“Failure toa recognize one’s own absolute significance is equivalent to a denial of human worth; this is a basic error and the origin of all unbelief.”
– Vladimir S. Soloviev, author
“… Zoe presented as unconnected to her community… ”
It took three days and several emails before Zoe and Zack were able to find a time, late in the day, to come for couple counselling. Zoe said it depended on Zack’s work hours, and especially, on their babysitter’s schedule. They has been married for eight years and had moved to this province from out west.
Zoe and Zack had been living in their town for three years but seemed somewhat isolated in it, at least according to Zoe. They were close to their families, but their families lived a thousand miles away in a distant province. So, Zoe presented as unconnected to her community where they lived. And, this was curious since Zack’s job, as a sports coordinator for their town, involved a lot of community relations work.
Zoe was also a stay at home mother with two preschoolers. She hadn’t returned to her career in public service since the children were born five years earlier. She was a tall, energetic and friendly woman with dark hair and green eyes. She mentioned her parents had divorced when she was in elementary school, and she was determined to make her marriage work.
Zack was also tall but more relaxed and laid back. He was an avid sports fan, especially golf. And, with his massive stature, he danced with the risks of obesity. He was a member of a local fundamentalist church and had strong religious values which he hoped to share with his children.
“…I would never ask them how they feel.”
Once the introductions were done, I explained to them how couple therapy is simply focused accelerated learning. So, if they were prepared to learn and committed to a future together, they could rebuild their relationship regardless of what had happened in their past.
Then, I pointed out I don’t take sides because since, ‘it takes two to tango’…it takes two to build, or destroy, a relationship. Finally, I added, my approach focuses on their thinking not their feeling, and so, I would never ask them how they feel. I then demonstrated to them how when they take control of their thinking, it gives them control of their feelings…which creates personal empowerment and long term relationships.
They both listened carefully to my comments and agreed they seemed reasonable. They both agreed they wanted to rebuild their relationship and were willing to learn how to do it. When I asked each of them what brought them to my office, Zoe responded first.
“Zack is selfish, self absorbed, …doesn’t respect me or listen to me.”
“I feel like I’m on my own. Zack is selfish, self absorbed, passes the buck, doesn’t respect me or listen to me.” she said in a frustrated tone.
“OK! What about you Zack, what brought you here?” I asked.
“Well, she won’t forgive me, holds a grudge forever, is very distrustful of me and has lost her spirituality!” he replied in a calm and somewhat cool manner.
“So you both have specific complaints about your partner. But, you both say you are committed to rebuilding your relationship…correct?” I asked again.
Zack responded first this time, “I certainly am!”
Zoe mirrored him with, “I am too!”
“Great, then let’s get started right away. There is one more thing I want to alert you both about. If I notice something in your individual past, before you met each other, which is interfering with rebuilding your relationship, I may want to work with you individually to clear it up so it does not sabotage your couple work. Is that agreeable to each of you?”
They both agreed to this stipulation and we proceeded. The first and second sessions went OK and they seemed satisfied with their progress. So we booked our third consultation for the following week.
“There is a huge amount of freedom that comes to you when you take nothing personally.”
― Miguel Ruiz, author
“… use it as a relationship rebuilding tool.”
The day before our next consult, I received a message from Zoe asking to reschedule our consultation because their babysitter was unavailable due to some unforeseen events. I reminded Zoe of the 48 hour advance notice required to shift an appointment she had agreed to in the service contract. I suggested she find someone else to provide the child care, including some suggested options like the local high school, her neighbours or the family resource centre in her community.
Zoe responded with a terse message displaying frustration and anger about the situation and her being left by Zack to deal with it. Zoe eventually found a replacement child care provider and they appeared for their consultation. But, it was evident Zoe was still upset about it and Zack was still getting the brunt of her anger.
Once they sat down, I pointed out the tension in their relationship being displayed at that moment and asked them if they wanted to use it as a relationship rebuilding tool. They both reluctantly agreed. But Zoe added with a dirty look at Zack and a sarcastic tone, “It is so typical of him and exactly why we’re here!” Zack just slunked down more in his chair and looked away.
I said, “You will recall how I have said there are no mistakes in your past. What if that is true about this event as well?”
“I’m wondering if you won too, Zoe!”
Zoe reacted first with, “It wasn’t just a mistake, it was a disaster. I had to search all over town to find somebody to take care of our kids, not my kids…our kids, while he watched a football game on TV! I asked neighbours, I called our high school principal and even the family resource centre. I was so embarrassed each time, but I did it because I am committed to making this work!”
“What do you think about what happened, Zack?”
“Zoe takes a certain pride in how she cares for the kids, I just let her do it her way. I put the kids to bed and stayed out of her way by watching the game. And, she rose to the occasion…as she invariably does!” he replied.
“Zoe you are still upset about what happened. But Zack doesn’t seem to be at all! How do you explain that to yourself?” I asked her.
“That’s easy, he won and I lost! Same old story!” she said with a disgusted look on her face.
“I’m wondering if you won too, Zoe! Could you have got as much pleasure as pain out of this event?”
“I don’t see how! Zack got to relax and watch his game. I got to spend a lot of that time finding a solution to our problem of having no babysitter. How is that winning?” she asked, clearly standing in a blind spot of her awareness.
“My self, my family and my marriage!”
“Zoe it depends on your highest values. What would you say are your top three values?” I asked.
She paused thinking carefully, then she replied in a matter of fact manner, “Myself, my family and my marriage!”
“So, I wonder how dealing with the childcare challenge showed respect for your highest three values?”
She looked at me with a blank stare…like I was not even there. Then, she refocused and shifted in her chair. Then, she looked over at Zack, as if he had a hint or even an answer for her. Finally, she returned to me and said, “I have no idea!”
“Well, Zoe, I can only guess. Do you want to hear my best guesses, and then you can determine which, if any, are true for you?”
“I guess so!” she said with a air of hesitancy.
“Your partner helps you own, and appreciate, traits about yourself you disown!”
– John F. Demartini, human behaviour specialist
“…so, you have no regrets about doing it.”
“Can you seen how making all the effort to find childcare so you and Zack could attend our scheduled consult, was your effort to protect your relationship with Zack, your marriage?” I asked her.
She looked at me for a moment, then looked down at her hands and replied, “That’s true I suppose!”
“Can you see making all that effort was also you trying to protect your family and its future?” I asked next.
Zoe looked surprised but just nodded as tears rose in her eyes.
“And, can you see that when you protect your family and your marriage, you are also protecting yourself at the same second? And, that effort bolsters your self esteem and self confidence at that very same second?” I added.
“And, my guess is also, while it caused you lots of stress and pain, it equally raised your self worth…so, you have no regrets about doing it. It was worth it in your value system! Is that true, Zoe?” I asked.
“… your value system will always exact a counterbalancing price from you…”
She wiped her eyes with a tissue and replied, “No, I have no regrets about doing it…but somehow I thought my marriage and my family life wouldn’t be so hard…somehow…if I did the right things, it would be easier.” she said.
“Zoe, you’ve heard the saying, there is no free lunch in life. The truth is nothing in life is free, there must always be a fair exchange. Following your value system will always exact a counterbalancing price from you so you can learn to appreciate yourself and your life. It is nature’s way to keep us progressing at a rate we can manage.”
“Ken, are you saying I get to follow my values and grow my self esteem by chasing down a babysitter?” she said doubtfully.
“What do you think, Zoe?” I asked.
“That would mean then, that Zack’s football addiction helps me be me! Is that what you’re saying?” she challenged.
“What do you think, Zoe?” I asked again.
“… she offered a soft smile, which he returned.”
She paused and took a deep breath. “That would mean whatever pisses me off about him gives me an opportunity to respect myself, respect my values and protect my future in some way…is that where this is going, Ken?”
“What do you think, Zoe? Because that is exactly what I have learned from my 69 years of life and 38 years doing this work. And I’m convinced it’s true! But I can’t prove it to you…you have to prove it to yourself. But, I will guide you and Zack through that learning process. Are you ready for that journey?”
Zoe and Zack stared at each other for a long moment. Then she offered a soft smile, which he returned.
“Let’s do it!” she replied.
“The true purpose of marriage is not happiness, but rather, growing your self-esteem!” – King Ayles, author
Until Next time…
So, now you know, the purpose of your partner is so you can grow your self esteem and self confidence. Your anxiety is what motivates you to grow as a person and ensure your future! Check out how your partner does this. Notice the behaviours that bother you the most are the one where you learn the most. No mistakes, only learning opportunities.
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Our next seminar is entitled, “How to Bring balance to Life and Purpose to Work!” It will be on Saturday, June 3rd, 2016. Details are available at ww.kenpiercepsychologist.com
Send us your feedback and topic suggestions…we love to hear from you! If you have a specific question or wish to schedule a consultation, feel free to contact me.
Namaste, (I salute the grandly organized design of the universe, manifested in you!)
Further information: www.kenpiercepsychologist.com