April 29, 2018

Falling In Love and Taking It Personally: Couple Relationships in the 21st Century

Center for Psychotherapy & Psychoanalysis of New Jersey
April 29 8:15 am – 3:30 pm
Lenfell Hall, Fairleigh Dickenson University, Madison, NJ

Registration: 8:15am – 8:45 / Program begins: 8:45 -3:30pm


Intimate and reciprocal love between adults – in marriage and committed partnerships – is in many ways more problematic and unhappy now than anyone thought it would be after decades of struggle for gender equality and sexual freedom. Marriage has moved from being a vow of impersonal loyalty (“in sickness and in health, until death do us part” for the sake of the family and property) to a vow of personal desire (“as long as this meets my needs”). In fact, partners now feel almost obliged to break up if their image and values are no longer reflected in the other person: “How can I be with someone like this?”

Commitments based on desire, equality and reciprocity are destabilizing because they require on-going negotiations of conflicts and needs. We may all feel more secure in a hierarchy in which one or the other person makes the decisions. But we no longer want hierarchy in our personal lives. We want to be equals and to be respected. We want to be witnessed and held in mind, to be found desirable and cared for.

This presentation will introduce you to personal love and its first stage of development when a partner becomes the “intimate enemy” as disillusionment gets trapped in toxic unconscious communication. Effective couple psychotherapy must then address the problem of chronic projective identification and the necessity of creating a differentiated space in which each partner feels confident and free to be respected and autonomous, even in the midst of emotional security. As an intimate enemy becomes an intimate friend, personal love becomes true love.


In the afternoon, Dr. Young-Eisendrath will turn her attention to Dialogue Therapy, a form of couples therapy developed in the 1990’s with her late husband, Dr. Ed Epstein. Dialogue Therapy is a program of just six therapeutic sessions that extend over a year’s time in which a couple is evaluated and then showed how to relate in conflict without entering into active or passive aggression. Dialogue Therapy addresses more than “communication problems,” however. Combining psychoanalytic methods and theory, with aspects of psychodrama and mindfulness, Dialogue Therapy addresses the fact that, in times of confusion and conflict, partners tend to perceive each other as an “intimate enemy” with the consequence of casting the relationship into a chronic pattern of “victim” and “victimizer” that has to be broken open before communication problems can be solved.

Learning objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, you will be able to:

  • Define “personal love” and describe how it differs from an attachment bond, romance, and traditional contractual marriage
  • Describe the movement from personal love to true love in which both partners experience themselves as able to witness and to be witnessed, to accept limitations and flaws in self and other, and to remain interested in each other over time
  • Define “projective identification” and apply the definition to helping couples create a “mindful space” for dialogue

Target Audience: Suitable for Psychologists, Social Workers, Licensed Professional Counselors, Psychiatrists, Advanced Practice Nurses, Graduate Students, Marriage and Family Therapists.

Level of Program Sophistication: Intermediate – some prior knowledge is required

Contact: Cathy Van Voorhees
Center for Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis of NJ