Dr. Jenn Berman On Couples Therapy Episode 8: Some Things Are Very Hard To Understand

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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. During episode eight, Courtney Stodden and Doug Hutchison returned from their brief exile, only to be confronted with more hostility from the group, and Courtney’s mom, Krista, drops in to help us understand how Courtney became they woman she is today, and now Dr. Jenn fills us in on what she thinks of it all.

I love watching this show because it never fails to surprise me.

What surprised you most about this one?

The fact that, even though it was courageous, as you said last week, for Doug and Courtney to come back into the “lion’s den,” they didn’t take very much responsibility for their actions. They opened up and Courtney poured her heart out a little bit about how hurt she felt about some things, but then they refused to accept their part in anything. Will they ever become self-aware enough to take that responsibility?

I don’t want to give too much away, so what I can say is that everybody gets to self-awareness and personal responsibility at different rates, and not everyone arrived at the house with that. And not everyone leaves with that, necessarily. As you’ve seen, each of the other four couples has evolved over the course of the season and has been willing to take more personal responsibility in different areas, and for Doug and Courtney, that’s an evolution as well. As it is for most people.

In general, since you observed Courtney for a while, does she have a decent sense of self-awareness? Just judging from the way she dresses, it’s crazy to me that someone doesn’t realize that that’s not appropriate every day attire.

It takes a certain level of maturity and life experience to develop that. That’s something that Courtney is hopefully evolving to develop.

And I feel like it can’t really help to have a mother who thinks that that kind of dress is not a big deal, we met Krista Stodden this week and she said Courtney’s been dressing provocatively since she was 11, and she’s okay with it.

And if you think about personal responsibility and how you affect others in the context, now that we’ve met Krista, of a mom who gave her daughter that not only was it acceptable to dress this way but it was a good idea and getting attention in this way was very positive. That really harms a young person’s ability to understand their personal responsibility of other people’s reactions to them. Don’t forget, she’s still a teenager. Most teenagers are pretty rebellious and they are not not known for their great insight and personal responsibility. It’s easy to forget that about Courtney because in some ways she’s very mature and in others, she’s very immature, and this is an area that she’s got a lot of work to do.

Does her mom have that thing, which you pointed out in Doug, where she becomes a little more immature to meet Courtney at her level?

To me, it’s not a matter of maturity, it’s that her mother has co-signed a lot of Courtney’s behavior. As a parent, your job is to make boundaries with your child, to help guide them about what’s safe and what’s not safe, to help create a sense of self-identity. What you can hear Krista saying over and over again in her session with me is “I thought I couldn’t stop Courtney.” That if Courtney wanted to dress provocatively, she couldn’t be stopped, she was going to do it anyway, so her mom thought “I might as well co-sign it.” On the one hand, Krista was very overprotective of Courtney and on the other hand, she gave Courtney way too much power. Courtney gets to make a lot of decisions that are not appropriate for someone her age to make. So I don’t think Krista ever felt empowered as a parent to say “No Courtney, it’s not okay to dress that way, as long as you’re living in my house you need to cover your belly button or put on underwear or whatever it is.”

I can actually understand a parent letting their kid dress a certain way, but the fact that her mom also mentioned that there were always men “trying to get a hold of her” and she let Doug into their lives after just having an email correspondence —

And she let her daughter marry a man who she had only known via email and whom Krista had not met until the day before.

I just don’t understand.

It’s very hard to understand. You can see me struggling in the session to make sense of it. One of the things it tells us is about Krista’s own perception of good men, bad men, in a certain way it’s a very adolescent perception of men, and that you can tell the good men from the bad men after meeting them for a day. Its a very developmentally young perspective about men. Instead of empowering her daughter to be a strong woman who doesn’t need a man, it was this idea of yes, she needed a man to rescue her. There were all these men approaching her, and this was the best of the lot who would protect her. Instead, why not empower your daughter to protect herself? And then you can also protect her as a mother.

The whole world is judging these people, and your job is to be objective…I don’t know how you do it.

It’s what I’m trained to do. It’s my job to be patient with people and understand them better and to help them see the err of their ways.

This week, Todd opened up about how much the group therapy process has actually made him realize his love for Monica.

It was a great experience for him to be around other men who were smart, decent guys who were devoted to their wives.

Was that the biggest factor for him, or was it that he finally was able to open up with Monica and share some real feelings?

I don’t think he would have been able to open up to Monica had he not seen it modeled to him by other men. He didn’t see that modeled at home with his father so he needed to see it somewhere. And I believe in the power of therapy and group therapy, so I was thrilled to see this happen for him.

Shayne and Nik had a disastrous date this week. She was being a brat while Nik was just trying to do something nice for her and it was frustrating to watch.

I think it was a perfect example of the dynamic in their relationship. He was not being sensitive enough to his wife, and she was shutting him out. He was offering her something beautiful, an attempt to connect and be loving and she dismissed it and disregarded it. It was them doing what they do.

She kept accusing him of acting and not being genuine, where was that coming from?

It was just another way to be dismissive of him. For Shayne, given her history, closeness is really scary and really threatening, so she doesn’t always know how to react to it, especially if it’s not perfectly orchestrated as she envisioned. She’s always looking for an out as far as “How do I not be close?” instead of “How can I be closer?” She came to this from a really negative place. I get that it was hot, I get that you just had your boobs done, I get all that, but when your marriage is on the rocks and your husband makes a really romantic gesture, even if you feel those things, you can voice them like “Hey, if I’m not enjoying this can we stop?” not “This is awful!” You find another way to address it.

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