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Kernberg, O.F. (1974). Barriers to Falling and Remaining in Love. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 22:486-511.

(1974). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 22:486-511

Barriers to Falling and Remaining in Love

Otto F. Kernberg, M.D.


I have proposed that two major developmental stages exist that have to be achieved in order to establish the normal capacity for falling and remaining in love: a first stage, in which the early capacity for sensuous stimulation of erogenous zones (particularly oral and skin erotism) is integrated with the later capacity for establishing a total object relation; and a second stage, in which full genital enjoyment incorporates earlier body-surface erotism in the context of a total object relation, including a complementary sexual identification.

I have described a continuum in the capacity for falling in love and remaining in love, illustrating this with case material to highlight the particular preconditions that need to be fulfilled at each stage of development of this capacity. Configurations were described on the continuum, ranging from pathology of the most severe types of narcissistic personality structure, through the moderately

ill narcissistic personality, the borderline personality organization, the neuroses and the less severe types of character pathology, to normality.

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