Monday, May 10, 2010

The Husbands and Wives Club by Laurie Abraham

Have you ever been completely surprised by an announcement that a couple you know is separating or divorcing? “But they seemed fine,” is always the refrain. Usually no one knows what is really going on in a marriage other than those involved. Well, The Husbands and Wives Club is a book that lets you peak into other people’s marriages. In this non-fiction book the author follows five couples for a year as they attend monthly group counseling sessions.

I don’t remember where I heard about this book, but it might have been on In a fun section called Essential Reading various editors comment on what they are currently reading.

This book is interesting as it doesn’t just follow one couple and the couples all have some serious issues.

“Before the year is out, the couple for whom I perhaps least expected it will be weighing divorce. Another pair will be confronting the husband’s attraction to men, while a third will make a stunning turn for the better. There will be miscarriages and infertility to confront, job loss and betrayal.”

The book intersperses dialogue and incidents from the therapy sessions, which were all recorded, with current research on the effectiveness of therapy for couples. I didn’t find the research parts so interesting and they seemed more like asides. It doesn’t seem like therapy can be easily evaluated in general.

One couple in particular is exceptionally difficult. A bump by her husband during a class exercise sends the wife out the door obviously furious. The therapist feels that these individual crises help the group bond and allow for other couples to grow while concentrating on someone else’s problems for a bit.

I can’t imagine why any of these couples agreed to have all their issues aired publically. Maybe readers will be comforted by the thought that their marriages are nowhere near that bad.

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