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*Jack had never been to counseling before. He was used to dealing with things by himself. The thought of talking to a stranger about their personal problems was so completely foreign he had a hard time imagining it let alone actually doing it.
The arguing though was getting worse. It was daily now and they never seemed to be able to solve even the most minor ones. Their sex life had dried up to once a month and even at that, he knew Jill was having sex because she felt like she had to–not because she wanted to.
One morning he made a decision. Jack was tired of not sleeping. He was tired of worrying how this was all going to work out. He missed Jill and wanted more than memories of times they were close. He agreed to give a counselling retreat a try.
Jack was incredibly nervous when they arrived for the retreat. He had to meet with Renee one-on-one for an hour and he had no idea whatsoever what he was going to talk about. Jack was starting to have second thoughts.
Renee welcomed him into her office and spent a little bit of time talking with him about their hotel, Banff, what he did for a living and other things to help him relax a bit. Renee told him it said a lot about his motivation to make things better that he was willing to come to the retreat and talk with a stranger. “This isn’t so bad so far,” Jack thought.
They moved on to talk about what was happening in his relationship and what he had tried to make things better. They talked about when he and Jill first starting dating and even talked about his relationships before Jill. They talked about his family growing up and what his relationship was like with his brother and sister, as well as his parents. Renee asked about his parent’s relationship–how love was expressed–and how anger and conflict was handled.
By now Jack was feeling pretty comfortable. It was a lot easier than he had thought it was going to be to talk about things. He realized that what was happening in their relationship had slowly happened over the years. He could pinpoint when things started changing and could speculate on what contributed to them going down the path they had.
Jack wanted to be able to handle conflict with Jill better. He wanted a happy marriage! He wanted to have their sex life back—to have it be good for both of them as an expression of their love for one another—and for some fun.
He knew Jill wanted him to open up more and he told Renee that. “I just don’t like fighting,” Jack admitted. “I’d rather shut up about it or walk away rather than say something to make things worse.” When Renee asked him if that was working, Jack had to admit no. “Sometimes she just gets madder and I haven’t even done anything!”
After Jack and Jill met one-on-one with Renee, they met together with her. They discussed their conflicts and practiced some different ways of talking through things. Jack felt hopeful for the first time in a long time.
They moved on to talk about ways to feel more connected with one another to strengthen their friendship. Jack and Jill both realized they had stopped working on their relationship once the kids came. “We both wanted the kids so much and we thought we were doing the right thing by putting all our energy into the kids. It makes sense that we need to have our own time alone too.”
When Jack and Jill returned home, they felt hopeful and confident that they could turn things around. So much had happened during the retreat. They had admitted things they had never told one another before. They had been introduced to some new tools and had some clear ideas of what they needed to do to have their marriage be what they both wanted it to be.
*Names and details have been altered to protect confidentiality.