When Ali and Frank first came to couples counseling, they were contemplating marriage and children. Ali really wanted to be married and Frank was hesitant. They were both in their mid-thirties and their comfort with each other was palpable. They were now living together and Ali wanted a deeper commitment. Frank never imagined he’d get married and didn’t have difficulty seeing himself as a lifetime bachelor. As comfortable as they were with each other, there was tension around these competing needs. In fact, Frank would feel so much pressure from Ali about making these commitments, that he would question whether he could be in a relationship with a partner who was so demanding.
We worked on Ali’s demands in couples counseling. When she made demands, Frank typically withdrew. This would infuriate Ali. Frank would withdraw further which made Ali angrier. When Frank said he wouldn’t tolerate staying in a relationship with this dynamic, Ali decided to work on herself. She found a stress management class. She made her desires clear without being forceful or coercive. With these changes, Frank no longer retreated. As these new patterns took hold, they have since married with a child on the way.
Lately, Ali has felt disconnected from Frank. She gets angry at him for disconnecting, and then Frank withdraws. This pattern is returning to their relationship, making Frank question his decision to marry. More work needs to be done, but this is a stepped down version of the original pattern. But with a baby coming, so much more is at stake. Since they have overcome this dynamic previously, there are more skills in place to do it again.