Featured Alumni Profiles

Dr. Lawrence Birnbach MA '74, PhD '80, Post Doc '89 and Dr. Beverly Hyman, PhD '80

Henry Ford said, "Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress.
Working together is success."  No statement seems more apt to describe marriage and partnerships.  In their new book, "How to Know If It's Time to Go" (Sterling Publishing, 2010), husband and wife co-authors Dr. Lawrence Birnbach (NYU Steinhardt, 1974, M.A. and 1980, Ph.D. and 1989, Post Doc) and Dr. Beverly Hyman (NYU Steinhardt, 1980, Ph.D.) tackle the emotionally wrought topic of divorce, all the while proving Ford's theory by successfully researching and writing a book together. 

Birnbach and Hyman first came up with the idea to co-author an article on the topic of divorce while driving to their country home in the Berkshires.  Over the course of their three-hour car rides to and from the country, the conversation often veered toward their own personal experiences with divorce and others they knew struggling through it.  "As we began to research the article, it became clear there was more there," says Birnbach, a psychoanalyst specializing in relationships with practices in New York City and Westport, CT.  "A lot of [information] is underreported or not dealt with in the literature about divorce that is on the market."

Birnbach and Hyman quickly realized that many of the existing books on the topic either continue to propagate or fail to address the misconceptions and myths surrounding divorce, such as "men instigate divorce," "divorce will drive me to bankruptcy," or "I will be alone forever."  So they decided to focus their work on current research and data, true-life stories, and what they see as the "underreported aspects" of divorce.   The result is a resourceful guide geared toward helping those who are struggling to make one of life's most difficult decisions. 

Natural collaborators, Birnbach and Hyman interviewed more than 100 volunteers made up of friends, family, former patients, current patients, and acquaintances who were willing to share their personal experiences and gave their consent to be included in the book.  Such extensive research allowed the "article" that Birnbach and Hyman set out to write to grow into a 19-chapter book that includes poignant case studies, a 10-step plan, and an unprecedented ‘Marriage Bill of Rights.' 

Hyman, an expert in communications and a consultant for international businesses and organizations such as the United Nations, explains, "[‘How to Know'] is about helping and showing people that [marriage] is about hard work, compromise, and responsibility - it needs to be a win-win model, as opposed to a win-lose model.  This isn't a zero sum game. The book promotes dialogue for couples who are having trouble and not sure what their next step should be. While it encourages couples to exhaust every remedy to make their marriage work, it also provides a step by step plan to understanding if the marriage can't be saved. " 

Continuing on Hyman explains that it was important to tackle the ‘I will always be alone' myth, saying, "there is data to show that 83% of men and 75% of women will remarry after a split (these figures do not take into account those who choose to cohabitate or are in committed long-term relationships). The fear of being alone, which will keep many men and women from making the choice to divorce, is just that - a fear, and not a fact."

The book also explores the financial ramifications of divorce - another area surrounded by myths.  As Birnbach shares, "there is an initial impact on the family's finances, but usually the individuals are able to re-establish themselves at the same financial level they were at prior to the split."  Hyman adds, "It's not well known, but nearly 90% of divorces are uncontested and are able to settle out of court."

One of the most common myths that Birnbach and Hyman set out to dispel is that divorce has long term negative effects on children.  "You often hear ‘divorce is terrible for children,'" says Hyman, "but the truth is an unhappy home is far worse for children than a single parent or blended family. The longitudinal studies we looked at showed similar trends; there is an initial decline in behavior and school performance for children in the first year or two after a separation, but studies show that five years following the separation, most children are better off."

Although the book focuses on divorce, Birnbach and Hyman agree that, at its core, ‘How to Know' is about honest communication, which they cite as the most important characteristic in all relationships - but especially marriages and partnerships.

The reaction to "How to Know When it's Time to Go" has been overwhelmingly positive.  Birnbach and Hyman have embarked on a whirlwind interview schedule for radio, print and online media, and are set to appear on television later this month.  Quick to agree that they will collaborate on another book, in the meantime, Birnbach and Hyman's book show us that each person's situation is unique and that life can go on after divorce.

To learn more about the authors and the book visit: http://howtoknowifitstimetogo.com/ or to order a copy of the book go to Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Editors' Note:  The article in the Alumni Connect originally published on Friday, February 22, 2010 omitted that co-author Lawrence Birnbach is also an NYU alumnus.  Dr. Birnbach received degrees from NYU Steinhardt - MA '74 and PhD '80, Psychology - and GSAS - Post Doc '87, Psychoanalysis.  Dr. Birnbach practices in Manhattan and Westport, CT.  The article also erroneously stated that the profession of co-author Beverly Human, PhD '80 is "psychiatrist."  Dr. Hyman is a business and organizational consultant specializing in conflict management and runs her own firm -- Beverly Hyman Ph.D., Management Consultant (http://www.beverlyhyman.com/)