Dr. Jenn Berman On Couples Therapy Episode 9: Tap Into What Brought You Together

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Dr. Jenn 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, we learned a little more about Doug’s family estrangement, JoJo’s addiction, and how important it is to lean on your partner for survival.

After the disastrous horseback riding date with Shayne and Nik, you call out Shayne for “annihilating” Nik, and Shayne ultimately comes around and says she’s not usually like that, and she’s disgusted with herself. Is her disgust real, was she really becoming self-aware, or was that an out?

I think this was an epiphany for her and I think that when she really had the time to digest it, she grew to realize all the ways that she is like that, and I think it enabled her to do some really great work on her marriage.

JoJo is still in a state of denial about his alcoholism and he’s still sort of goading Tiny and telling her “if you want to leave, you can leave.” At this stage of treatment, is there anything you can say as his therapist to get through to him?

When JoJo talks like that, that’s his addiction talking, My job is to make him realize that that’s his addiction speaking, and his addiction wants to kill him. And for Tiny, my job is to empower her not to enable him. She didn’t realize prior to coming to couples therapy that she had a choice. She was so busy covering for him and trying to fix him that a) she didn’t focus on fixing herself and b) she didn’t realize she was contributing to the problem. I talk a lot about how in couples therapy, the goal isn’t always to make couples stay together, and if JoJo can’t be sober and stay sober, it is not in Tiny’s best interest to be with him. At this point, it still hasn’t sunk in with JoJo that his future with his wife depended on him getting sober.

Can you elaborate a little on Doug’s family situation? For instance, he talks about his brother serving as best man at his wedding, and then days later he gets a call saying that he’s cutting Doug off — why did he go from attending the wedding to all of a sudden “we don’t support you”?

I think it was a combination of his brother’s discomfort and his wife’s discomfort with the situation. And obviously Doug’s mother cut him off completely, which added to it. Doug and I did a lot of work on his childhood and I’d like to praise him for the work that he did. His honesty made me really better understand the choices he’s made in his life. You see a little bit of that tonight but not as much as I’d like.

Is the complex relationship with his mother why he admits to having dated a lot of “damaged” women?

Yes. I think his relationship with his mom, as most people’s are, is quite complicated, but I’ll say that Doug is used to being in a caretaker role and that dates back a long way for him.

The way that Courtney discussed not having in-laws in her life and how sad that made her was actually very mature and humanized her a bit.

And one of the cool things was that when Courtney and Doug came back into the house, you could see a difference in how Courtney was listening to people and how engaged she was in the process, even how she was listening to her husband. I was impressed with the shift.

Do you think her family and her mother are overcompensating for Doug’s family’s absence by taking Doug in to the extent they have?

I think that Doug and Courtney are very enmeshed, I think Courtney and her mom are very enmeshed, and therefore, Doug and Courtney and her mom are very enmeshed. I think it’s always a complicated situation when you have a parent who is a momager like Krista is, but then you throw in the fact that Doug has basically lost his career because of his marriage but he’s savvy about the entertainment industry, so you have these two people who are in the business of Courtney Stodden and they have to make all these choices together and it makes for a very complex situation.

Once again, the stories of the guests you bring on the show are unbelievable, and this week we had songwriter Doug Johnson, whose song about Sara Beth mirrored the story of a real-life young woman named Sara Elizabeth who passed away from cancer and whose parents, Eddie and Norma Kennedy, started SaraCare in her honor.

That’s a testament to my executive producer Damian Sullivan, who is amazing when it comes to finding these beautiful, gut-wrenching stories that we can all learn from. That this couple managed to stay together despite the tragic loss of their daughter, when most couple’s marriages after the loss of a child don’t last, is really a testament to a loving nurturing relationship.

I loved Norma’s quote where she told all the couples that in tough times they need to just “tap into what brought you together.”

I love that too, and my goal for the group was really the hope that they would learn from this couple. I think it was Shayne who asked how they managed to get through their situation and Norma’s response was “I couldn’t have survived this without him.”