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When the Couple is Not Enough, or When the Couple is Too Much: Exploring the Meaning and Management of Open Relationships

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Given the existence of open and polyamorous relationships within society, this paper is concerned with challenging the predominant valorisation of the closed monogamous couple relationship that is so much at the heart of couple psychoanalytic theory and practice. It offers a critique of the diverse range of relationship structures and formats as well as the particular issues that can arise within open and closed relationships. The paper examines aspects of psychoanalytic couple theory with regard to a gay male couple grappling with issues pertaining to their open relationship and questions the extent to which therapists' reliance on heteronormative assumptions embodied within the theory assists such couples. Indeed, assumptions underpinning the theory itself may encompass a view that non-normative coupling, by its very nature, is pathological. The author maintains that people within open and poly relationships who present for therapy have a paramount need to meet with an understanding, accepting, and openminded therapist capable of embracing specific challenges about which these couples seek help. At the same time, some of the more destructive aspects of the internal workings of both closed and open couple relationships are questioned and examined.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 March 2017

More about this publication?
  • Couple and Family Psychoanalysis Journal is a new international journal sponsored by the Bristish Society of Couple Psychotherapists and Counsellors, the Professional Association of the Tavistock Centre for Couple Relationships and aims to promote the theory and practice of working with couple and family relationships from a psychoanalytic perspective. It seeks to provide a forum for disseminating current ideas and research and for developing clinical practice.
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