We follow Part 1 and Part 2 of our interview with Laurie Abraham, author of The Husband and Wives Club: A Year in the Life of a Couples Therapy Group with this final segment. We learn that after the group ended, Laurie had the opportunity to visit the couples in their homes to find out if and how “The Husband and Wives Club” made a difference in their marriages.
Did you see any changes in the couples in the group over the course of their year together?
I thought they got better at using fewer words and more direct heartfelt expressions in touching and connecting with words. Their emotional demeanor changed. I think they observed this in other couples as well as with each other. People know the difference. I saw this kind of change in three of the five couples.
You said that the leader, Dr. Judith Coche, fostered hope – how did she do this?
Judith never failed to point out the small hiccups of progress, the ones people miss. She invited them to consider the big picture of their lives – what else did they want together?
She complimented them as people and as a group. Often she confronted them but respected the time they might need to hold on to their old selves. Sometimes she was surprised at a solution that a couple had come up with but if it made them happy – she supported it. One member who was particularly resistant through much of the group made dramatic changes. When I asked her how it had happened she said,
“Judith always said that changing actually doesn’t take a lot of time. It’s getting to the point where you’re ready to change that takes time.”
Laurie, you quote a writer as saying, “Couple therapy: Is there a phrase in the English language that lands with such a thud?” Do you think this process actually helped these couples?
I did not go in believing that this could work. I was more impressed than I expected to be. I would say that all the marriages improved – some in unexpected ways. Overall there was more acceptance of each other and more good times together. A number of the members said “I don’t know if I would still be married.”
So after spending a year with the “Husband and Wives Club” – Are you left with any lasting impressions that you could pass on?
Too often people don’t go public with their pain until it is too late. They hide the ordinary misery, the seeming impossibility of making good on their intentions to feel love and return it. These were people in relationships like all of us and they were brave enough to get help – to let their marriages matter.