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Kernberg, O.F. (1991). Aggression and Love in the Relationship of the Couple. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 39:45-70.

(1991). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 39:45-70

Aggression and Love in the Relationship of the Couple

Otto F. Kernberg, M.D.


In this paper I examine the interplay of love and aggression in a couple's emotional relationship. I explore the activation of dominant repressed or dissociated object relations with the parental figures, and the unconscious collusion of both partners to enact these past relationships in the present. I then examine the couple's relationship as determined by differences in male and female development, as well as the counterpart of these differences—unconscious moves toward "twinship" and complementarity.

Unresolved oedipal conflicts are explored as a major cause of invasion of the couple's sexual boundaries, and a vehicle for the expression of dissociated aggression from many sources. Perversity—the "recruitment of love at the service of aggression"—as a threat to the basic fabric of a couple's love life is one alternative to the normal channels for elaboration of aggression in their relationship. Protective functions of the couple's interaction with their social network are examined in the context of their elaborating and integrating aggression with love

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