This book presents psychoanalytic thinking about the phenomenon of the couple and couple dynamics in internal and external reality and at different levels of organisation: the ‘couple’ in the individual’s internal world, the dynamics between partners in a couple relationship, and the dynamics between the couple and the group. It will interest professionals from different disciplines who find couple dynamics relevant in their work.
The aim of the book was to explore thinking about the couple in different fields of observation and in the interplay between them, and to present different perspectives on couple dynamics. Theories derived from psychoanalytic work with individuals are applied in thinking about couple dynamics. Relevant here are ideas about the ‘internal couple’, the individual’s unconscious phantasies of the parental couple, and the impact of these phantasies on the couple relationship. These ideas draw on Bion’s theory of containment and Klein’s observations about the combined parental figure, the internal parental couple in a loving and creative, or hateful and destructive, intercourse.
The ‘couple’ in the individual’s internal world and the phantasies about the parental relationship ranging from part-object to whole object relations, on the pre-oedipal and oedipal level, are discussed by Otto Kernberg, R. D. Hinshelwood, William Halton and Jenny Sprince, and Richard Morgan-Jones. Ronald Britton’s chapter focuses on problems in sharing psychic space that stem from difficulties in early containment, and Hinshelwood considers the forms of linking by containing, the rigid fixations of roles and functions, and a more fluid containment in the couple.
States of mind in the individual can fluctuate between primitive and more mature ways of relating, and the dynamics in the couple can fluctuate accordingly. The nature of partners’ interaction with each other impacts on their experience of themselves, the other, and their relationship. Kernberg, Balfour, Novakovic, and Hewison focus on the various dimensions of the couple relationship and some common difficulties that couples experience: their love and aggression, problems in sharing physical and mental space, the couple’s experience of having a child, their sexual and emotional intimacy, their joint enactments, and the processes of projective identification in couple relationships.
Vincent, Halton and Sprince, and Morgan-Jones explore the pairing dynamics, twinship, and two- and three-person relating in a group and the group’s experience of the couple. The ideas developed in these chapters derive from observations made in different modalities and fields, ranging from group analysis, psychotherapy group for couples, organisational consultancy, and group relations conferences to social dynamics of pairing in the celebrity cult. The authors, in making links between the group and the couple or the pair, draw on theories about intra-psychic and group dynamics.
These different fields of observation shift the focus between the figure and the ground on micro and macro levels, from the ‘couple’ in the individual and the individuals in the couple to the couple in the group. The contributors to this book bring a range of perspectives deriving from different aspects of theory and from their therapeutic practice, and the insights they provide should stimulate further thought both about the links between the individual self and the couple self in different settings, and how these multiple levels influence and constitute each other.
Editor: Aleksandra Novakovic
Contributors: Andrew Balfour, Ronald Britton, William Halton, David Hewison, R. D. Hinshelwood, Otto Kernberg, Richard Morgan-Jones, Aleksandra Novakovic, Jenny Sprince, David Vincent
Reviews and Endorsements
‘This innovative and important collection of papers connects the organisation of psychic life in infancy, the internal world of the adult couple and the functioning of groups in society through the thread of a Kleinian and post-Kleinian reading of the Oedipus complex. Rich in theoretical exposition and clinical illustration, and written by a stellar cast of contributors, it traces processes that influence whether the path of containment and creativity or fear and fragmentation are chosen in the face of unconscious fantasy and environmental adversity. Complex ideas are presented with clarity, and integrated into a coherent whole. The microcosmic worlds of intra-psychic reality and the macroscopic worlds of social reality are linked through studying the dynamics of couple relationships in ways that inform and challenge those of us working in different professional settings to promote generosity in the dealings between people.’
– Christopher Clulow PhD, Senior Fellow, the Tavistock Centre for Couple Relationships, London
‘Aleksandra Novakovic’s collection of essays by luminaries in the field of couple dynamics is unique. Its breadth of crucial topics begins with intimate issues such as the interaction of couples’ internal worlds and couples’ use of triangular space. It then offers vivid clinical explorations of several developmental couple issues, and concludes by considering the often-overlooked area of couples’ membership in groups and organisations. The book’s multidimensional exploration of couple life and couple therapy ensures that it will remain a vital resource to our field for decades to come.’
– David Scharff, MD, co-founder of the International Psychotherapy Institute, co-editor of Psychoanalytic Couple Therapy, and Chair, the International Psychoanalytical Association’s Working Group on Family and Couple Psychoanalysis
‘This book demonstrates the centrality of the internal couple as an unconscious dynamic in the individual mind, and illustrates its representations in couple, family and group relationships. Oedipal processes, both primitive and more mature, inform how individuals form intimate relationships, how couples struggle to create space between them to manage love and aggression, how parents accommodate the triangulation arising from the birth of a child, and how all of these dynamics exist in groups, organisations and society as a whole. Theoretically sophisticated, clearly written, illustrated with vivid clinical examples, the discussions in the text will stimulate and add to the thinking of all clinicians and consultants working with individuals, couples, families, groups and organisations.’
– Stanley Ruszczynski, psychoanalyst and psychoanalytic couple psychotherapist; Clinical Director, Portman Clinic; Co-editor of Intrusiveness and Intimacy in the Couple and editor of Psychotherapy with Couples