As this couple sat in front of me you could see the total relief on their faces. I smiled and asked them “what do you now need from me?” they both looked at each other and together smiling said “nothing”.
This snap shot of their current reality was the polar opposite of what they brought to me a few months before.
She was making all the sounds that sounded like separation and he was at a total loss as to why they were even in this situation.
All he knew his wife had totally changed and his world was turning upside down, she talked to him about the potential of staying married, but just living different lives even living in different parts of the world.
To him this was out of the question.
With a passion he loved his wife, but he felt powerless to understand what was happening and how he could help her get back to what he perceived was their historic happiness.
In his mind they simply needed to go back to where they were and in her mind she needed to go forward, but from her perspective she needed to go forward alone.
What was interesting was she didn’t really know where her feeling were coming from, all she knew was her feelings were compelling her to leave/escape. She was consumed by these feelings, but also of guilt, she never wanted to hurt anyone, but she knew she was.
When she entered my sessions I could tell that a fearful version of herself was running her and this was not an emotionally safe place for her to be, so we needed swift action.
I helped her husband to understand what could one the caused her fear. I shared with him what his role was and how he could free her to start to feel safe and free to be who she really was.
She was initially shocked at how quickly I diagnosed the real issue. From my perspective it was very simple, she had adopted a coping strategy where she essentially became emotionally closed in their relationship. She had been operating from a position of being the fixer in the relationship (rarely good emotionally for females) and practicality just getting on with it.
She wasn’t worried about her, she was simply happy if everyone else was ok. The problem with this strategy is in her quest to not rock the boat she was emotionally emptying herself year after year. No one in her family was aware of her problem and she wasn’t aware of what was helping her feel so bad.
As the children were reaching late teens a part of her saw an opportunity that would enable her to still be part of the family from afar, but also be free to be who she really was.
It was simple for her, I can only be me if I spend time away from her husband. I knew this was a fear response and so we worked to help her understand what she was trying to escape from.
So I asked her this: What if she could be free to be her true self and accepted for being truly her within this marriage and how would this affect her view of herself and her marriage?
She struggled initially with that new thought, but slowly she could see that her real problem was not the marriage it was who she thought she had to be within it.
Essentially she had become someone she wasn’t. This was a root course of her pain.
As she committed to learning how to become her true essence and identity from within the marriage, and he committed to learn about her support her and love her no matter what, she was then safely free to explore who she could become from within the marriage.
We discover on this journey that she had so many plans ideas and dreams that could easily become a reality from within the marriage as long as she had her husbands support.
So she was right they did need to move forward, but what they really needed was a brand new relationship where she felt free to be open and her true self. This meant far more open and honest communication.
His quest to take her back in time was always going to be met with resistance from her, purely because back in time for her was a place of coping and emotional pain.
By understanding this it brought new confidence to him that now he could influence his own future and relationship positively, especially now he had the tools to understand her.
The result was a total U-turn:
She discovered that leaving the relationship was a terrible idea because the relationship was not the problem. She learnt that the relationship was not set up to support her. By organising a different dynamic the couple were able to connect in a way that reflected what they both fell in love with.
This ignited a new intimacy connection and passion.
I asked her what would she say to other people who are struggling with their marriage. Her message was simple: Everyone should find out what is really going on in their marriage and not to give up no matter what or how powerful their feelings are.
She today cannot believe the contrast of her own feelings within a few months.
She said that she could easily have walked away so many times and by learning about what was going on within her she was so thankful she learnt her truth.
She said leaving her marriage would have been the biggest mistake of her life and what’s frightening was if could have happened to her.