*****There has been such a tremendous response to my original post, “Your Spouse Wants a Divorce. You Want to Stay Married. Now What?” that I decided to do a follow up.
Someone asks me every day if I think there is hope for them and their marriage. Most of the time, I try to reassure them there IS hope, but I can tell they are skeptical.
So I interviewed two clients I just finished working with who agreed to let me publish their story. John came to my office alone 5 months ago. Marcy joined him about 8 weeks later. This is their story.
Kim: “Hey Guys! Thanks for letting me share your experience.”
Marcy: “Thank you for giving us the chance to share it. I hope someone else gets encouragement from it.”
Kim: “Marcy, remember when you sat in my office and told me marriage counseling would be a waste of time? You made it very clear you didn’t want to be here.”
Marcy: “I do remember. If you told me 5 months ago that I would be here today giving this interview I would have thought you were crazy. But here I am!”
Kim: “Okay, don’t let me jump ahead of myself! John, can you tell everyone why you came to The Marriage Place?”
John: “Absolutely. I read your blog post When Your Spouse Wants a Divorce And You Don’t. That was my situation exactly. Marcy was getting ready to move out, and I was feeling desperate. You told me to breathe and stay calm. I remember you got us in quickly because I was so upset.”
Kim: “I remember.”
Marcy: “I did NOT want to be here. I came because I wanted you to help us get through a divorce and still parent our kids and at least not hate each other.”
Kim: “Yeah…didn’t work out that way though, did it?”
Marcy: “No! You said you would be the last person in the room still fighting for the marriage as long as one of us wanted to save it.
I was so angry with you then.
I was afraid you were giving John false hope. I told John later that you just wanted to take his money!”
Kim: “Oh! Wow!”
Marcy: “Yeah…sorry about that.”
Kim: “No worries. Can you explain to everyone why you were so convinced counseling wouldn’t work?”
Marcy: “John and I had been having problems for two to three years. I tried many times to tell him I didn’t think things were going well for us but he didn’t seem to pay attention. He would try to do some things differently for a while, but it wouldn’t be long before things were right back where they started.
I got tired of complaining and feeling like nothing was ever going to change. I threatened to leave him about a year ago and that got his attention.
We tried counseling but it didn’t work. The counselor was ok, but it felt like all we did was talk about all the problems.
We left most sessions feeling worse than when we went in. We did that for about three months before we quit. It just felt like a waste of time. Once we stopped, everything just went downhill. I told him I was moving out this last time, and he must have gotten online, because he read your blog and then asked me to come with him.
I agreed, but I didn’t want counseling. I truly believed it was hopeless and a complete waste of time. I felt no romantic feelings for John at all. I felt he was smothering me and I only wanted to get away from him.
So I told him I wasn’t coming back, and the next thing I know, he is coming by himself. I remember being irritated because I thought he was wasting time and money and I didn’t want to drag this out any longer.”
John: “Ouch! I don’t like hearing that but I know it’s true. I did all the exact wrong things before I read your blog.”
Kim: “I know but thankfully, you were a quick learner!”
John: “You told me to stop chasing Marcy–it was desperate and not very attractive. When you told me to stop telling her I loved her, I started wondering if you knew what you were talking about!”
Kim: “But you followed the plan”.
John: “I didn’t have a choice. I was about to lose the person I loved the most.”
Kim: “When did you start to notice that things were working?”
John: “Well…it was really small things at first. You told me to journal the experiments and keep track of all the results.
I did that. Some days were better than others.
But I kept coming here and kept working at it. You asked me to write down the first sign that I would see from Marcy that would tell me things were improving, and I wrote “She will sit in the same room with me for longer than 5 minutes.”
That sounds pathetic to me now, but things were so bad she left the room every time I entered it. When that first sign happened, you asked me for the next sign. Things just kept improving slowly a little at a time.”
Kim: “John, it may have felt like it was going slowly, but 8 weeks is pretty quick. Some people work that plan for months. Marcy, what did you experience when John started changing his behavior?”
Marcy: “It was weird. At first I wondered what he was up to. I knew he was coming here, but all he would say was that he was working on improving himself.
The first thing I remember noticing was that we weren’t fighting all the time. I remember one day I realized you (John) were about to come home from work, and for the first time in a long time…I wasn’t dreading it.
Then later, I realized I was actually looking forward to seeing you. I knew then that something drastic was happening but I didn’t understand it. I just stopped being in a hurry to leave.”
Kim: “Marcy, do you remember when you wanted to come to counseling?”
John: “I remember it! She asked me to have dinner with her, and I told her I had plans with some guys from work. I could tell it bothered her. The next day she asked to come with me to see you!”
Marcy: “He’s right. I wanted to see if we could enjoy a dinner out and it feel like old times. I remember thinking I had just a glimmer of hope that things could really get better. He hadn’t been home all that much and I actually was beginning to miss him!”
John: “It’s her (Kim’s) fault I wasn’t home much. She told me to get a life!”
Kim: “That’s right! I did!”
Marcy: “Well, it must have worked! We started coming together and things started moving quickly in the right direction.”
Kim: “Why do you think they moved quickly?”
Marcy: “I think there were several reasons. To begin with, you helped me see that I hadn’t fallen out of love with John–I was just focused on all the negative things about him I didn’t like.
I couldn’t see any hope because I couldn’t see past all the resentment and anger. We had been coming here a while before we even began to address any real problems. But that was ok because we had tried the other way before and that didn’t work.”
Kim: “You guys weren’t in a place to handle any more negative energy. It’s like a trauma patient coming into the ER who needs surgery but isn’t stable enough to survive the operation. You have to get the patient stabilized before you do surgery.”
John: “I know when we started counseling we had a long list of problems that we thought we needed help with. Once we got to that part of the counseling process, most of those problems weren’t an issue any longer.”
Kim: “I love it when that happens! I see it all the time! Getting couples reconnected emotionally is oftentimes enough to get things back on track.”
Marcy: “Seriously! Some days it seems surreal that we are where we are now. We can’t possibly express just how grateful we are that God brought you in our lives. I think PO2 is a special place.”
Kim: “Thanks Marcy. I really appreciate your kind words. But you guys did all the work. Just remember what you learned is not a once and done thing. You now have healthy habits in place that will keep you guys connected for as long as you do them. So DON’T STOP DOING THEM!”
John: “We won’t. I was a little hard-headed in the beginning about some of those exercises, but I’m a believer now.”
Kim: “You also know to come back every three months for this next year to avoid relapsing into old behaviors. You guys are awesome! Thanks for letting me work with you.”