Jillian and Amelia had been in a relationship for 10 years and married for three years. They had fallen in love and couldn’t get enough of each other for the first six months. They moved in together after about nine months and continued to enjoy one another. However, the last two years of their relationship saw a turn for the worse. They had prided themselves on being able to sort out their conflict in the past. However, they had hit a difficult patch because there had been difficult events that had shown up a few cracks in their relationship.
The events were:
Two of these events were pleasant and two were unpleasant but all four created high stress for this couple. In the past they described their communication as good. Now they noticed they were irritated by one another and unable to talk things through without getting into fights. This is when they requested counselling.
Counselling involved looking into each part of the difficulties in more depth. Buying their home meant they were no longer free with money. They realised that they viewed finances differently and that they had to learn to compromise and accept their differences. Deciding who would have the first baby was hard and there had been some sensitivities that were difficult to address e.g. the child would never be the biological child of Amelia, how would the child view her as she grew up. Amelia always confided in her Mum and the recent loss and grief around losing her was hard to manage. Although Jillian’s Dad had never accepted his gay daughter, once Jillian had a baby that hurt increased as he was missing out on that joy.
Counselling helped to disentangle their problems. They had not been able to see the wood for the trees. It involved teaching this couple a way of communicating that reached a deeper level and helped each of them develop a greater understanding of the other’s emotions and to show empathy. Counselling also involved looking at their backgrounds and their established patterns of communicating that had brought up some of their hurts and defensive reactions. The grief that both Jillian and Amelia had faced in their different ways meant they could understand one another once they were able to communicate their hurts in a safe environment, using the communication method they learnt.
This did not occur quickly. Relationship counselling can be long and complex. Two people in an intimate relationship bring with them their past experiences, thoughts, feelings and behaviours woven together in complex ways of being. The key to their success was their willingness to remain together and work through their problems. They had a fundamental positive connection involving respect, acceptance of inevitable conflict sometimes and a strong love for one another. When the going got tough they didn’t run away from it. They didn’t allow it to deteriorate to the point of no return.