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Stein, M.H. (1956). The Marriage Bond. Psychoanal Q., 25:238-259.

(1956). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 25:238-259

The Marriage Bond

Martin H. Stein, M.D.


Marriage has many special unconscious meanings to the individual. These meanings are distinct from the significance of adult heterosexual relationships in general.

Because of its ceremonial and legal character, the marriage bond is readily represented in special instances by fantasies of anatomical attachment. These primitive fantasies serve as defenses against fear of separation and annihilation. The evidence presented here does not, however, demonstrate that the fantasies constitute the historical source of the social institution of marriage. This is a question for anthropological research.

One common fantasy is 'My wife is my phallus', which is demonstrated clinically in a group of men who maintained sadomasochistic marriages with surprising tenacity, and among

whom the fantasy represents a modification of their original narcissism and a partial approach to object relations.

The fantasy is highly overdetermined, drawing elements from all libidinal phases. The predominantly oral factors are presented but a more complete report would include many anal, urethral, and phallic determinants. The Oedipal phase is of crucial importance in the fantasy. The importance of love for the father has here been only implied. It is often of importance as an intermediate factor.

The fantasy 'My wife is my phallus' is of clinical importance as one of a group of unconscious fantasies representing the unconscious meaning of marriage to the individual. Thorough understanding of such fantasies is a prerequisite for the analytic solution of neurotic problems in married people.

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