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Colman, W. (2014). The Intolerable Other: The Difficulty of Becoming a Couple. Cpl. Fam. Psychoanal., 4(1):22-41.

(2014). Couple and Family Psychoanalysis, 4(1):22-41

The Intolerable Other: The Difficulty of Becoming a Couple

Warren Colman

This paper describes an antipathy to relating due to the difficulty of relating to an other who is different from ourselves and does not conform to our wishes. While this is an inherent tension in all couple relationships, it can become an entrenched pattern in couples who seek omnipotent perfection in themselves and others as an attempt to avoid the pain of loss and disappointment, especially where loss is felt to be equivalent to abandonment. Drawing on James Fisher's work on narcissism, I describe the lack of curiosity and rigid maintenance of illusions that characterise the narcissistic attitude and give an extended clinical example of a couple who were desperate to stay together despite frequently being unable to tolerate each other.

The paper includes an Afterword written for the paper's republication which acknowledges the inspiration of James Fisher, and reconceptualises some of the theoretical assumptions in terms of the work of Beebe and colleagues on co-constructed dyadic systems (Beebe & Lachmann, 2002, 2003; Beebe & Stern, 1977).

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