A man told me that he’s not getting anywhere in marriage counseling. His marriage isn’t improving. His wife continues to be critical and aloof.
I asked him what he had learned in our two sessions.
He said, “Not much.”
I said, “Well, let’s review.” I pulled up my easel and newsprint to write on.
I asked him to go over for me what his wife has been complaining about over the years.
He said, “She doesn’t think I listen.” But then he added,
“I do listen.”
I asked him to recall what it meant to listen. He said that if she had an important meeting that day, he was to ask her about it that evening. If she had a disagreement with a friend, he was to be on her side and listen to how she felt. He said that he should not read the mail or walk out of the room while she was talking. And when she called him at his office, he was not to continue to work on his PC.
I wrote all these points down on the newsprint and asked if he had been practicing these listening behaviors. He said, “Sort of.” I requested that he tell me something else his wife complains about. He said she wants him home by 7 pm.
“And in this department, how are you doing?” I asked. He said some days good, other days not so good. In truth, he doesn’t pay attention to when he gets home. I wrote, “Home by 7 pm.”
I asked for more problems his wife had pointed out. He said she complains that every time she wants to do something, he says no.
I asked if he could recall anything she wanted to do during the weekend.
He said she wanted to go see Belfast. He defended himself by saying that even though he had objected, in the end he went to the movie. I wrote on my easel, “Don’t immediately say no when wife suggests an activity.”
When I probed for other problem areas, he said she had been asking him to fix the doorbell, clean the basement, and take the newspapers out of the garage. And he was to call an attorney and set a date to go over their wills.
How was he coming on these projects? I wondered.
“Not too good,” he said. In actuality he hadn’t done any of them.
“Is there anything else that I should write on my chart?” I asked.
He said that she wanted him to give more time to the children, particularly their son, who was having trouble at school. “Be specific,” I said.
He said she wanted him to review their son’s homework each night, play ball with him in the yard, and take him to a sporting event or two. She also wanted to go on family outings a few times a month. I wrote down these points.
I then explained, “If you want a better marriage, you’ll need to do these things. Marriage counseling is not magic. People come to get help in defining their problem, getting some insight into why they have the problem, and then figuring out what they need to do differently. It’s not that marriage counseling isn’t working. The problem is you’re not working.”
Check out Doris’ latest books, “The Boy Whose Idea Could Feed the World,” as well as, “The Parent Teacher Discussion Guide“ and “Thin Becomes You” at Doris’ web page: http://www.doriswildhelmering.com.
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