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Motz, A. (2015). Female violence and toxic couples. Psychoanal. Psychother., 29(3):228-242.

(2015). Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, 29(3):228-242

Female violence and toxic couples

Anna Motz

The author describes the development and expression of violence by women against their own children and against their partners, within a perverse relationship, or ‘toxic coupling’. Female aggression against intimate partners can be a feature of these relationships, playing a significant role in the perpetuation of destructive interactions. The fact of female violence in such partnerships is often minimised or denied altogether and the male is identified as the perpetrator while the female is configured simply as the victim: the author describes how such a view of women reflects a failure to acknowledge the reality of female agency and perversion. This, in turn, prevents a full understanding of the complex dynamics of violent relationships and effective psychotherapeutic interventions with them, leaving children exposed to such situations at serious risk. This concept rests on the notion that it is not the individual partners that are ‘toxic’ but the relationship itself, with its entrenched destructive dynamics. The ‘toxic couple’ is created by the interaction of two disturbed individual attachment systems in each, revealing the violent impulses and psychic disturbance of the female as well as the male partner. In this paper, the author describes how women, as well as their male partners, can be both perpetrators and victims of extreme cruelty. As with female violence generally, because females are assumed not to be violent, there is a danger that some aspects of toxic partnerships are so taboo as to be unthinkable.

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