Dr. Jenn Berman Discusses Couples Therapy Episode 4: Codependency And Childish Behavior

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Dr. Jenn Berman Couples Therapy
Couples Therapy seeks to repair the relationships of couples who have spent significant time in the spotlight, and season two is going to bring the drama in ways that season one never dreamed. Dr. Jenn Berman will be speaking to us each week to help us make sense of the couples’ issues and shed light on why they need her help. This week Dr. Jenn discusses Shayne’s aggression toward her in a group session, and Doug’s codependent behavior when Courtney doesn’t show up for yoga.

Let’s first talk about Shayne this week, she was having a few different issues. The first thing that stood out to be was that she called bulls— on you for not being as tough on Courtney as you were on her.

This was a group that was very aware of “How are you treating her vs. me?” “Which couple is getting more time? Why haven’t we had an individual session with you?” there was a lot of that with this group.

That seems so childish, was it tiring dealing with that?

No, actually I find it intriguing! To me, it’s all grist for the mill and when that happens, people are acting stuff out that is either about their childhood or about their own relationship, and one thing that happened a lot with this group, in particular with Shayne and Nik, was that there was a lot of using other people to distract from your own work, and I think that’s interesting when that happens. So with regard to Shayne calling me out for not being hard on Courtney, even though Shayne said it was directed toward me, Shayne had a lot of energy toward Courtney it was more about Courtney. If that was Tiny, she would not have had the same reaction. The other factor is that our therapeutic relationship was still relatively new. I think she had been in the house four days, maybe, and she was still getting to know and trust me, and part of it was her lack of trust in me. She also hadn’t had a great adult figure that she could trust to be there for her consistently.

I want to get into Doug’s behavior at yoga, but before I get into the co-dependency issues, I want to see what you think about his reaction to Shayne, because I was actually on her side in that conversation and I didn’t think she was trying to provoke him when she told him to just ask why Courtney wasn’t there. I feel like she was trying to help, actually.

I agree with you completely, I think Shayne had good intentions but, and this is a big BUT, Shayne has a low tolerance for other people’s feelings. And you’ll see that come up in a session soon, but that’s one of the problems in her marriage, so it made sense that she recreated that problem with someone else in the house.

So now let’s discuss your take on Doug and the way he reacted to yoga. He clearly didn’t know how to handle that situation.

I feel very strongly that that was about his codependency. To me it was a great example that, here’s this man who’s given up everything for this relationship and for him to not even be able to not be near her for a period of time causes him undue stress. The level of his reaction compared to the event, his reaction was way bigger than one would expect from that. That illustrated the codependence and the enmeshment in their relationship.

Simon and Alex made up after the fight they had last time and it was clear tonight to see just how much he cares for her. After she stormed off and actually fell, to watch him turn and want to take care of her showed his kindness and seemed like a turning point for them.

That was the first time I saw him be tender and sensitive toward her, and it was a beautiful thing. Don’t forget, old habits die hard, this is a couple that’s been operating this way for a very long time, so it doesn’t change overnight, but it was an eye-opening experience moreso to see that when he was tender with her, she just melted. When he was able to say back to what her experience was, she melted. She was just moved and connected and that probably hit him the most.

Going back to Courtney and Doug, you were interrupted by Shayne before we could really see any resolution to the issue that Courtney still keeps in touch with her ex-boyfriend. Does that issue persist and how have they dealt with that?

It is definitely an issue that comes up repeatedly and hearing his wife say “I’m talking to this guy because he meets my needs in a way my husband can’t because of the age difference,” I think that was really painful for Doug. You’ll see repeatedly that I encourage Doug to speak up. What’s so interesting is that Doug lost his voice in this relationship with Courtney a long time ago, and part of the work with them is empowering Doug. That surprises people the most. With all the controversy about their age, everyone wants to look at it as being so clear cut, she’s the victim, he’s the predator, but the truth is that the power dynamic in the relationship is that she’s got all the power. He gave up everything to be with her.

Prior to her session with Dr. Mike, had Tiny ever really thought about threatening to leave JoJo if he didn’t clean up?

The session I did with the two of them before I had Dr. Mike sit with them was the first time where a professional said to her “You are not responsible for keeping this man alive,” and “You are enabling him, you have to let go.” I think I kind of planted this seed, and then she sat with it and when Dr. Mike sat with her, he watered that seed and it blossomed. I think only after talking to him did it really hit her, “I don’t have to do this anymore.”

I know you’ve said denial is the hallmark of alcoholism, but it was so sad when she asked him what the one thing is that he could give up in order for their marriage to work, and he knew the answer and knew what she was looking for, but refused to say it.

Yes, absolutely. There’s another session coming up between the two of them…let me just say that you’re going to lose your lunch.

Finally, I want to say that I agree with Shayne on a lot of things, but the way she expresses herself can get really frustrating, so at bowling, I totally knew where she was coming from being frustrated by Courtney’s outfit and body language, but her behavior was childish.

It’s childish, but the the thing with the Shayne and Courtney issue is that, over and over again, Shayne uses Courtney to distract from her own work and doing what needs to be done. I think when Shayne focuses on Courtney or does other things which distract her from connecting with Nik, that prevents them from doing the work that needs to be done and Nik gets frustrated because he’s like “Our marriage is on the line. After this, we’ve got nothing.” You’re watching a man struggle with whether or not to stay in his marriage, it’s that serious.

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