A Couple on Edge
Dr. Oz thought there was more to the story, so he made an emergency house call, visiting Wendie and Tony at home. There, he discovered a tense situation. Both Tony and Wendie were dealing with years of emotional pain, were constantly fighting in front of their daughter and used cigarettes to deal with their stress. He called their house a "powder keg" ready to explode.
To help defuse it, Dr. Oz called on his friend and colleague, life coach Martha Beck. She tried to uncover the roots of Wendie and Tony's cigarette addictions—especially Wendie fearing her desire to run away and Tony fearing being abandoned. Martha helped them develop strategies to confront their fears in positive ways.
"If you weren't a smoker, we wouldn't worry that much about that," Dr. Oz says to Wendie. "But because you're a smoker, these kinds of shadows really concern us, and we started thinking about lung cancer. ... I'm hoping that's not the case, but I don't want to mislead you. If I thought it was nothing, we wouldn't do the scan."
After running the new tests, Dr. Austin has good news. "Her lungs are gorgeous; everything is fine," he says. "You had a little infection in the lung, and it's gone."
When she gets the results, Dr. Oz says he is struck by Wendie's reaction. "You just seemed numbed," he says. "I don't think that you either took it seriously or really were able to grasp the magnitude of how this changed your life. Instead of having to cope with lung cancer as a young woman, you actually had a whole second chance."
"I know how to disassociate and not be with myself at times," Wendie says. "That's how I cope. It's a survival skill for me."
Wendie says she uses this coping mechanism in her marriage too.
Dr. Hendrix is the founder of the Imago Relationship Theory, which he says is a way to transform an "unconscious relationship" into a "conscious partnership."
"[Imago] helps couples understand how the problems they have in a relationship in the present are connected to issues that are left over from childhood," he says. "Most of the stuff that's going on in a relationship has its roots in the past—we say about 90 percent in the past, and it's triggered by about 10 percent of the behaviors in the present."
Dr. Oz says Dr. Hendrix's theory has medical backing. When you are first in love, he says your body releases natural chemicals like dopamine, which is related to addiction, and oxytocin. "That makes you feel love and warm and cuddly," Dr. Oz says.
The romantic phase—with its natural high from chemicals—begins to wear away after a few years, Dr. Oz says. "Which sort of makes sense because that way the child is old enough that if the pair splits, they can make it," he says. "That's why I think you have to reinvent the marriage every five to seven years. You've got to reconnect."
Dr. Harville's first exercise was to find out how Tony and Wendie describe their dream marriage, using an Imago technique called "mirroring." In this exercise, one partner is supposed to let the other be heard without judgment. "Most of the time, we talk and we don't listen," he says. "When you mirror, you have to sort of quiet your own mind so you can let in what's coming from the other person. Oftentimes, that's a real shock because the person you've been living with you're now listening to. You discover you've been living with somebody you didn't even know."
Tony speaks first in the mirroring exercise. "I want you to be able to tell me everything. I want to be able to tell you everything," he says. "I want to be available for you. Even if I don't know how to fix it , I just want to hear it. I want you to be able to come to me with anything that's on your mind."
When Wendie repeats back what Tony says, he says she has understood his meaning. "Exactly. Beautiful. I'm loving this!" Tony says. "We just never communicated like that before."
Dr. Hendrix asks Wendie to clarify—run away inside or run away outside?
"Run away inside," she says. "Like I'll continue to numb. I just don't want Bailie to deal with life the way that I'm dealing with it. I'm afraid that I'm going to die if I keep on doing this to myself. I'm going to die, and I'm not going to be there for Bailie anymore."
Leslie gets the chance to talk to Wendie and asks her what she meant when she said she would numb herself. "That's what I've been trying to avoid talking about this whole time," Wendie says. "I don't want to go there."
Wendie calls Leslie a couple days later and divulges what she has been hiding.
Wendie says she was first prescribed pain medication for her Caesarean when Bailie was born. Since then, she has been abusing OxyContin to numb her internal pain. "I think the thing that I struggle with the most is forgiving myself—that gets me stuck," Wendie says. "The more that I hate myself, and the more that I feel that I'm not worth it, the more that I use to try to heal that pain."
Although she wasn't planning on revealing her secret, Wendie says she decided not to take the easy way out. "I was tired of holding it in," she says. "It needed to come out."
Dr. Oz tells Wendie he is kicking himself over the clues he missed. He says he thinks the spot on her lung that required a CT scan could have been caused by her abuse of OxyContin, which acts as a cough suppressant. "I bet you were suppressing your ability to clear fluid from your lungs," he says. "When [lungs] get wet, because you're not clearing them, they get pneumonia in them. It all made perfect sense."
"I was screaming it out," Wendie says. "Screaming it out as loud as I could without saying it."
"You were screaming, and we weren't listening." Dr. Oz says.
"What I need from you is for you to be more honest with me, just completely honest with me about big and little things," Wendie says.
Dr. Hendrix asks Wendie to be more specific, but Wendie clams up. "If I say right now, I'll be betraying him, and I can't betray him," she says.
"So if I'm getting this, you can't live the dream marriage without telling me what's bothering you about me," Tony says. "[My secret] is not going to be addressed in this room."
One hour later, the session ends, and Leslie asks Dr. Hendrix if Tony is hiding something. "Yes," Dr. Hendrix says. "He's hiding a big secret, and he sees the secret as his secret. As something that belongs to him, and something that doesn't belong to the public. For Tony to share it with television was something that was clearly not something he was going to do."
Dr. Hendrix tells Wendie and Tony to continue working on their relationship by removing what he says is one of the worst addictions of all—negativity."For one thing, it gives us some of our biggest highs and most sense of power," he says. "That has to go. Replace the negativity with curiosity. Replace it with compassion. Replace it with listening."
Dr. Hendrix also wants Wendie and Tony to continue practicing Imago, which he calls a portable therapy that needs to be practiced both in therapy sessions and at home. "They have a goal of having 21 days in which they do not experience a breakdown in their connection by using the dialogue process," Dr. Hendrix says. "Every time they break down, they've gone back to day number one until they get 21 days of repetition. There's some science in that—once you do anything 21 days, it begins to get integrated into your neural pathways."