Archives for June, 2010
Facing a Cancer Diagnosis as a Couple “I heard the word malignancy but I couldn’t take it in. I didn’t cry until I told Jack.” “I could tell from her eyes that she was trying to be strong for me. I think I was trying to be strong for her.” A traumatic event is defined as one that is life threatening, unimaginable and unexpected. It is an event that can assault your body, your spirit and your life as you know it. For a couple, a medical diagnosis of cancer is a traumatic event for both partners - the one diagnosed and the one standing by their side.
A day before the announcement of the i-phone 4G, a New York Times article addressed the mental price of our involvement with technology. It reported that scientists are finding that the high use of technology -- e-mails, cell phones, i-pads, text messages, i-messages, blogs, tweets, internet alerts, facebook etc. bombard us with such an instant stream of information that they make us hyper-alert to new bits of information but less able to sustain focus on the task at hand. It suggests that technology can change how people think and behave. What about the impact of technology on relationships? Does the technology that matched you with your spouse, now keep you apart? Are you able to “be in the moment” with your partner without checking an e-mail or answering a call? Are text messages from your partner a welcomed hint of intimacy or a dreaded source of stress? Dr. Kimberly Young in her research on the addictive nature of online technology suggests that technology, like food, is an essential part of daily life – but necessitates moderation and controlled use.
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?
In the last blog (Part 1) we began our interview with Laurie Abraham, author of The Husband and Wives Club: A Year in the Life of a Couples Therapy Group. Here we continue and ask Laurie about the group leader, what really happens in the group, gender differences, and whether couples therapy can actually make things worse. Can you tell me a little bit about Dr. Coche and how the group felt about her? She was a very experienced and active leader. I think the couples respected her. They did not always agree with her. She came across as a tough maternal figure. I think what mattered most was that they felt she was the expert. Was there actually a process between the couples themselves or mainly between the leader and each of the couples? Well, she would set the stage by asking something like “What do you want to take away today?” In the course of the group, she would often work with a certain couple and ask for input from other members. In addition, over the course of the year, the couples did jump in on their own to point out each other’s patterns. Someone might say “That sounds so harsh” or disclose a feeling they were having. Someone might begin crying while observing the painful reactions of another couple or share a similar crisis or loss that they had experienced.
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?”