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Ekstein, R. (1977). Normality and Pathology in Marriage. Mod. Psychoanal., 2(1):35-42.

(1977). Modern Psychoanalysis, 2(1):35-42

Normality and Pathology in Marriage

Rudolf Ekstein

Ideal Marriage

To say that there is a psychoanalytic view of marriage suggests that psychoanalysts have a specific opinion on the nature of marriage. Marriage is not a new institution, but the form it takes has constantly changed. Nevertheless, in any age, regardless of how revolutionary, people long for an ideal marriage.

That ideal is contained in the story of Philemon and Baucis. Ancient Greece was full of unrest and no one wanted to take in strangers, so when the gods Zeus and Hermes disguised themselves as travelers they had trouble finding lodging for the night. Even if people had known who they were, they might have been unwelcome; because the gods of antiquity were jealous, they instigated wars, struggled for power, undermined marriages, traded wives, and had love affairs. But these gods in disguise were finally given shelter by an impoverished elderly couple, Philemon and Baucis. In the morning when the gods departed, they revealed their identities and said that in return for the lodging they would fulfill whatever wish these two old people had. Philemon and Baucis had a short marital conference and answered, “If you please, see to it that we die at the same moment so that neither one of us will be left alone. That's all we want.” At that moment the gods turned them into two giant trees, so that they would grow forever, their leaves forever whispering to each other.

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