Patrick and Stephanie have been together for four decades and were really fond of each other. However, these moments only occasionally shined through in our combative couples counseling sessions.
Patrick was approaching retirement, and they were enjoying the lifestyle of visiting their kids and grandkids. Since most of their adult children lived out of state, they had differences regarding how much time to spend with their children versus tending to their local parents, who had various health issues.
These conversations were often conflictual. There was typically an underlying theme of who was right and who was going to prevail. Patrick often leaned toward spending time with the kids and used his sales skills to promote his ideas. Stephanie wasn’t going to be pushed around and would hold her ground about not traveling for extended periods so that she could address her mother’s deteriorating health.
After many months of difficult work, we had a couple of conflict-free sessions. Patrick said, “We are finally learning to accept each other’s approaches rather than agree with each other’s approaches.”
I thought this was well said and applicable across couples. Couples are frequently wanting their partner to agree with them. Instead, Patrick and Stephanie were now accepting each other’s position and then working through their differences.