No Way Around It

Will was a former client of mine who I used to see when I was still doing individual counseling. He was currently struggling with his current relationship and needed my guidance.

Will was in a relationship with Pria for 5 years. Will was now in his mid-thirties and Pria in her early thirties. They were both primarily in graduate school during their years together, so they spent limited time together as they navigated the demands of school. They continued to live separately but Will was now thinking about their future.

Both of them were now finally working in their chosen professions. Will was thinking about committing to Pria but got concerned when wanting to spend more time with her, she seemed less enthused. He also wanted to spend more time with each other’s families and friends, but Pria seemed disinterested.

He came to me wondering what to do. He knew I wouldn’t be making a life decision for him—whether to stay in the relationship or not—but needed more clarity. I told him that there was no way he could improve the relationship without talking to her. Most conversations with Pria came easily, except when talking about their relationship. She seemed to shut down and withdrew during these challenging conversations.

Will realized he didn’t have a choice. So he shared with Pria his perceptions that she was withdrawing, and that he thought about their relationship as a lifetime relationship. Fortunately, since this conversation, Pria has been more attentive, making more efforts to spend time together, including with family and friends.

What struck me was the importance of talking with Pria about their relationship—what I call processing their relationship. Most successful couples have this skill. If a couple wants to improve, they need to be able to talk about it. There’s no way around it.