A Practical Marriage | Prepare-Enrich

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NOTE: Couples in The Relationship Dynamics Series are composites of multiple people. Names and personal details have been changed to protect their identities.

Serge and Sabrina were in their late 30s and newly married when they began my Coaching Program. When I’d first met Sabrina, they had been dating for nearly 2 years. She told me about her first marriage and shared that she had been in therapy to recover from the narcissistic abuse she’d endured. She had ended her therapy more than a year ago, but was still thoroughly confused about men.

The clock was ticking, and she wanted kids.

Serge was willing. He’d never been married and wanted a companion. She believed he was a good man, but she wasn’t attracted to him. I suggested premarital counseling. She hesitated. About a month later, she let me know she had moved across the country to be nearer to him.

They married soon thereafter.

A few more months passed when she and her new husband expressed their desire to enroll in my Couple’s Program. I was happy to help, but wondered what had made her suddenly decide to move and marry. Needless to say, I was more than a little concerned for her – and for him. Attraction is such an important part of marriage – at least for most couples.

The results of their PREPARE/ENRICH Inventory looked promising. They were highly committed and strong in terms of their relationship roles and spiritual beliefs.

However, they needed help to develop more effective communication and conflict resolution skills.

So that’s where we began.

Their problem was readily apparent in their Relationship Dynamics. Serge was very low on assertiveness. He had a hard time talking about his own thoughts and feelings or asking for what he wanted in the relationship. However, he scored high-average on self-confidence and generally felt good about himself and his ability to accomplish what he wanted in life.

On the other hand, Sabrina was more assertive and far less self-confident than her mate. She didn’t feel like she could accomplish what she wanted.

Serge was high on avoidance and had great difficulty addressing issues directly. As a result, his assertive wife often brought things up, and he ended up feeling like she was dominating and controlling. She certainly didn’t appear to be doing that intentionally.

Instead, she just didn’t hear him.

In general, married men are often highly motivated by protecting, providing, problem-solving, and pleasing their wives. Sabrina was unhappy in her chosen career, and Serge offered to support her while she experimented with other endeavors. She didn’t know how to accept his help. Instead of rejecting it outright, she simply ignored his words.

With encouragement from me, he would offer his thoughts and feelings on the matter, and I would ask her what she heard. She couldn’t tell me.

So I would repeat what I had heard him say, and she could not repeat what I had said either. On one occasion, I thought we were making progress. However, she said she couldn’t let him help her because she needed to contribute. Every man she’d ever know expected her to carry her own load, so she couldn’t entertain that thought for even a moment. In short, she dismissed him.

Sadly, we didn’t make much progress in our time together.

I can help some people with some things, but I cannot help everyone with everything. In less than a year, they had move across the country again. I am still hopeful that they will be able to find a higher level of connection and contentment.

Maybe someone else – at the right time and in the right place – can help them get to the next level of relationship satisfaction. Maybe not. They may continue with the practical aspects of partnership, without any of the romance.

I don’t know. It’s their choice. We all have choices. Some are harder than others. Some have greater rewards than others. But it’s still your choice.

Next time, I’ll introduce you to Peter and Paula, a Conflicted couple.

We’ll talk about their Relationship Dynamics and the path they took.