Oedipus Wrecks: Infidelity as Manic Defense

Oedipus Wrecks: Infidelity as Manic Defense

Shelley Nathans, Ph.D

The paths leading to infidelity in a couple’s relationship are manifold and diverse; there is no singular cause, no simple, linear route. Using a contemporary Kleinian framework and a case example, Shelley Nathans, Ph.D. will present her paper “Infidelity as Manic Defense”, in which she describes some of the important theoretical issues relevant to understanding affairs. The focus of this paper is on the problems that one or both of the partners in a couple may have with mourning past or impending loss, and the consequent infidelity that may result from a manic attempt to replace depression or psychic pain with excitement. A developmental orientation will be used to delineate a range of psychological dilemmas that contribute to infidelity, including claustrophobic anxieties, difficulties with mourning past or impending loss, Oedipal problems and separation issues. Dr. Nathans will discuss the challenges of working with couples struggling with the impact of an affair on their relationship and she will describe some of the complex technical issues in such cases.


1. Participants will be able to describe the concept of manic defense.
2. Participants will be able to list three challenges for couple therapists when working with couples struggling with infidelity.
3. Participants will be able to apply the concept of triangular space to couple dynamics in terms of the capacity for observation, reflection, thinking, flexibility, and creativity.
4. Participants will be able to describe how difficulties with mourning may negatively impact individual and couple psychological functioning.
5. Participants will be able to describe the relationship between un-mourned loss and manic defense.
6. Participants will develop the clinical skills of assessing the role of un-mourned loss when treating individuals and couples presenting with infidelity.

CLASS DATE AND TIME: Saturday February 25th, 2023, 9:00am – 4:20 pm

LOCATION: Tustin Library Multi Purpose Room, 345 E. Main Street Tustin, 92780  & on ZOOM


Shelley Nathans, Ph.D. is on the faculties of The California Pacific Medical Center, The Psychoanalytic Couple Psychotherapy Group, the Psychoanalytic Institute of Northern California. She is the director and producer of the film, Robert Wallerstein: 65 Years at the Center of Psychoanalysis. She is on the international advisory board of the journal, Couple and Family Psychoanalysis and is past President of the Board for the Psychoanalytic Couple Psychotherapy Group.  Her publications include “Oedipus for Everyone: Revitalizing the Model for LBGTQ Couples and Single Parent Families” (Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 2021); “45 Years” ( fort da, 2018); “Whose Disgust is it Anyway?: Projection and Projective Identification in the Couple Relationship, (Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 2016); and Infidelity as Manic Defence (Couple and Family Psychoanalysis, 2015).  She is co-editor (with Milton Schaefer) of Couples on the Couch: Psychoanalytic Couple Psychotherapy and the Tavistock Model(Routledge, 2017) and the editor of the forthcoming book More About Couples on the Couch: Approaching Psychoanalytic Couple Psychotherapy from an Expanded Perspective (in press, Routledge October 2022).  She is in private practice in both San Francisco and Oakland, California.

  •  February 25, 2023 - February 25, 2025
     9:00 am - 4:20 pm
Details Price Qty
Early Bird Registration $200.00 (USD)   Expired
Registration $220.00 (USD)   Expired
Late Registration $240.00 (USD)   Expired
NPI Member registration $220.00 (USD)   Expired
Post Event recording only (no CEs) $120.00 (USD)   Expired