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Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Dr. Tobin's Comments

Written by  Michael Tobin

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I don't envy the Austen-Kutchinskys. They've got so much on their plate that it might be wiser for them to look for a miracle worker than a family therapist. Where do you begin? Which problem do you tackle first?

Let's start with Joe Jr. Imagine you had an angry and bitter son like Joe Jr. Would you know how to get through to him? The kid is sinking under his hurt and grief, but hides behind his self-righteous attitude. He's got all the answers - that is except for one: He doesn't have a clue about how to be happy. He desperately needs love and guidance. Will he let anyone touch him? If he does, I suspect his tough exterior will begin to melt and the grief that it was designed to conceal will finally surface.

How would you deal with a daughter like Judith? You marry Joe and she loses her friends, her home and is expected to adjust. What sixteen-year-old faced with a similar situation would say to herself, "I know this is what Mom wants and I want her to be happy?" This is the second time your decisions have turned your daughter's life upside down. First it was the divorce and now it's total readjustment. Can you blame her for being nasty and cold? How does a parent help a child accept a life she doesn't want?

Then we have Chris, a girl who wants love but is looking in all the wrong places.

Read the monologue "How Far Should I Go?"

She dresses to attract boys and then panics at her success. She needs a mom; a big sister would help. Will she allow Pamela or Judith to have a place in her life?

And how can Joe and Pamela possibly help their children when their marriage is so shaky? Can Joe finally put Maria to rest and let Pamela share his life? Was Pamela's anger at Joe's failure to consult her justified? Or, is it symptomatic of some deep fear she has about losing her independence?

Will Pamela and Joe have the patience and determination to learn how to accept and love each other? Milan is not Brookfield. In Milan, they had each other. In Brookfield, they are two distinct families with a total of five kids, two of whom hate each other. With the possible exception of Mac, there's not a whole lot of enthusiasm for this arrangement. If I were Joe or Pamela, I'd have to wonder if it's even worth it.

These are only a few of the many problems facing the Austen-Kutchinskys. The key to solving them lies with Pamela and Joe. Their strength, love and will or lack of it, will determine whether this family will make it. Yet, you have to wonder how they're going to be able to build a marriage while in the midst of so many difficult crises. If they had consulted with me prior to their marriage, I would have attempted to prepare them for the expected problems. I would have wanted them to go into this marriage with their eyes open and with a well thought out strategy on how to take this seemingly insoluble mixture and turn into a blended family.

But it's too late for that.

Now, in the midst of the battle, they create instant strategy: Joe will speak to Joe Jr. and Pamela will talk with Judith. I see it as a positive sign. Despite their conflict over therapy, they were able to agree on a plan of action. I'm not certain what the outcome will be but at least they're confronting the problems. I hope they can find the strength to give the same message to their children: "I know it's difficult for you, but this is our new life and we need each of you to help us to become a family."


Next Episode: Joseph and Joe Jr. Have a Talk

Previous Episode: Will Pamela and Joseph Resolve their Conflict?

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Last modified on Tuesday, 19 March 2013 20:17
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Michael Tobin

Michael Tobin

Dr. Michael Tobin has been a psychologist since 1974, specializing in marital and family therapy. He is the author of numerous articles on marriage and family relationships and is the founder of WholeFamily.com. He's  been married to Deborah for 38 years and is the father of four children and grandfather to five.

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