Michael and Nancy, an attractive middle-aged couple, found their way to me through a referral from a concerned friend. They greeted me with warmth and enthusiasm as we introduced ourselves to one another in the waiting room. By the time they had settled in my office, their emotional tone shifted considerably. Their uneasiness was evident as they sat at opposite ends of my large sofa. Nancy looked sad. Michael looked anxious. Both looked as if they would have preferred to be anywhere else in the world instead of my office, which was probably true.
After gathering some basic information, I began the session by establishing basic ground rules:
1. Only one person may speak at a time.
2. Everyone has the right disagree with the other.
3. Feelings are neither right nor wrong - they just are.
Then I asked each of the partners to answer my standard opening question, “Well, why are you here?” Nancy responded, “Our marriage is in trouble. We always seem to be fighting. We have been together almost twenty years. While I want to stay in the marriage, I’m not sure that we’re going to make it.”
When answering the same question Michael responded by saying, “I agree. We have had problems for several years now and things just aren’t getting any better. We have been to several counselors, off and on, and nothing seems to help. We try to talk but never get anywhere. Things always end up in an argument. I’m getting frustrated and am not sure that going over the same things again and again is worth the effort. I think that maybe getting a divorce is a good idea. Maybe this marriage is not worth saving.”
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