Because they were so disconnected, Laurie and Matt finally agreed to come to couples counseling. Laurie previously talked to Matt about her needs not being met, and Matt would respond dismissively, e.g., “Don’t worry about it.” or “We’re okay.” Laurie got tired of not being heard and put her focus into work.
When Matt talked about wanting more time together, Laurie’s response was hurtful but authentic, “Work gives me more affection than you do. People say hello and goodbye, want to talk with me, and I feel more appreciated and valued than at home.” She resorted to spending an inordinate number of hours at work, since being home was so lonely.
In our sessions, they finally were ready to have the conversations required to work on their connection. Matt was now hearing her pain and feeling badly. He wanted to spend time with Laurie, and didn’t realize the power of his dismissive statements. Both feared they wouldn’t overcome the apathy they developed over the last few years.
When Matt said his dismissive responses were natural for him, I corrected him saying they became a bad habit. He acknowledged being a poor listener and was determined to do better. To heal, Laurie needed to vent her upset feelings and frustration. They were determined to overcome their apathy.