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Koshkarian, H. (2002). The Ways We Love: A Developmental Approach to Treating Couples. Sheila A. Sharpe, Ph.D. New York: Guilford, 2000. 356 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 71(4):838-842.
  

(2002). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 71(4):838-842

The Ways We Love: A Developmental Approach to Treating Couples. Sheila A. Sharpe, Ph.D. New York: Guilford, 2000. 356 pp.

Review by:
Haig Koshkarian

Given that most people in psychotherapy are struggling with their primary love relationship or lack of one, it seems surprising that psychoanalytic theory has paid scant attention to understanding adult love relationships. I am delighted to report that this deficit has been significantly rectified by Sheila Sharpe's book, The Ways We Love: A Developmental Approach to Treating Couples. This book provides us with the first comprehensive theory of the normal development of love relationships and an associated treatment approach. The formidable size and complexity of this endeavor, as well as the book's object relations orientation, is reminiscent of Henry Dicks's seminal contribution to this field. Sharpe acknowledges her indebtedness to Dicks and other object relations theorists (notably Mahler, Sandler, and Kernberg), incorporating and building upon many of their concepts. Because the writing is so clear and devoid of jargon, I consider this book essential reading not only for all clinicians who work with love relationships (whether on an individual or conjoint basis), but to anyone interested in better understanding relationships between couples.

Sharpe's formulation takes into account the multifaceted nature of this challenge by conceptualizing more than one line of development. She identifies seven central patterns of intimate relating, each having its own developmental sequence that interconnects with all the others. These central patterns are organized around the two main poles of relational development—connection and separateness. She defines the major patterns of connection as nurturing, merging, and idealizing, and the major patterns of separateness as devaluing, controlling, competing for superiority, and competing in love triangles.

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