“Rebecca” is a novel publish in 1938, written by Daphne du Maurier and later adapted to the big screen by the great Alfred Hitchcock. Last year on my birthday day, 21 of October, Netflix starred the new remake of this movie with Lily James (Mrs. de Winter) and Armie hammer (Maxim de Winter) as protagonists.
Although this book and later movie originated Rebecca’s syndrome in psychology to describe people who have pathological jealousy from ex-companions of their partners. I must refer that this situation is recurrent in relationships where the man is a widow or divorced, as portrait in the movie.
However, particular aspects should be analyzed before we jump into the apparent jealously behavior from the new wife, Mrs. de Winter.
We have to understand what is The Phantom Ex syndrome. How much should we share with a new partner about past relationships? What are the fundamental principles of a healthy relationship, and how much should external people interfere, compare and give an opinion about our new relationship?
Do you know the story of Alice in Wonderland? Like John Gotten describe in his book “Eight Dates, Essential conversations for a lifetime of Love”, Alice had no idea of what would be the journey to the wonderland, but she did it anyway with her’s two feet. She jumped into the rabbit’s hole knowing, that it would be amazing and transformational despite difficulties. Alice was committed to the journey no matter what.
Now let’s bring commitment and think, what commitment is in a relationship? Is it thinking about someone in the past neglecting and comparing to the new person? Is it constantly having conversations about past issues and let them get in the way, not allowing individualization? Is it let someone else outside the relationship interfere and give opinions?
According to Gottman (2019), true commitment means
that you create a wall around you and your partner with an open window between you. This wall around the two of you separates you from others in terms of your deepest emotional and physical connections (…) Also, if we’re committed, we have given this person everything we have to offer. There’s nothing left over for another lover. That’s a risky decision, but it’s essential. Without this level of commitment, love will not last. (pp.40, 41)
In fact, despite Maxim de Winter’s initial enthusiasm when he first met his new wife. This man had in his mind what we call in psychology “The Phantom Ex syndrome” (recurrent in individuals with dismissive avoidant or fearful-avoidant attachment style), which is when an ex becomes larger than anything and the new partner is never enough to surpass those figurative qualities. Rebbeca’s ghost haunting Winter’s mind, and the mansion is the representation of what I describe above.
Without forgetting that the housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers, starred by Kristin Scott Thomas, is the poison voice building insecurities inside Mrs. de Winter talking nonstop about Rebecca and her qualities.
Healthy relationships are based on real commitment. Healthy couples don’t think they can do better or that their ideal partner is still out there waiting for them. They are committed to one another and don’t have one foot out the door.
We can now conclude that although pathological jealously exists, in the movie “Rebecca”, the young woman Mrs. de Winter invested all her eggs in the same basket as Alice did in Wonderland’s journey. And like someone emotionally healthy should do in their relationships. Her insecurities and what’s so-called pathological jealously is the fruit of her’s husband constant doubts and lack of visible boundaries to protect their relationship from external interferences and his past.
These are my final thoughts. Before we start a relationship with someone else, we have to use the dating phase to discover and see if the other person is a good match. Despite the initial lust and infatuation hormonal cocktail screaming for sex, let your vagina or penis out of the equation. Instead, ask deep questions. And forget superficiality. Forget that stupid thing that you should be in your feminine energy. That’s BS. You should be in your sovereignty and lean in completely in the process of discovering the other person. That’s why we have the first stage in a relationship called “the dating stage”.
Another thing to understand is that emotionally healthy men are thirsty for knowledge. Unavailable or emotionally “broken” men are thirsty for validation and instant connection. Can you see the difference? The same rule applies to women.
Finally, be very careful with dating apps because they are the realm of “the grass is greener” syndrome and the favorite place for people who are never satisfied with their choices. Also when you can watch “Rebecca” movie and take your conclusions.
I hope this resonates with you and take good care of yourself.
Gottman, J., Gottman, S., J. (2019). Eight Dates: Essential conversations for a lifetime of Love. Workman Publishing. New York.