Sunday, 25 March 2001

Woody Alan Syndrome: The Overfunctioning Wife and The Underfunctioning Husband: An Introduction

Written by  Michael Tobin

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Mona and Phil are both in their late 30's. They have three children. Phil is an advertising executive and Mona works part time as an atrium landscape artist.

This drama depicts a classic marriage: while at home with the family, Phil underfunctions, while Mona overfunctions. She feels alone and unsupported; he feels criticized and unappreciated. He feels that she's too demanding. She feels that he's unreliable. She longs for fairness and equality; he longs to be left alone.

Let's assume that Phil is a competent professional -- decisive, creative and proactive, a real doer. So how is it that this same guy is so passive and helpless when it comes to home and family? And how come so many of our relationships are like Phil's and Mona's?

Phil and Mona are locked into their respective roles. When he decides to give up his position as the incompetent little boy, then she might choose to quit playing the nagging wife. Likewise, if she were to decide to stop parenting him and instead relate to him as a competent man then perhaps he would give up playing at being a helpless child.

  Click here to view the Drama!

Last modified on Monday, 16 January 2012 18:53
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Michael Tobin

Michael Tobin

Dr. Michael Tobin has been a psychologist since 1974, specializing in marital and family therapy. He is the author of numerous articles on marriage and family relationships and is the founder of He's  been married to Deborah for 38 years and is the father of four children and grandfather to five.

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