Susan Orenstein, PhD, started a new podcast last year with an intriguing title: “After the First Marriage.”
Which is to say, the first marriage is over, and you're starting over.
In her clinical practice as a couples therapist, Dr Orenstein sees people who are struggling to learn the lessons from a marriage that ended. Typically, there's pain and loss, which often gets filtered through guilt and blame and rage and disappointment.
All of which gets in the way of learning.
And that's the whole point of her work, and podcast: that no matter what happened, what went wrong, or how it ended, it's worth it to perform a “post-mortem” on the first marriage so you don't repeat the same mistakes going forward.
I wanted to talk about divorce and moving on as it relates to our health goals and health behaviors. Many of my health coaching clients' issues around food and lifestyle are entangled in a messy relationship. Eating salad instead of steak isn't just a food choice, but an act laden with layers of unspoken meaning between spouses.
You're eating healthy now? Does that mean you think you're better than me?
I've gained 30 pounds since the kids were born. And we haven't had sex for six months. You must be grossed out by my body. Look at me suffering with this salad.
You don't expect me to give up my favorite foods and eat rabbit chow with you, do you?
And so on…
The core of Dr Orenstein's work revolves around Attachment Theory, which posits that it's our primary relationships in childhood that form the template for all our subsequent relationships. If we were tended to with care and presence when we were babies, we can form secure adult bonds.
But if we were ignored, or abused, or betrayed, or felt insecure in the attachment with primary caregivers, we'll carry those wounds into our present relationships. And the first marriage – or any serious relationship, past or ongoing – can give us clues to those wounds, and help us heal them by practicing new attachment styles.
Oh, and by the way, you could still be married to the person from your “first marriage,” if you decide to grow together and create a mission statement for an upgraded “Marriage 2.0.”
In our conversation, I asked Dr Orenstein about typical relationship scenarios that impact the work I do around health behaviors, and we brainstormed therapeutic approaches to some of the thornier problems.
Dr Orenstein's first Plant Yourself visit: Creating a Safe “Couple Bubble”
Attached, by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller
Wired for Love, by Stan Tatkin
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New Audiobook: Use the Weight to Lose the Weight
Listen to Josh LaJaunie and me narrate our latest audiobook, about how to start moving when you're obese.
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It can be found on his first CD, titled Will Ridenour.
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