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According to Freudian psychology, this complex often develops when the sufferer is raised by a cold and distant mother. Such a man will often court someone with qualities of his mother, hoping to fulfill a need for intimacy unmet in childhood. Often, the wife begins to be seen as mother to the husband—a "Madonna" figure—and thus not a possible object of sexual attraction. For this reason, in the mind of the sufferer, love and sex cannot be mixed, and the man is reluctant to have sexual relations with his wife, for that, he thinks subconsciously, would be incest. He will reserve sexuality for "bad" or "dirty" women, and will not develop "normal" feelings of love in these sexual relationships. This introduces a dilemma where a man may feel unable to love any woman who can satisfy him sexually and is unable to be sexually satisfied by any woman whom he can love.
- Freud, Sigmund, The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume XI: A Special Type of Choice of Object Made by Men, pp. 165–175; On the Universal Tendency of Debasement in the Sphere of Love, pp. 179–190, The Hogarth Press, London, 1957, 1981
- John A. Speyrer. The Madonna/Whore Complex: A Primal Theory Interpretation, The Primal Psychotherapy Page