A Case Study of the kind of issues couples bring
Clare and John’s Story
Clare and John came to see me as Clare had recently discovered John had been chatting to another woman,who one of his work colleagues. John said it had started very innocently, but Clare had inadvertently found a text message which led her to believe that things had gone further. Although John was adamant there had been no physical or sexual contact.
Clare was obviously very upset and angry at John. She blamed him totally, feeling he had broken her trust and wondering whether she could stay in the marriage. She could not bear for him to come near her, and every conversation soon erupted into an argument. The children, whilst not being told the details of the distance between their parents, sensed the atmospheres, and soon became disruptive and difficult. John was both embarrassed and ashamed, claiming he loved Clare, but was unhappy in the marriage.
Clare is 45 and John 47. They have been together for twenty five years and married for 20 years. They have two children aged 16 & 18 yrs old.
John has a very demanding job in the City of London, working long hours, on top of a 3 hour commute to and from work. He leaves very early in the morning, often arriving home late in the evening, working long hours. He also has a habit of taking work home. John said this was because of his heavy work load. And the work ethic of the company expected all employees to work long hours. He felt he had to comply or be seen as lazy. This left little family time – and even less time for the relationship, as he was tired a lot of the time.
Clare works part time for a charity. The children are now independent, and not needing her as much, so she has taken up several hobbies, as she felt she was lonely as John was working long hours. She belongs to a choir as well as several clubs, all of which meet in the evening.
It became clear that the relationship had been declining for about the last 6 years, about the same time as John changed his job. In his previous job he had worked locally with reasonable hours and arrived home in time to enjoy the evening with Clare and the children. Clare had told John many times that she was unhappy about John working long hours, feeling neglected. As a result John assured her that once he settled into the job he would be working more reasonable hours and getting home earlier.
However this didn’t happen. Clare began to become increasingly annoyed at John. So often made snide comments, which irritated John. But sadly it was never discussed properly. John hated confrontation. Instead he began to work later or bring work home so he didn’t have to get involved in an argument with Clare.
Clare recognised that things had started going wrong when John changed his job. As a result, he wasn’t around so much to help out with the children and the chores. She felt lonely, and began to become and more resentful. She felt she had given up her career to care for the family and children. Therefore, she took a part time job to fit in with the family. But this left her feeling like a drudge, not appreciated by anyone. So she took it out on John more and more. She decided that as John was never there to spend time with her, and the children were much more independent, she would take up her own interests.
As the story unfolded it became more obvious the relationship was being sadly neglected. John’s job taking up more and more of his time. He also spent more time at work as he didn’t like the atmosphere at home. It felt like Clare was either to be spoiling for a fight or out with new friends she had made.There no longer seemed to be any love in the relationship, and there sex life was almost non-existent.
John found a sympathetic ear – a female colleague, who seemed to take an interest in him.They would sometimes go for a drink after work and he found he had started to laugh again. After a while she started flirting with him, which John found flattering. The relationship with Clare had become stale, and they were almost living separate lives.
Clare felt ignored and as already discovered, felt a drudge – unattractive and unloved. The only time John seemed to make any connection with her was when he wanted sex, which made her feel like an object, rather than loved and cherished, which she craved.
Neither of them were able to talk to each other about the problems, only making passing remarks, which were received as sarcasm. This made them withdraw from each other more and more, and conversation became less and less.
They had become strangers, living in the same house.
As we worked together they began to see progress
Once they each recognised their part in the neglect of their relationship, and took responsibility for their part in it, we began to work on moving forward. It was important for Clare that John acknowledged the hurt he had caused Clare by flirting with the work colleague. And they each acknowledged their part in the neglect of the relationship.
They each agreed they loved each other and wanted to stay together, even though they knew it would take a lot of work to repair the damage done.
We decided that we would work together for 12 weeks, meeting for 90 minutes each time. In between I gave them agreed tasks so they felt they were moving forward in between each session.
We worked on Clare’s anger and upset at John’s indiscretion, as well as her lack of trust. Fortunately John’s colleague had moved company’s, which eased Clare’s anxieties. John agreed to let Clare check his phone so she could see there were no messages going on between him and his former colleague.
I encouraged them both to ask for what they needed. And whilst some things couldn’t be agreed, in general they negotiated with each other, so they both felt a win-win in the situation. They found it false and clunky at first, but I assured them things would get easier with practise. I encourage negotiation rather than compromise. I feel compromise means we have to give something up, leading to resentment.
Over the period of time we worked together, with my support, John and Clare both agreed to give more to the relationship. As a result, John spent less time at work and Clare gave up some of her activities. This meant they could spend more time together, and concentrate and rebuilding their relationship. They both recognised that they did enjoy each others company.
They also invested time in finding out where the relationship had gone wrong. By really listening to each other, instead of assuming they knew what the other was thinking or saying. They learned to empathise with each other, and with that came more affection and intimacy.
At the end of the 12 weeks Clare and John had stopped avoiding each other. Sarcastic comments had lessened considerably, and they were listening to each other. I also noticed how they were laughing together. They were actually looking into each other’s eyes with affection rather than distaste. They realised they were enjoying each other’s company and feeling much more content and happy. The children also noticed the difference and were much more relaxed. There sex life improved, as a result of them feeling more loving towards each other.
They both realise that they need to continue to invest time and effort in the relationship, and they both agreed their relationship is happier and they have rediscovered each other and the love they thought they had lost.
They told me they have decided to
Renew their Marriage Vows!
Names and some of the personal details have been changed to protect my clients’ anonymity. However the issues their story are true in essence, and very typical of who I work with.