Relationship Distance: Crossing the Oceans Apart


A relationship example…

I was working with a couple. Let’s call them Marj and Jack. They had been married for 10 years and had three children. Marj made sure that everyone got to their day-to-day tasks, commitments, and activities. She also managed the cleaning, cooking, laundry, and other domestic tasks.

Household chores

Jack loved to plan and do things with the family. Whether it was skiing, biking, or camping, he got the kids and his wife out there and believed chores could wait another day. Unfortunately, his quest for fun often left Marj feeling disrespected and unappreciated. She had tried talking with Jack, but felt increasingly resentful as her attempts seemed to go unheard. He felt she needed to relax and enjoy life more. Over time, both of them dealt with their frustrations with emotional distancing. Their relationship seemed to lose its vitality as each waited for the other person to change. Knowing their marriage was at risk of dissolution, they contacted me.

The Miracle

I asked each of them to imagine when they went to bed tonight, and fell asleep, a miracle happened. The miracle was that the troubles that had brought them to my office had been resolved, but because they were sleeping, they had no idea. I asked them to consider what signs they would begin to notice when they got up and as their day progressed, that would tell them that things were different.

What do you think each of them said? If you were in this situation, what would you say? What would you be doing when things are going exactly the way you want them to in your relationship? If you find yourself saying things like, “I wouldn’t have to…” or “S/he would be…”, pause for a moment, and consider what you would be doing instead. Try to be as detailed as you can.

Marj said she would cuddle in the morning with Jack before they got out of bed. Jack indicated they would have some early morning sex. He would then get up and make Marj coffee and get breakfast going. Marj and Jack would work together to clean up the breakfast dishes, and plan their day as it was the weekend. Marj would invite Jack and the kids to help her get things ready and would appreciate Jack’s support in working as a team…

I elicited as many details as I could from each of them, talked about what the other partner would notice her/him doing, and asked them what the kids would notice was different. Eventually, we discussed ways bits of this miracle were happening even in the smallest of ways in their relationship now.

Marj and Jack were amazed to discover they wanted some similar things. As an experiment, I invited each of them to pick a day over the next week and act “as if the miracle had happened”, without letting the other person know that was the day s/he had chosen. I asked them to pay attention for signs of the miracle in their relationship—especially what each of them was doing that was a sign of the miracle, and to notice what difference it made in how their day went.

How about you?

Relationship distance can grow when each person within the relationship is waiting for the other to change or to make the first step. Focusing instead on what you’re doing that’s helping the relationship go the way you want it to can help move your relationship forward and bring that connection back again. Suppose this miracle happened in your relationship? What would you be doing that was different?

Renew your connection

Take the time to re-connect during a couple’s retreat in Banff, Alberta. Click the link below for more info:

Couple's retreat information