Studio Six: Marriage Story
The sixth PSP/Adler Studio focused on a powerful and often disturbing portrait of two people struggling with their relationship—and eventually with the breakup of their relationship. We witness a transition in the life and development of a man and woman who had built much of their relationship around a shared project. As one member of the couple finds new freedom and voice, the other feels threatened and clings to the past. Is this a common theme in long term enduring relationships? Thw partipants in this studio session focused on this impotant question. More specifaccly, the following question were offerd before the start of this studio:
- What is the appropriate role to be played by a legal system in managing the transitions in a domestic relationship?
- What holds two people together if they wish to sustain an intimate relationship?
- When we are going through a major transition in our life, how do we retain an appreciation for the life and relationships we have left behind—even though we might be escaping from this life and relationship? [This is a fundamental issue we must address when in the midst of what Bill Bridges calls the “neutral zone” that exists between the old and the new.]
- What is most touching, most disturbing, most enlightening in the story being told in this movie?
.While most of the session was not recorded, allowing participants to freely express their own perspectives and share their own life experiences, the last 15 minites were set aside and recorded for general reflection on the themes that emerged during studio and the ways in which the movie might be introduced in a professional psychology session (psychotherapy, coaching, consulting). Following is this recording:
Following are some notes made by Bill Bergquist after viewing the movie. He shared these notes with participants prior to the session:
Social exchange versus market exchange (behavioral economics): Judicial/financial agreements (market exchange) versus Marital/covenant agreements (social exchange). Inappropriate (but perhaps necessary) role of the judicial system/courts in guiding divorce/child custody matters (emerging role of domestic/family laws/courts)
Tectonic plates and marriage (Bergquist): The Child/Shared Project Plate. Who owns the plate? Who has greatest amount of power regarding this plate? Does this ownership/power shift over time?
Remarriage or divorce: Major readjustments required in virtually all long-term, enduring relationships over time (the process of remarriage). If this does not occur then either divorce, diversion of relationships (affairs) or stagnation.
Death of a marriage/grieving process: Death of a part of ourself (internalization and externalization of a part of our self from/to other person). Death of memories (no longer someone with whom to share stories). Death of shared relationships (inside and outside families): loss of the “network of marriage”
Women finding their Voice: Developmental stage for women: finding their own authentic voice (Carol Gillian, Mary Belenky, the Stone Center). Often a challenge for other people in their life as this developmental stage unfolds. Often a comparable for men: increased need for interdependence (the “empty nest” is often more about men than women).
What holds a couple together (agape): A shared relationship (even with a pet) (“Unbearable Lightness of Being”). A share project (e.g. paying off loan on a business owned by both members of couple: celebration on the beach).
Managing major transitions: The neutral zone (Bill Bridges). During a major transition we must acknowledge, appreciate and honor the “good” elements that we are leaving behind: what attracted us to this person in the first place and what were the special moments we shared together. Without this appreciate appraisal, we are stuck in the neutral zone and can’t really move forward with the transition
Stephen Sondheim: “Company”: the ambivalence of marriage (“Grateful/Sorry”)