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Calogeras, R.C. (1985). Early Object-Relations Conflicts in Marital Interaction. Psychoanal. Rev., 72(1):31-53.

(1985). Psychoanalytic Review, 72(1):31-53

Early Object-Relations Conflicts in Marital Interaction

Roy C. Calogeras, Ph.D.

The fact that marital unions in Western societies have become increasingly temporary affairs attests to their intimate role as the heir of early object-relations conflicts (Blanck & Blanck, 1968; Bios, 1972). When we view marriage as a developmental phase (Benedek, 1959; Dicks, 1967), then we are, of course, not surprised by these findings, but intrigued by the prospect of exploring—when the opportunity presents itself — those conditions where supposedly two bound-together-for-life love partners have unaccountably developed deep pathological fears and antagonisms toward each other. Felicitiously it is the analytic situation, itself a “therapeutic marriage,” which now provides us with the mechanism by which the whole spectrum of marital conflicts and intimacies can be played out and understood.

In this paper I will present clinical material pertaining to those conditions where early object-relations conflicts, marital interactions, and dynamics merge. Through analytically exploring the separation-individuation origins of such regressive and need-gratifying marital interactions, I hope to throw light on how the husband (or the wife) has become the heir of the early mother-child conflicts and traumas— a pathological condition now repetitiously relived in the marriage in hopes of mastering it.

Two theoretical issues are important in understanding this merger. First is Freud's hypothesis that every adult neurosis was preceded by an infantile one. In terms of our current knowledge of this connection, we know that not every infantile neurosis is followed by an adult neurosis, nor can every emotional disorder of childhood be characterized, in the pristine sense, as an infantile neurosis. Yet the basis of Freud's supposition is still eminently viable.

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