THE EXTRAMARITAL AFFAIR: A Psychoanalytic View by Herbert S. Strean


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Or, Freud shall rise again. This psychoanalyst explains the extramarital affair as variations on one shrill note: neurosis derived from early conflicts with parents. It seems that the idea is not sex per se but ""spiting"" the marriage partner, who is--you guessed it--a parental substitute; and to this end Strean will exert any effort to explain why cheaters marry the people they do. He is, in fact, more concerned with dredging up the dirt of the marital affair than with the extramarital affair, which despite its prominence in the title, is really relegated to the status of a symptom here. Calling our old friend Oedipus ""The Royal Road to the Extramarital Affair,"" Strean patiently explains why this patient or that could not have enjoyable sex with the partner sanctioned by banns: it's like--gulp--incest. And you can tell a lot about a person's stage of fixation by pigeonholing the marital difficulties: power struggles harken back to that frightful ""anal period""; dependence and possessiveness signal an incompleted oral stage; sadomasochistic marriage partners have never been able to figure out how to separate guilt and anger, another hallmark of the anal conflict. Just what use the average reader is supposed to make of this psychoanalyzing fodder is not clear: explaining the ""psychodynamics"" of why some people hop into bed while they are married to another is a far cry from helping someone out of a potentially destructive situation--and Strean is adamant about its potential destructiveness. Mostly for those who want to brush up their Freud.

Pub Date: June 10th, 1980
Publisher: Free Press/Macmillan