Development of Dissatisfaction

Partners' unconscious communication takes place through a process called projective identification. In projective identification, one partner (e.g., the wife) projects onto her husband her repressed objects or aspects of the self. Ideally, her husband is able to identify temporarily with and embody these projections. Through this process, the projection is modified and "detoxified" for the wife, who can then consciously assimilate this new view of herself. As a result, she is better able to distinguish herself from her husband and to love him for who he is and not for what she projects onto him. This process takes place simultaneously for both partners. Thus, through the complementarity of unconscious objects, partners facilitate growth and reintegration in one another. When partners' projective identification is not mutually gratifying and objects are more firmly repressed rather than modified, distress occurs.

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