You may have heard of ‘switch therapy’ from the popular Channel 4 programmes Seven Year Switch USA and Australia where four couples are assisted by two relationship experts, Dr Dan Shapiro and Dr Jessica Griffin who specialise in relational trauma, high conflict and divorce in an attempt to save their marriages.
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Why use switch therapy?
The doctors report that the seven year itch is where the shine has fallen off the marriage. Statistically at seven years is where you have more complaints about your partner and marriage than you have good things to say about it. It is a time in which many couples stray or separate. Although Dr Griffin has said couples do not need to be together for seven years to experience the ‘seven year itch’ and many couples struggle from the get go. The doctors report that unfortunately for a lot of couples no matter how hard they try over 50% of couples will end in divorce so they believe it’s time for a different approach.
For two weeks four couples leave their lives behind to live with a complete stranger as their experimental spouse who has been chosen to fulfil aspects or personality traits which they think they are missing in their real marriage. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to get paired with someone who could offer them the life they may have wondered about.
We’ve all heard the quotes “absence makes the heart grow fonder” and on the flip side “out of sight out of mind” but the doctors are quite clear that the experiment is not about matching people so that they fall in love with their new partner, it’s about helping them to figure out how to make changes in their real marriage so that they can make decisions about their real lives.
Some people might argue that the grass is not greener on the other side and that you cannot possibly work on your marriage if your spouse isn’t there with you. However the experts Dr Shapiro and Dr Griffin provide the couples with exercises and tasks to complete during the two weeks, which really make them evaluate themselves and their behaviour within their relationship and that of their partners to give them a new perspective on their marriage.
After two weeks the couples have to decide whether they want to stay with their real spouse or go their separate ways and divorce. One of the couples is reported to have said there is a method to the madness and when you go to extreme measures you get extreme results.
It remains to be seen whether something so radical will be trialled in the UK, but it just might be a new approach to saving marriages which we hadn’t considered previously.
Could switch therapy work in the UK?
I cannot see why not. Couples could attend counselling for years and never get the type of insight into their relationships that switch therapy offers. The therapy has had great results in the US and Australia but it won’t be for everyone, it’s extreme and intrusive. It’s aimed at couples who have tried everything else to save their marriage – for them this really is the last straw. I suspect that were it offered in the UK the cost would be a deciding factor, unless Channel 4 decide to film ‘Seven Year Switch’ in the UK. But what’s the alternative if you’ve exhausted all other options? Harmful behaviours in a marriage ultimately destroy it, so for many the unconventional process of switch therapy could be the rare opportunity to save their marriage.
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