Fran, after 26 years of marriage, had decided to divorce Harry. She had consulted an attorney, told her mother and sister, put Harry on notice and then her two teenage daughters called a family meeting and insisted that their mother and father get counseling.
Fran described Harry as a negative person who found fault with almost everything she did. She felt blamed by Harry for almost anything that went wrong in their lives and for Harry a lot went wrong.
Harry felt ignored and neglected because Fran “loved her work more than anything else.” He felt that he came way down on her list of priorities after work, the kids, the house and the dog. This left him feeling hurt and angry. Although neither of them ever thought divorce would be a part of their lives it now seemed like the only possibility.
Counseling helped each of them see the particular part they each played in keeping their marriage unhealthy. Harry, in individual sessions, made the connection that he was acting the same way his father had behaved while he, Harry, was growing up. He described his father as an angry, disgruntled man who made himself feel better by criticizing everyone around him. Harry clearly remembered how awful this felt and how he took great pains to avoid being in his father’s presence. When he realized the same thing was happening between him and Fran he felt both remorseful and optimistic that things might be able to change between them.
While at first very defensive about time spent at work Fran recognized that work had become a safe haven, and that Harry’s perception of her making work more important than her marriage was true. She saw that as long as she continued to do this Harry had a right to feel hurt and unloved. Harry saw that as long as he continued with his negative, critical attitude toward Fran he was pushing her toward making work more important than him. With these understandings both Fran and Harry saw how they were pushing one another away, making it difficult to stay loving and connected. Counseling helped them see that repairing their marriage meant each of them making the other a top priority. They made a new commitment not to repeat their old pushing one another away behaviors. Whenever one of them felt a distance in their relationship they agreed to talk about in a non-blameful way.They made a commitment to begin having “date nights” as a way to gradually reconnect as friends and lovers.
Written by Dr. Paul Moschetta. He can be found at www.marriagehelp-newyork.com