Turning back towards one another is a powerful thing....
Denise and Stu have been together for over twelve years. Stu has been prone to bouts of depression and Denise has recently lost her father. Their pattern has been for Stu to get angry and frustrated and to shout at Denise. In response, Denise has learned to withdraw and hide her emotions away. Over time, she has found herself ‘stonewalling’ Stu and ceasing to respond to him at an emotional level.
Over the last six months, Stu and Denise have been taking a serious look at their relationship and have been working hard to reconnect with one another at a deeper level. This happened after a scare in which Denise threatened to leave Stu. She said she felt ‘dead’ in the relationship. Stu was shocked. They both decided to fight for the marriage and to begin work with a couples therapist.
Denise said that she had never believed in therapists or counsellors, or that it would be possible for someone to help her and Stu work on their marriage. They first worked out with the therapist what was the pattern of fighting that kept getting them stuck? They began to turn down the heat in fights – which made it more likely that they would end up connecting.
They decided on a new tactic of approach and share.
Stu tells Denise that he needs to know that they will be o.k., despite the row they had last week; and that he is really concerned that she is still angry with him. He says he is unsure about how she really feels about him and that he sometimes gets angry because of this. He shares this and asks her to be open with him and, if she can, reassure him that everything is now okay between them.
These new, connected kinds of conversation are an immense relief to Denise, who felt that Stu just didn’t care about her. Now, instead of avoiding the ‘hot spots’, the two are able to come back and talk and to find one another again. They now feel like they are ‘fighting the demons’ together and this strengthens the hope for the relationship. Denise describes what it is like for her when Stu and she reconnect: “I feel like my body calms down and everything is alright with the world again”.
Based on Love Sense by Dr. Susan Johnson.