Couples Series #4: The Full Catastrophe

Jeremy Sharp, PhDrelationships, therapy Leave a Comment

Hello again, everyone! After a long break to take care of a new puppy (a little golden retriever named Bentley, if you’re wondering), I’m back and ready to round out the Couples Series with its final installment: The Full Catastrophe. Sticking to form, we begin with a quote from Elizabeth Weil’s Married (Happily) With Issues:

But Dan was my husband, my full catastrophe.

I really like this line. One reason that I like it is because of the tie-in to mindfulness, from Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book of a similar title. Mindfulness has a significant place in marriage and relationships, in my view.

A major theme that runs throughout Kabat-Zinn’s book is acceptance and just being with what “is.” I can only assume that Weil chose this line with the book in mind, because long-term partnerships certainly involve an acceptance of your partner as a whole, good parts…and not-so-good parts. Now, Weil’s tone in the article prior to this line lets us know that she uses the term “full catastrophe” as an endearing reference to her husband and his quirks. I think this is a wonderful reflection of her commitment to the marriage, and I love that she can use this line without noticeable regret or guilt. She is comfortable in her experience of marriage, and of Dan, as a full catastrophe.

Couples therapy shows the full catastrophe in all of its glory. Who else but our partners (and maybe our families) can provoke such a range of emotion in such short periods? Compassion, love, fear, pain…the list goes on and on. It is truly touching to see two individuals swing from rage and hurt at the beginning of a session to tearful connection and vulnerability by the end (or vice versa!). Entering a long-term partnership involves embracing the catastrophe for what it is rather than working to eliminate it. Without the catastrophe, relationships would be boring and passion-less.

Thus concludes the Couples Series. I welcome any feedback on the series as a whole or individual posts – and as always, thanks for reading 🙂


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