Im talking with Dr. Jesse Rabinowitz, therapist with the
Jewish Family Services. Normally, I interview people from the
theater community, but here we are going to enter the world of
therapy. Now, should people who come to see I Love You, Youre
Perfect, Now Change expect your talkback for Speaking of Theater
to radically change their lives? We hear of stories about people
who listen to Dr. Laura or Dr. Phil for a few minutes on the radio
or on television and claim that their lives are radically and
Rabinowitz: Those are unlikely expectations, but on the other
hand, the expectation that could be met in the format were
talking about for Speaking of Theater is that you never know when
you might hear information or have a realization that does change
Lets talk about the specifics on the play because Im
fascinated by this. First of all, I Love You, Youre Perfect,
Now Change is a comedy musical revue that is designed entirely
for laughs, but it does contain some ideas that ring true. These
characters are able to hold up a real funhouse mirror to the audience.
The play sets up a litany of interpersonal relationships. Its
also about the search to find that perfect someone.
I agree with what youre saying. Many of us search for that
perfect person throughout our lives. I think the fantasy to find
that perfect one can be traced back to romantic literature and
the notion of true romance. Or this search is the collision between
romantic love with the way that marital and other relationships
are designed to work.
Well, as you can see in the play, this search can drive you crazy.
Now, is crazy still an acceptable term in your profession?
(laughs) In the way you used it just now, yes. What usually happens
is when you get into a relationships courtship phase is
that when the anesthetic wears off, you settle into figuring out
that theyre a human being just like you and you have characteristics
that may get on the other persons nerves. Its guaranteed
to happen. So if you come in with a template that youve
got to find the perfect person, youre setting yourself up
for failure because, obviously, theyre not the perfect person.
You touch on something very good. Lets talk about the way
that needs change and the way this is dramatized in the play.
We start out with the dawn of time and quickly go to the search
for that perfect someone. Thats the courtship and dating
phase. Then you go from finding that someone to making a commitment
to them. Then you go from marriage to becoming a parent. So lets
discuss the way that those relationships change all the way around.
When we first meet somebody, the priorities are quite different
than when we make a commitment and have children. Thats
one of the things that shakes people up in relationships. The
relationship now becomes more than two people, and youve
got a whole new interpersonal feel there. You have relationships
with the children that may or may not complement the relationship
between the parents. What is captured wonderfully in the play
is that the search for a connection is consistent throughout our
lives. The work for therapists in working with couples is how
do you work with happening with that need for a connection within
the context that those people are in whether its family,
children, or elders. But you have to work within the given context
to make that connection a reality.
Again, youve touched on a good point. There isnt a
"one session fits all" in the world of therapy.
I cant speak for all the therapists out there, but I dont
like to work in packaged ways. There certainly are manualized
treatments. There are techniques that I use to work with every
couple, but youre always in a new situation with every couple.
You said that you have certain techniques you use with all couples.
Would you mind sharing one with us?
Not at all. I typically teach couple within the first few sessions
a way to communicate that will increase the way they hear and
understand each other and decrease the likelihood that they will
intimidate and flee from each other. Its basically a way
to teach people to take turns, to listen and to be empathic with
the other person. It helps the couple to realize that they each
have their own truth about the situation theyre arguing
over. Both of those sets of truths are perfectly honest and perfectly
reasonable even though they are different. There is no one truth.
It helps people to slow down their dialogue and make certain that
they are actually listening to each other and can even paraphrase
back what the other person said just to be sure.
Now youve come home from work after a long day of helping
people. Have you learned to decompress in a way and just let everything
go or what do you do to relax?
Letting go takes years of work. When I first started this work,
I would come home and it would still be with me. Its not
just the coming home and letting go part that is hard, but at
work you go from one therapy session to another, hour after hour,
and how can you stay present if youre carrying baggage?
Are you looking forward to our talkback day with thirty to fifty
people who are going to bombard you with questions?
Absolutely, because you never know whats going to come up.
Ive always liked to do these kinds of talks because its
another one of those interpersonal relationships. Well all
be there after seeing this wonderful play and laughing a lot.
Im especially looking to doing the talk with Brenda, my
wife, who is also in the field. When youre out there talking
about relationships you ought to have your spouse along to keep
Images from TheatreVirginia's 2001-2002
production of I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change,
book and lyrics by Joe DiPietro, lyrics by Jimmy Roberts, directed
by Pamela Hunt. May 15-June 8, 2002.
Photos by Eric Dobbs
Left to Right: Alan
Souza and Amy
Griffin share the afterglow of love.
Left to Right: Mark-David Kaplan
and Amy Griffin try to enjoy a football game.
Left to Right: Heather Ayers,
Amy Griffin, Mark-David Kaplan and Alan Souza
spend some quality family time together.
Left to Right: Mark-David Kaplan
and Heather Ayers try to share a movie.
Left to Right: Heather
Ayers, Amy Griffin, Alan Souza and Mark-David
Kaplan try to keep it together at the altar.