Clinical Social Work Journal

, Volume 40, Issue 1, pp 46–55 | Cite as

The Tango of Loving Hate: Couple Dynamics in High-Conflict Divorce

  • Ziva Levite
  • Orna Cohen
Original Paper


This article explores the dynamics of couples embroiled in high-conflict divorce through the theoretical prism of British object relations theory. Such couples are often characterized by primitive object relations, and use splitting and projection as a way of “being in the world.” The fear of the ex-spouse’s retaliation is accompanied by fear of their own destructiveness and a desire to make reparation; however, attempts at reparation at this level of relational functioning rarely achieve reconciliation. In fact, such dynamics create a cycle of terror, retaliation, and failed reparation attempts that in turn leads to further terror, splitting and projection, with the resulting outcome often a high-conflict divorce.


High conflict divorce Object relations couple therapy British object relations theories Primitive object relations Splitting Projection Retaliation Reparation 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ramat-HasharonIsrael
  2. 2.School of Social WorkTel-Aviv UniversityTel-AvivIsrael

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