Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered: How Couples Really Work

Views: 1045
Ratings: (0)

This book, written in plain language by an experienced, psychoanalytically-orientated therapist, is aimed at lay readers who wish to understand how couples consciously and unconsciously operate in successful and unsuccessful partnerships. It covers the central concepts involved, illustrated by (disguised) case material. The book will also be invaluable for trainers, trainees, and individual counsellors/psychotherapists wishing to extend their work into a fresh clinical area namely couple therapy. The style is lively and accessible, covering a complete range of couple issues from early union till death.By means of real people's stories it clearly demonstrates how internal and external experiences throughout development from birth to adolescence shape the style, quality, and progress of a committed pair bond. Not all couples require therapy, of course. A careful reading of this book could be sufficient to start off a change in a couple's way of thinking, such that impending problems are prevented or better managed. A summary of who might and might not need help is presented in the concluding section of the book. The author provides no easy solutions to conflict or impending break-up, but she does offer a clear model for understanding the complexity and depth of couple disharmony. Such insight may create opportunities for change.

List price: $24.99

Your Price: $19.99

You Save: 20%

 

10 Slices

Format Buy Remix

CHAPTER TWO: Finding a mate: what are we looking for?

ePub

The importance of the first couple

None of us is born alone. Think about it. We are housed within our mother’s womb for nine months and when we have filled that space to bursting we emerge from one couple (for we are housed in our mother’s mind and heart as well as her womb) into another sort of couple, the physically separate nursing couple. Ejected from our cosy lodging, we become, without so much as a by-your-leave, part of a new and startling arrangement—not one inside the other as before, but one facing the other. If all goes reasonably well, this becomes a unit as intimate, binding, and as interdependent as any marriage that is to come later in our lives. Although we are genetically programmed to seek each other out, the attachment arrangements can, none the less, go well or badly. Work is required on both our parts.

Babies are born incomplete, unable to fend for themselves without attention from another human being. If Nature had fixed things so that babies were born as finished human creatures, the birth exit would be way too small and the mother would die. Not good for the perpetuation of the species! So, at birth we are not able toexperience ourselves as an independent being. We cannot yet distinguish “me” from “mother”, where our toes end and her hand begins. Mum is me and I am her, all one universe without differentiation or ownership. As within the womb, we are one. A complex and sometimes distressing learning process will eventually result in the realization of our separateness.

 

CHAPTER THREE: Partner-seeking as job application

ePub

No one likes rejection, so no one applies for a job unless they believe they possess some of the skills needed: they scan “qualifications required” very carefully When looking for a partner we may long for someone very different to us, just as in job seeking we may pursue something new and challenging. But, at the same time, we want our best attributes and hard-earned skills recognized. In jobs and in love we tend to go for a set-up where we can carry on doing what we are talented at, while getting something fresh and extra out of the new situation, or at least the promise of further in-service training!

As a couple therapist, I have met many a problem that can be boiled down to the man (say) feeling fed up with having to be macho and strong all the time. Secretly, he longs to let his softer, more “feminine” side have expression. His partner then challenges him: why then did he choose her, knowing the kind of strong man she needed? He is flummoxed, for this is a logical question. The answer is that he did indeed wish to show and enjoy his existing talents, but hoped for development in the marital job as well. The wife is feeling threatened by what she sees as his withdrawal of support for her. She does not appreciate yet that perhapsletting her more “masculine” side grow a little could benefit both of them.

 

CHAPTER FOUR: How your infancy affects your marriage: separation and triangulation

ePub

Starting to separate from mum

Gradually it dawns on baby that he is indeed a separate entity to mother. Sometimes his needs—food, warmth, cuddles, respite from a wet bottom—are congruent with her ability to meet them. At other times they so conflict with her psychological and physical schedule that the friendly intimacy— indeed fusion—to which he had grown accustomed is no longer predictable. A dry, powdered bottom can no longer be relied on, at least for a while. It is all a bit hit and miss these days. At first baby is rather miffed.

If supplies do not magically arrive when they are merely wished for, someone else that is “not me” must be doing the providing. Oh heck, I am not the World and the World is not me, it is outside me: I do not rule it, I am not the only one in it, and I cannot control it. Such frustration and loss of omnipotence is helpful in that, provided a modicum of the “I am OK in the world” sense is being gradually established, the curious infant can now seek compensation for this elsewhere. Exciting new learning is available all around. This can fill in the time until mother is once moreavailable. He learns to tolerate her absence, so long as it is not too long.

 

CHAPTER FIVE: How your childhood affects your marriage: authority, gender, socialization, and adolescence

ePub

The sense of authority

Another important piece of toddler development, not so far mentioned, is the acquisition of mastery over bodily functions, along with the joy and misery, pride and shame it can produce. Herein lies the basis for all future attitudes and responses to “Authority”, as well as the basis for the future adult’s personal sense of dignity and decency What are appropriate standards of public and private conduct, self-control, self-discipline? These values are actually learned in the nursery, from the manner in which the toddler and his body are treated by the adults.

As baby gains control over bladder and colon, with parents praising him to the skies or turning away in disgust from his productions, he starts to sense he has power. He can control not only his own body, but also the reactions of people around him, by pleasing them or withholding from them that which they seem so earnestly to desire—a clean nappy and its eventual abandonment. But also at this time, shame, secrecy, and self-disgust is learned, along with their opposites—grandiosity, self-admiration, ruthless ambition—according to how the family react to this new phase.Bladder and bowel training has a profound effect on the toddler who finds pleasure in his body’s ability to produce “lumps of gold”. He learns not only that giving and withholding “gold” brings power and control over others, but that there is an appropriate and socially accepted way of managing these bodily processes as well as an offensive and unacceptable way Socialization (a later section of this chapter) and the sense of authority go together, developmentally speaking.

 

CHAPTER SEVEN: Imogen’s story: three basic modes of couple functioning

ePub

When the Vicar entered their lives, Jack and Jill of the previous chapter underwent a rough patch in their marriage, but all the same their style of going about things (mode of system functioning) was the most wholesome of the three basic modes seen by therapists in their work. I will briefly present these modes in a moment.

You might ask, why bother with these diagrams and technical terms? Jack, Jill, and the Vicar’s story are perfectly comprehensible without them. That is true. But if we are to understand their situation from a therapeutic (helping) vantage point rather than just as a diverting tale, we need some theory.

When reading a novel, we follow the narrative, making heroes and villains according to our prejudices, identifying with those who seem like us, or whom we would like to resemble. It never occurs to us to alter the plot. A clever writer will get us on this or that person’s side, will make us weep or laugh. Our emotions are stimulated then manipulated. A couple’s story in the consulting room will also have those effects. But the whole point is to understand both the events and the motives behind the manipulations in a new way. Then the actors and therapist can intervene in the story, andthere can be a change of ending, a happier, more adaptive one, it is hoped.

 

CHAPTER NINE: The couple’s life cycle. The early years: Storming and Performing

ePub

Storming is to couple development what adolescence is to an individual’s development. It is a time following a fairly quiet period, when all seems to be thrown into the melting pot again. The couple, like the teenage individual, struggle to redefine their shared identity out of all that has gone before, and struggle with the new opportunities surrounding them now. It is a time for rebellion and asserting one’s rights within the marriage, but also a time when past joint difficulties and lost chances can be put right or made up for. It is a time of much turbulence, be this expressed in loud disagreement, quiet rebellion, or vague statements of dissatisfaction.

There may be attempts by one to modify, or even drastically alter, the Norms by now taken for granted, while the other resists any change. Where there is a flexible couple boundary that can accommodate newly emerging needs, the pair may constructively fight for fresh or adjusted Norms, giving the marriage a much-needed boost.

Once the couple has Formed, then Normed (however satisfactorily or incompletely), it is as if energy runs out and the couple need a bit of a rest before the next spurt of growth—”the calm before the Storm”? All this work has taken months, more often years, and sometimes never got established at all. In such cases, the couple system lacked the resources for the work from the beginning. The pair either break up, or they just drift along in a parallel but scarcely intimate existence. The system stagnates.

 

CHAPTER TEN: The couple’s life cycle. The later period: middle years and beyond

ePub

Middle years

The couple as joint personality (or shared living system, if you prefer) goes through a mid-life crisis just like any individual. “Crisis” derives from the Greek krisis, meaning decision. It has come to be associated with wars, emergencies, or illness. I prefer to see it in the couple context as a crossroads, a time of decision-making that will influence the rest of the marriage’s life span. It does not necessarily result from a major problem or sudden drama; rather that the couple have travelled a long, long road together, but now have reached a junction. As a unit they must decide, explicitly or implicitly, whether to go forward into new territory, back to familiar ground, or branch off, jointly or separately, in some new direction. Or they might decide to stop, pitch a tent, and, for the time that remains, pleasurably watch the world go by. Letting fate take this decision is extremely risky.

Even if things are ticking over comfortably and there are no external pressures on the couple, there is a growing sensation inside and/or between them, spoken or not, of either stagnation or restlessness. They have long since achieved marital maturity (done their Forming, Norming, Storming and Performing). They have possibly finished child rearing and gone as far as is possible in their separate or shared careers. What is left for the couple to do now? “Out to grass?” (Depressing.) Change everything now we are free? (Scary.) Consolidate the security we have built, or spend all, living to the hilt while there is still time? Focus our attention on the community? On our spiritual life? Take a course of study? These are big questions. The biggest is whether subsequent plans are to include both partners or not. If they have differing designs for the future, can they still survive as a couple while pursuing different paths?

 

CHAPTER TWELVE: Unconscious communication in domestic life

ePub

In the next chapter we will look at who needs therapy and why. For the moment, let us examine the “ordinary couple”. They have their ups and down, but are basically managing their marital relations well, without giving the matter much thought. Life is far too busy. Yet, without being aware of it, a private language has grown between them, including a language without words. We all recognize the scenario of a couple attending a rather tedious party, but not wanting to be rude by leaving too early. They can signal one another across a crowded room with a mere lift of an eyebrow, the tongue run round the top teeth, a subtle, querying lift of one corner of the mouth. “Leave Now? Five Minutes? Half past the hour?” “Ready to go?” Instantly, the answer is returned in the same code.

Messaging

This I call messaging. (May as well be up with the times.) It happens in all areas of joint living, down to the most intimate.

“I know when he wants to make love, but daren’t ask directly, for fear of rebuff. He chews my earlobe in a very particular way.”“Yeah. If she just smiles or pats my hand in reply, she’s not interested. But she’s got this shy little giggle that passes so swiftly you could easily miss it. This means ‘yes’.”

 

CHAPTER THIRTEEN: Who needs therapy?

ePub

In the first chapter of this book I said I would be writing about the “average couple” and their problems. By this penultimate chapter I find myself wondering what “average” could mean in this day and age. Thirty years ago, when I started couple work, a stereotype of the typical British couple still lingered in the public’s mind. They were reasonably educated, white, legally and happily married, parents to a couple of well-behaved children perhaps, believed in fairness and decency, owned a car (washed each Sunday), and lived in a semi-detached home with a bit of a garden.

I suspect the stereotype was more myth or cover-up than fact, even then. For these couples were none the less deeply troubled or they would not have come to see me, especially in those days when psychotherapy was ill understood, and couple work (apart from the frontier busting “Marriage Guidance”) still in its infancy. In fact, having therapy would have disqualified the pair from being the prototypical British couple. Even considering therapy at that time was more like proof of instability—to put it at its mildest.

 

APPENDIX I

ePub

The opening paragraphs of Edward St Aubyn’s novel, Mother’s Milk:

Why had they pretended to kill him when he was born? Keeping him awake for days, banging his head again and again against a closed cervix; twisting the cord around his throat and throttling him; chomping through his mother’s abdomen with cold shears; clamping his head and wrenching his neck from side to side; dragging him out of his home and hitting him; shining lights in his eyes and doing experiments; taking him away from his mother while she lay on the table, half-dead. Maybe the idea was to destroy his nostalgia for the old world. First the confinement to make him hungry for space, then pretending to kill him so that he would be grateful for the space when he got it, even this loud desert, with only the bandages of his mother’s arms to wrap around him, never the whole thing again, the whole warm thing all around him, being everything.

The curtains were breathing light into their hospital room. Swelling from the hot afternoon, and then flopping back against the French windows, easing the glare outside.

 

Details

Print Book
E-Books
Slices

Format name
ePub (DRM)
Encrypted
true
Sku
9781780493862
Isbn
9781780493862
File size
0 Bytes
Printing
Disabled
Copying
Disabled
Read aloud
No
Format name
ePub
Encrypted
No
Printing
Allowed
Copying
Allowed
Read aloud
Allowed
Sku
In metadata
Isbn
In metadata
File size
In metadata