Ken and Erin were progressing nicely in marriage counseling. They were addressing the major issues in their relationship. In a recent session, Ken noticed that Erin seemed upset. His reaction was, “What did I do now?”
I commented that Ken’s reaction was defensive, reminiscent of times when he would actually say something upsetting. I encouraged him to change his response to, “You seem upset.”
Erin shared how unhappy she was. She was struggling with friends and unhappy at work. She disclosed she was never happy. She talked about being adopted, never feeling wanted or like she belonged.
When Ken said “You’ll figure it out”, the statement didn’t come off as dismissive; instead he was confident that Erin would work through her unhappiness. I talked with them about their progress, and how their relationship was now safe enough for Erin to be vulnerable. Ken did a terrific job of listening deeply and being supportive—even holding her hand as she talked—as Erin moved to the depths of her unhappiness.
Ken now realized her unhappiness finally had little to do with him. His ability to be supportive when Erin was vulnerable was bringing them closer to the intimate friendship they longed for.