I receive adult patients in Paris (30, rue du Sergeant Bauchat 75012) and in London (19, Nassau Street W1W 7AF). However, I also hold sessions “en visio” via Skype and Face-time for patients living elsewhere.
I propose individual psychoanalytic work using the two classic arrangements (face to face and divan), but also psychoanalytic work with couples).
Regarding this, here is a text presenting some of the principal ideas I have been able to develop in the course of my experience and my research.
For me, the couple is a historically and socio-culturally determined multidimensional – psychic, sexual-bodily, sociocultural – reality. It is animated by several transferential persons played by each one of the two partners who will thus be able to represent sometimes a mother, father, brother or sister figure in the other person’s unconscious imagination. They will then be invested in an ambivalent mode, objects of love, but also of hate, especially unconscious in nature. These two partners will play multiple roles within this “inter-transferential” dynamic organisation determined by a repetition compulsion of “infantile prototypes,” that is to say, by the repetition and revival of modes of relationships experienced and fantasised during childhood. Inspired by Freud’s ideas about analytic transference, I maintain that couples create and constitute an inter-transferential neurosis ‒ which in many respects repeats certain aspects of the infantile neurosis that each one of its members experienced during his or her childhood ‒ which they then put in common.
Its psychic reality especially consists of an essential affective ambivalence about the love-hate pair of opposites based on the instinctual opposition between Eros, the psychic force of binding, and the destructive or death instinct, force of unbinding, just as it is animated by a plurality of structural conflictualities: between Ego / love object, Ego / couple-object, identity / alterity, narcissism or “individual interests” / objectality or “conjugal interests,” Eros / destructive instincts, male / female, in particular.
I identify three differentiated levels: the “groupal” level, meaning, what is held in common and shared by the two members in order to constitute their couple; the “intersubjective” level, where ambivalence, conflictualities, modalities of object relations, sibling and Oedipus complexes find expression; finally, the intrapsychic-individual level, each one being considered in her or his relationship to the other person and to the couple.
In addition, couples evolve according to an intertwined temporality combining the three dimensions: sociocultural, physical-sexual and psychic. What they are becoming is inevitably marked out by mutating and maturing critical stages, as individual as they are conjugal, determined as much by happy events as by unhappy ones, which will destabilise the conjugal and individual functioning and reactivate the conflictualities. Among these stages, I might mention the beginnings of living together with its difficulties of organising domestic life, the birth of a child or children, the children’s adolescence, but also the aging of the partners and the children’s leaving home.
So, for me, couples, invested in an ambivalent mode, are structurally and dynamically as conflictual as they are critical.
Furthermore, conjugal life is a matter of genuine, comprehensive and differentiated work, couple work (a concept I introduced in my book The Couple: A pluridisciplinary story (2016)) – sociocultural, physical-sexual and psychic in nature –, which is realised by each one of the partners, in the service of the couple's interests, mobilising in particular their creativity. It thus produces a conjugal identity and a conjugal culture, therefore, a common singular reality shared by both its members. However, this couple work inevitably comes into conflict with the individual work accomplished by each one in the service of her or his own interests.
What can then to be said about contemporary couples?
They have become unstable, fragile, polymorphous and demanding. It is harder and harder for them to last, in spite of the joint narcissistic desire for eternity and exclusivity undergirding their initial “conjugal contract”, something attested by a number of sociological and demographic studies since the 1970s.
Three categories of recent major changes can be said to have contributed to producing these contemporary couples, while knowing they have also played a role in producing the said changes within the context of relationships of interdependence and circularity obtaining among all the persons and factors involved (political and juridical authorities, cultural and economic social institutions, social players, in particular).
A first category concerns the changes of a collective, national and international nature relating to the sociocultural, demographic, juridical, political, economic aspects. They are part of the overall context of globalisation and the crisis in western democracies in particular.
A second category concerns the observation of intrapsychic-individual changes and changes in intersubjective ties. Thus, the new individual psychopathological expressions essentially attest to an instability of the relationships between the subject and other persons, something which has obvious implications for the conjugal dynamic.
A final category of changes concerns the metamorphoses of women, which are inducing and participating in those of men, something which is determining the contemporary recompositions of male and female identities, but also transformations in gender relations, which have inevitable repercussions on the new forms of conjugality and their unstable nature.
All these changes contribute to producing in our couples a crisis which is as much an identity crisis as it is an identificatory crisis. Indeed, the traditional model of their parental couple, the primary reference, conflicts with their desire to free themselves from it in order to invent their “conjugal model” responding to strictly individual aspirations while conforming to the new models conveyed by the mass media, whence a contemporary crisis of “conjugal models” which is producing transformations manifesting themselves in the emergence of multiple forms of conjugal life made possible and tolerated by own societies, something unprecedented in history.
Finally, for some years I have observed, a growing number of couples coming to see me about various types of suffering. Indeed, through the mass media informing people of the existence of different sources of help for couples, they are coming to see me at a younger and younger age and earlier and earlier in the life together as a couple, often upon the initiative of the woman. Multiple forms of dissatisfaction are the principal reasons for this: insufficient, conflictual, communication becomes impossible; unsatisfactory sexual life; extra-conjugal relationships; conjugal violence; correlative crisis in the transition from the conjugal couple to the parental couple, from the couple to the family; occurrence of a pathology in one of the members; suffering in one of the children; conflictual relationship in a new couple within a recomposed family, but also in order to undertake “separation work” which will be beneficial for both partners and make it possible to attenuate the inevitable suffering inflicted, not without guilt, on their possible child or children.
These consultations, early or not, attest not only to the failure of couple work, but also to a more pronounced contemporary concern about the quality of conjugal life, as well as demands and expectations for it unprecedented up until now in western history.
For me, psychoanalytic work with couples is an intermediary space-time between their suffering, corresponding to a failure of their couple work, and, on the one hand, the discovery of their conjugal psychic functioning, but also that of each partner, on the other hand, the coming of beneficial changes made possible through the obtaining of the means favorable to realising much more satisfactory couple work, which will have a favorable impact on the two other ‒ physical-sexual and sociocultural ‒ conjugal realities.