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Kernberg, O.F. (1993). The Couple's Constructive and Destructive Superego Functions. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 41:653-677.

(1993). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 41:653-677

The Couple's Constructive and Destructive Superego Functions

Otto F. Kernberg, M.D.


Just as the couple becomes the repository of both partners' conscious and unconscious sexual fantasies and desires, and of their consciously and unconsciously activated internalized object relations, so does the couple activate both partners' conscious and unconscious superego functions. The interaction of the partners' superego over time results in the forging of a new system, which I am calling the couple's superego.

The functions of the couple's joint superego structure is described, as are the symptoms of superego pathology in the couple's love life. The vicissitudes of gratitude and guilt, of stereotyping and conventionality, of deceptiveness and long-range destructive and self-destructive scenarios, are explored in the context of a spectrum reflecting the severity of joint superego pathology. A clinical case vignette illustrates some of these developments in a couple's life.

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