrong for them. It also creates a type of Jeckal and Hyde duel character. It's like dealing with 2 people instead of 1. There's so much guilt and shame for them to deal with, you'll be confused to a point where you won't know who's right or wrong, and start to blame yourself.

    Of course I'm bias and won't say otherwise. Take my advice or leave it, just consider what I've said carefully. In my opinion, you should leave and never look back. Find love (and respect) somewhere else, preferably after you learn to trust and respect yourself first.

    My best...

    Sara xo

  10. geoff
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    geoff avatar
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    16 January 2017 in reply to BunnyMuffin
    hello BunnyMuffin, nice Avatar, however what I see here is that your ex has an anxiety which could mean that he may have OCD, just the same as people with this illness some people have to keep washing their hands because they feel they are always dirty, so that is his obsession, but you have to remember he is your ex and you broke up for a reason.
    If this is what he does have then life can become very difficult, and the thought of leaving him or you want to walk away from him, to me seems to be a good, idea. Geoff.
  11. BunnyMuffin
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    20 posts
    16 January 2017 in reply to Just Sara
    Sara, I am so sorry my post upset you. I hope you are feeling better today. This is truly a horrific situation, isn't it? xx
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  12. BunnyMuffin
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    20 posts
    16 January 2017

    What confuses me about our whole situation is that he was able to maintain a physical relationship with me for 7 out of our 10 years together. He has never maintained a relationship before. I think I did read somewhere that it can manifest in men once they reach their mid 30's (which he is). He claims he has not slept with anyone else during the course of our relationship or since our break up. I think even if his issue could be fixed, my trust in him has completely eroded.

    Looking back on our relationship I see now he was grooming me to become the Madonna (as I stated before).

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  13. Just Sara
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    16 January 2017 in reply to BunnyMuffin

    Good morning BM;

    Please don't concern yourself with my well being. I'm an old hat at triggers and use them to gauge my beliefs, thoughts and confidence. So be assured, posting was more beneficial to me than you think.

    As I've said, I've been writing with bias due to my own experiences. So I'll try to put to you what led me to split from my relationship in a way that's more detached.

    While concentrating on your partner, especially with sympathy, you give parts of yourself away. Thinking of yourself first, and asking yourself important questions will help determine what you really want and feel...for you..

    We all want the best for our loved ones, but without self acknowledgement, we can get lost among problems like trying to compensate for someone else's sexual dysfunction, and therefore neglect our own needs and desires.

    Is he a good investment for your future? Does he pay dividends or runs at a loss as an investment? Is there balance between you both?

    I asked myself these same questions and realized I'd been ignoring the signs for yrs. We began just like you did, but you also hit on the grooming thing too. I used to say to myself; "It feels like I'm being groomed?"

    Now, that's my story BM. What's yours? Obviously we're different women and they're different men. Similarities aside, is this the man you want to grow old with? Is he willing to push boundaries for you? Not just sexually, but as a supportive partner?

    I wish you well with your decision, which ever way it goes.

    Kind thoughts;

    Sara xo

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  14. BunnyMuffin
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    20 posts
    16 January 2017 in reply to Just Sara

    Hi Sara, I am glad you are OK and know how to look after yourself :)

    Your last response got me thinking. I think I have been looking at my anxiety all wrong. I thought I was feeling anxious about how he sees at me, as a "pure woman" but I think it is my minds way of processing all of this information and moving me towards making a decision of my own. Instead of just sitting here waiting for him to sort himself out, I am actually capable of lifting myself up out of it all. I can just walk away. I think the anxiety steams from me realising that maybe I don't actually want to be in a relationship with him at all. It is still heart breaking because I do love him a lot but he hasn't actually been a very good partner to me throughout our entire relationship.

    My story is this...My ex (let's call him Sam) and I met in London when I was living there on a working holiday visa. We quickly started spending a lot of time together. He moved back to Australia with me once my visa ran out. He now has citizenship.

    The grooming I think commenced immediately. I was young and carefree. I liked to go out and drink and dance with my friends. One day we were at a bar and a friend and i were dancing when "Sam" came over and screamed at me in front of everyone that all the men were looking at me. That I looked like a slut. I felt 2 inches tall. It was incidences like that throughout the course of a relationship that make me think he was grooming me. He hated me having male friends at all. Looking back, i don't know how I put up with it as long as I did.

    Meanwhile, he would go out, have female friends, spend time with them, throughout the course of the relationship. I once found a photo on his phone of him licking a random womans face in a nightclub. When I confronted him about it that same day he was angry at my for sitting outside of a party chatting to two male friends. To this day he still justifies his behaviour as "nothing".

    This is the kind of grooming I am referring to. This is what I think I am trying to process.

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  15. Just Sara
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    17 January 2017 in reply to BunnyMuffin

    Morning BM;

    Thanks for sharing your story with me. It gives me perspective about who you are and what you've been thru...

    Firstly; we're groomed only if we allow it. That power is ours, we just don't normally understand that while it's happening. You've also told of the first time Sam exhibited signs of controlling you; I have a story like that too, not in specifics, but a sign none the less - my man was passively controlling.

    Here's the thing; that was then, ten yrs ago. What have you learned from it? Are you still ignoring those signs or are you so used his behaviour, the normality of it is causing you to question your gut feelings and right to feel equal in the relationship? Has his crying and begging to come back influenced you to reassess your resolve to leave? Because that's about him, not you.

    Being heard and acknowledged by our significant other is a right, not a privilege. This of course goes for Sam as well. Communication is the foundation this is based on. Yes, it takes time to sort out differences and conflict long term, but compromising becomes all too normal when we're confronted by the same screwed up ideals time and again.

    Your anxiety is an indication you're resisting standing up for yourself. It wouldn't be present if you weren't. As I've stated, the questions we need to ask ourselves are more important than figuring out the answers. The 'right' question is all you need.

    Love's complex; compatibility and respect are essential.

    Take care...

    Sara xo

  16. BunnyMuffin
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    20 posts
    19 January 2017

    I've made a decision. I am walking away. I now understand that this issue cannot be "fixed". There is no magic cure, no matter how badly someone wants it.

    I can't live under this cloud. What a horrible complex "syndrome" this is, heart breaking.

    I had my appointment with my psychologist today and I was able to formulate a plan. I am moving back with my parents for awhile. Recovery starts now :) I do deserve better than what is being offered to me right now. Today, I choose happiness.

    Thank you all for your help, particularity you, Sara for sharing your raw and emotional story with me.

    Peace & Love to All :)

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  17. Just Sara
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    19 January 2017 in reply to BunnyMuffin

    I wish you well Bunny;

    I made it and so can you. Don't look back ok.

    Sara xo

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