“LAST CHANCE” COUPLES

“LAST CHANCE” COUPLES

"Fraenkel (2017b, 2018) describes two broad categories and four types of couples who describe themselves (and therapy) as “last chance.” The two categories are (a) those in which one partner wants to stay in the relationship, and the other wants to leave—what Doherty and colleagues have termed “mixed agenda couples” (Doherty & Harris, 2017; Doherty, Harris, & Wilde, 2015); (b) those in which both partners are considering ending the relationship. The four types are as follows: 

• High-conflict couples, those that have engaged in long-term destructive patterns of communication and negative attributions, well-described in the literature (Bradbury & Fincham, 1990; Driver, Tabares, Shapiro, & Gottman, 2012; Gottman & Gottman, 2018; Markman, Stanley, & Blumberg, 2010).

• Couples in which partners have differences in what Fraenkel (1994, 2011) has called “projected life chronologies”—life plans and goals and when to arrive at them. These are couples that differ on issues and expectations about whether or when to get married (or other formal commitment), to have a child, to reach a particular level of financial stability, to buy a home, to retire, and so on.

• Couples in which the behavior(s) of one or both partners violate the values, expectations, safety, or emotional comfort of the other. Affairs, domestic violence, development of an addiction, or even political differences can prompt one or both partners to consider ending the relationship.

• Couples in which there has been a gradual loss of intimacy often preceded by a period of high conflict leading to mutual withdrawal. These couples are often the most difficult to help, because there is such a low level of passion and connection." (PETER FRAENKEL , Love in Action: An Integrative Approach to Last Chance Couple Therapy, Fam. Proc., Vol. 58, September, 2019)