Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be in couples therapy? Can you picture working on issues with your partner in a room with other couples? Do you wonder why people even go to couples therapy and whether it works?
Author Laurie Abraham wondered the same thing and spent a year as an observer in one of psychologist, Dr. Judith Coche’s couple groups. Her book, The Husband and Wives Club: A Year in the Life of a Couples Therapy Group answers these questions and many more.
The couples group she observed consisted of five couples who met one weekend a month for a year for one or two six hour sessions. Becoming somewhat of a participant observer who was accepted by the couples as a “married”observer, Abraham unfolds the life of the group and the members with the pace of fiction. She wonders, as couples deal with issues of control, miscarriage, job loss, communication and sexual difficulties- “Can these marriages be saved?”
What is both interesting and informative is that Abraham underscores the couples’ group process with her own personal “off-stage” reactions to the leader and the members, often disclosing the relevancy of the topic or exchange to her own marriage. With clarity and careful analysis, she further expands the perspective with thought provoking references to couple theory and research.
I had the opportunity to interview Laurie Abraham about her experience in the “The Husband and Wives Club.” What begins here and continues in the next two blogs are her insider impressions….
From your experience with this group, what makes a couple seek help?
Sometimes it is a crisis. In one case, the trigger was coping with an addicted son. I would say that more often it is that the alienation grows on you. There is a sense of loneliness. Partners become ragged by the same arguments over and over again. It is as if the neurobiology can’t take it anymore and with that comes the recognition – “I can’t live like this.”
Is there really a value to being in a group with other couples?
Although from the start I had my doubts, I came to see that is was useful to sit in a room with four other couples united in the desire to make time to make their relationships as good as they could be. In a very real way, couples saw how pain looks when it gets played out in front of them. They had to wonder about themselves as they saw how other people got stuck. I think in the case of one young couple it motivated them to change – “If that is where we are heading, we don’t want to go there!”
We will continue this interview in the next blog. One question we will ask is whether Couples Therapy can make things worse….