Gayle and Tony were having a holiday party and Gayle pulled out the china and crystal. Tony accidentally broke one of the glasses and Gayle yelled at Tony. Tony withdrew and they didn’t talk for days.
Fortunately, our marriage counseling session was only three days from the incident. This was the pattern that Gayle and Tony struggled with—Gayle reacting and Tony pulling away. We processed the incident in our counseling session, so they could both learn their roles in the conflict and heal.
Gayle told Tony she knows accidents happen, but shared the story behind the story. They were married thirty years and Gayle’s now deceased mother gave Gayle the crystal glasses and china as a wedding gift. The crystal and china were one of the few household items that survived a house fire many years ago, and they no longer sold the crystal glass so it couldn’t be replaced. In addition, Gayle said, “The broken glass symbolized the possibility of their relationship shattering into pieces.”
Tony was struck by the power of this story. Gayle’s reaction now made sense to him, but he still didn’t want to be yelled at. Gayle agreed that she needed to work on her reactivity and Tony agreed he would work on staying engaged with Gayle. Maybe their relationship would survive as well.