Inside the twisted world of couples therapy

Posted on March 13, 2010 

Inside the twisted world of couples therapy

Marie and Clem, one of several couples in Laurie Abraham’s “The Husbands and Wives Club,” met sweetly in college; he arrived late for class, she admired his muscular physique. Before long it was parties, flowers and kisses.

But 20 years into their marriage, their relationship isn’t going very well: Marie won’t respond to Clem’s sexual advances; Clem can’t seem to tell her how he feels about anything; and when the two have a massage-focused couples therapy session, it ends with Marie rubbing Clem’s shoulders with “tears streaming down her face and dripping onto his forehead.” In the hopes of salvaging their marriage, the couple have signed up for an unconventional year-long group therapy program with psychotherapist Judith Coché, in which five couples talk openly about their marital problems in a group atmosphere.

Abraham’s noteworthy book chronicles a year in the life of Coché’s group, and follows the five couples as they undergo financial crises, struggles with impotence, accusations over porn use, and, in one case, a bisexual past. The result is a fascinating — and at times infuriating — book that captures the ways marriage, monogamy and psychotherapy can be both affirming and destructive.

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