Carol was frustrated at work. She worked for a company for eight years, and there was a particular position for which she was aspiring. She was consistently overlooked when she applied for promotions and decided to leave. She did get a new job, but the new job felt like a demotion. She expressed her upset to her husband Tim—thinking she would never get another opportunity—especially since she was in the latter part of her career. Tim’s response was, “Get over it.”
Tim’s lack of support was one of the major issues that brought Carol to marriage counseling. Tim had a long history of being critical toward Carol, but he was progressing nicely in this area. Now he needed to learn to support to his wife. Carol went to graduate school in midlife, and now her career ambitions were being thwarted. Tim needed to emotionally support her in this process.
I sat next to Tim and coached him how to do this. His father was verbally abusive to his mother, so he rarely observed loving support. We first worked on his listening skills, being careful not to interrupt Carol. I modeled responses that were more supportive, such as “This must be so frustrating for you” and “How disappointing to not get that promotion.”
Tim was able to pick up where I left off and said, “That last job doesn’t know what they‘re losing. You are going to be great in your new job and may eventually find opportunities in another company.” Despite his history, Tim was beginning to learn how to emotionally support his wife. This is an aspect of emotional intelligence which can be learned. Tim just needed a coach.