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Blechner, M.J. (2006). Love, Sex, Romance, and Psychoanalytic Goals. Psychoanal. Dial., 16(6):779-791.

(2006). Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 16(6):779-791

Love, Sex, Romance, and Psychoanalytic Goals

Mark J. Blechner, Ph.D.

There are many ways for people to have meaningful relationships and satisfying lives, which may differ from the implicit Freudian psychoanalytic ideal of the couple that sustains love, intimacy, romance, and genital sexual passion throughout life. An alternative is proposed, based on the work of Harry Stack Sullivan, which examines the ability of the person to find love, sexual satisfaction, security, and happiness in a combination and arrangement that feels satisfying and that allows for interpersonal intimacy without coercing or harming another person. Good clinical work also considers what John Money called the “lovemap,” a cluster of relational and sexual patterning for the individual that can be relatively enduring throughout the lifespan.

Psychoanalysis has a mixed history when it comes to love, sex, and romance. On one hand, Freud opened up the discussion of the varieties of sexual experience, especially in the Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905), and blurred the distinction between what was considered pathological and normal. Yet psychoanalysts, in line with many psychological and medical scientists in the 20th century, also indulged in much judgmentalism and prejudice and helped reify terms like perversion that closed off inquiry and discovery and caused more harm than enlightenment.

Such terms also led many theorists to exclude from the notion of mature love any sexual expressions that were seen as pathological. If mature love requires genitality (a theoretical premise, not an empirical fact) and mature genitality requires, among other things, penis-in-vagina intercourse, then by definition gays and lesbians are excluded from mature love.

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