Bill and Alice were like most couples. They met, fell head over heals in love and were married. Four kids and 10 years later, something was desperately missing. Bill and Alice came to my office and Bill complained Alice never listened to him. Alice was quiet and discussed feelings of betrayal as she expressed concern over a possible affair Bill may have had as well as feeling trapped – that Bill would question her and hound her when she was out with friends and, upon return home, be greeted with anger. Both were gridlocked and hurting so much for connection and intimacy that they came to therapy for help. Both were resigned that neither would change but wanted to try to make the marriage work.
After being videotaped having a discussion on their communication together, they were ready for the feedback session. Bill was confronted on his dominating the conversation and while asking for her thoughts, would reject them outright. Alice was gently challenged on her criticizing Bill during the discussion. Bill broke down into tears as for all these years, he failed to realize his dominating and subtitling controlling manner. He committed to listening to her and being more mindful of her tender needs. Alice, though, was extremely hurt. She wanted to open up more but Bill continued to act like the CIA when she was out with friends. He was then confronted on his lack of support of her exploring and discussed how he could be more welcoming of her upon her return home and actively support her time away (which she needed having to raise 4 kids under the age of 7). Lastly, with Bill, he was challenge to express his more tender needs directly, such as “I am missing you and want to spend some time together tonight” or “I am really suffering from work stress and just want to watch a movie with you tonight and hold each other.”
He did great….only, the years of guardedness had taken a toll on Alice. She reported he was working really hard but she was scared..It was then in session, Bill asked her “What can I do to make it more safe for you?” and that was the pivotal moment in therapy. She expressed he was doing great and meeting her needs, which charged his battery and by his being open to her needs for safety and asking – it was enough. She said, “Nothing..just asking helps. I have to let you know when I am anxious and allow you to comfort me as you have been the past six months.”
I (Ted Stein)saw Bill and Alice on and off for the next two years. Needless to say, they are doing very well..not perfect, but they have each other and the marriage has become a haven of safety and base of security once again. Another marriage saved!!
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