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Ullman, C. (2016). Loved to Death: A review of Cupid's Knife: Women's Anger and Agency in Violent Relationships by Abby Stein. New York, NY: Routledge, 2014. 186 pp.. Contemp. Psychoanal., 52(1):158-166.

(2016). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 52(1):158-166

Loved to Death: A review of Cupid's Knife: Women's Anger and Agency in Violent Relationships by Abby Stein. New York, NY: Routledge, 2014. 186 pp.

Chana Ullman, Ph.D.

In Cupid's Knife, Abby Stein tells of Ileana, who described every single one of her relationships with the cliché: “I loved them (or they loved me) to death.” Ileana repeated this at least 11 times during her interview, apparently oblivious to the powerful epitome of her near death at the hands of her abusive husband and of losing a baby during her

pregnancy as a result of his beating. It is this combination of apparent naïveté, belle indifference, dissociation, and the paradox of seeking and insisting on love in the embrace of threatening abusive partners that is the topic of this important book. Stein is out to document and explore the enslavement of abused women by their passivity, by the dissociation of anger and contempt, and by romanticizing what needs to be abhorred. This is a study of an invisible world of attachment, humiliation, love, power, and sundered identity, where agency and vitality are squashed by the concealable blade of a “cupid's knife.” Exploring traumatic bonding, mechanisms of splitting, dissociation, and the refusal to see hear or feel internal and external obstacles to personal freedom, Stein illuminates the paradox familiar to all of those coming in contact with women in violent relationships—Why do they stay? Why do they fail to distinguish love and death?

In her complex and nuanced discussions of the various contexts in which women in violent relationships surrender their agency, Stein is practicing “psychoanalysis with culture in mind” (Dimen, 2011).

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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