I will never forget the first time I treated a couple with acupuncture. I had treated the wife in the past, with great results. At one point, she asked me if I could start seeing her husband as well, and I was happy to oblige. Upon meeting him, I was surprised at how soft-spoken and reserved he was compared to his very extroverted and opinionated wife. After the introductions were made by his wife, I sat down and prepared to do his health intake. Normally the intake process is done privately, but my new patient's wife insisted on being in the room with us. I told her that it was my practice to do the intakes one-on-one with the patient. She refused to leave the room, and finally I told her it was really up to her husband. If he was comfortable going over every aspect of his health with his wife listening in, that was his choice. He nodded assent, and we began going over the paperwork.
He was quite taciturn during the whole process, and answered mostly in one syllable words. Fortunately, his wife was there to remind him about his diarrhea, hemorrhoids, and crankiness. The poor guy could barely get a word out without the love of his life letting me know how much gas he passed in his sleep. I gritted my teeth and reminded myself to be more firm in the future about letting others into the treatment room during intakes. All this man wanted to do was get treated for his back, and he was so shy. He was the type of patient I usually draw out very slowly, but his wife would have none of that. She wanted me to know every single detail about his health, his hobbies, the annoying way he breathed...it went on and on.
After what probably seemed like an eternity to him, I set him up on the table and started to treat. She was at my elbow the entire time, reminding me that he could probably take a lot of deep stimulation, since he had a high tolerance for pain. I kept bumping into her as she hovered behind me, and I vowed to never let her into my treatment room again unless she was the one on the table.
The next week, I met her insistence on being in the room with a firm "no." She wasn't happy, but at that point I didn't care. She pouted in the waiting room while I treated her husband.
The difference in her husband's attitude this week was like night and day. Although he was still shy, he opened up much more, and asked lots of questions about the treatment. He had noticed many changes other than his back pain since treatment: his digestion was better, his sleep was deeper, and his mood had improved significantly. He said he felt happier, and it seemed easier to let things slide off his back, which was good since his wife "could be a little stressful at times." No kidding, I thought.
That day, his wife had a session after him, and she was still pouting about not being allowed into the treatment room with him. She was cold throughout most of the session, until I explained that relaxation is an important part of a successful acupuncture session, and it is impossible to relax with a third person in the room. She finally began to thaw at that point, and told me that she saw huge changes in her husband after only one treatment. "And it's not only the back pain!" she exclaimed. "He's just...nicer. He has so much more patience with everything. Usually he starts snapping at me by the end of the day, but we got along great this week!"
In the following weeks, I saw a clear pattern. The husband would come in for his treatment and talk about how great acupuncture was for his wife; since she had been coming for regular sessions, she had "toned it down" a lot. She just didn't seem as loud or as irritating as she had been before. Then, I would meet with his wife, who would tell me that these sessions were really helping their marriage. He wasn't as cranky and miserable as he was before, and it seemed easier for him to say what was on his mind, rather than holding it in. During our last session together, the two of them came in holding hands, carrying a gift package for me. They looked like newlyweds, and when I commented on how happy they looked, his wife beamed and said, "maybe you should offer acupuncture as an alternative to marriage counseling!"
Since then, I have treated a few other couples, and all of them have mentioned that they seem to get along with their spouses better since starting treatment. It makes sense, when you think about it. What is the usual cause of arguments in relationships? Stress. Whether it's stress over kids, or money, or lack of time, most fights start from stress of some sort. Erase that stress, and you extinguish the spark to a conflict. Maybe I should I start offering couples' discounts?