Picture This Scenario
Fictional scenario and names – Any resemblance to you or someone you know is purely coincidental.
Jack and Jill are not having a good time in their relationship. Jack is 36. He is a builder, he has 2 kids with Jill, both are under 5.
Jill is a stay at home mum right now, she is also studying remotely as she does not want to return to her previous job in fashion / sales.
- I’m pretty tired after working all day. When I get home, I’m hot and frustrated and just want to have a shower and chill out for a while.
- I feel as soon as I walk in the door, I’m bombarded with questions and thing’s I haven’t done, or messed up. I’m not in the mood to be talking with Jill about these things at this time.
- I admit, I get upset pretty quick sometimes and raise my voice. But, I just need my space, a bit of peace and time to myself sometimes, especially after work. Surely that’s not too much to ask?
- I know Jill complains about me spending time away as well. What can I say, I have a lot of hobbies and I like to keep fit. I run, go to the gym and like to get away fishing and camping with my mates and family.
- I feel Jill has drifted away from me a bit, and is blaming me for everything. I’m the one out working all day. I know looking after kids isn’t easy. But I think she’s using that as an excuse. Anytime I raise that, she gets defensive, so I just don’t know what to do anymore. We need help.
- I love being a mum, but to be honest it is pretty draining and I do get upset and feel ‘down’ sometimes when things aren’t going so well.
- I miss the ‘good old days, before we had kids, going out, catching up with the girls, working and just having fun.
- I don’t see Jack all day and I have to tip-toe around him a lot of the time when he is home. I wish he’d spend more time with me, be nicer to me, and help out around the house more. He doesn’t even ask how I am, or how my day was anymore. He just comes home, grumbles and is just not really trying it seems.
- I have kind of stopped trying so hard I guess, and it’s starting to show. The house is usually a mess and I’m getting concerned about my confidence dropping.
- I am scared of what I might become in a few years if something doesn’t change.
- I am scared Jack will leave me if something doesn’t change.
- I don’t feel I have the strength to be the one to stay positive the whole time.
- We can barely talk about anything like this , without ending up in an argument.
Couples Counselling - Laying the Foundation
Good Communication Checklist
After working with Jacqui in Couples Counselling, and learning new communication techniques, Jack and Jill feel comfortable to talk through a relationship problem on their own.
Note: Relationship repair is made possible when both people have positive regard for each other, are willing to listen and are open to influence. Knowing self-soothing strategies is also beneficial. Couples Counselling helps create the environment for ‘Smooth Conversations’ and better outcomes.
Relationship Repair Conversation
Jack and Jill sit down with Smooth Conversations to see how they can resolve a pressing relationship issue and repair their relationship.
They are both feeling fine and have plenty of time to chat.
Jill: “Can we talk about when you come home from work, and the way you speak to me. That’s really upsetting me, and I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve being treated like this.”
Jack: “Ok sure.”
Jill: “I’m alone with the kids all day. I miss you and look forward to seeing you at the end of the day, but when you open the door, barely acknowledge me, it hurts. It’s been happening a lot lately and now I kind of dread you coming home.
It’s just such a let down. And for me it make my whole day miserable, I feel like I don’t have anything to look forward to, and I feel like shit when I’m trying to be a good mum.”
Jack: “I know its been hard lately. From my point of view, I’m just working and I know I’m tired. By the time I get home I’m exhausted. I’ve got a lot on at work and have to yell at the guys all the time on site. I think that might be part of it. A behaviour I’ve picked up, that I need to stop.
I know you’re here alone with the kids all day. I try to get home as soon as I can to help, but the bloody traffic takes ages and yeah, I know I need to be better and talk to you better, Its just really hard to put on a happy face at the end of a busy day. To be honest I just want to have a shower and relax when I get home. Not talk about everything. I love you, but I just need some space too.”
Jill: “I felt rejected, dismissed, I felt small and insignificant, like you don’t care about me. You open the door and I hope to see a smile and I hope you ask me how my day was or something. To show some interest in me and the kids, but my heart just sinks when you are frowning, looking down and grumble off to the shower.
It just ruins my day. Any hope I have, I just think why bother. You know, talking about it now, this is probably why I am in a shitty mood most evenings. It could be the trigger. You know, I’m tired too. So it can’t all be left up to me.”
Jack: “Ok, well I didn’t know all that. I guess that helps me understand a bit better on how important me coming home is to you.
My emotions, are… I’m relieved to get home, I’m sore from work, and I know I’m angry sometimes from work and the traffic and that. I don’t mean to bring that into the home. I mean, I like seeing you guys but I am kind of not in the mood for being happy and talking about everything, and if you are nagging me about something, I am just about to explode. Which I know isn’t right. But yeah that’s how I feel in the moment.”
Jill: “I guess I have a belief that you should come home happy, and be full of energy and happy to see us. Probably a bit like an old TV show, where everyone’s happy you know.
I guess I have a belief that you will stay the same, and that things will be easy and good, like it was before we had kids.
My dad always came home happy to see me, and I looked forward to it each day. So it really hurts when you don’t match the picture I have in my head.
I just want to be happy like my mum and dad are. Mum knows somethings not right and is worried about us, but I don’t even know what to say to her.”
Jack: “wow ok, I didn’t know your dad was like that, makes sense I guess.” He’s a great guy. I haven’t really thought about my beliefs, I know I want to be a good dad and husband.”
“I guess my beliefs are pretty traditional, I’m happy working and want to provide for my family, I probably expected that you’d look after me a bit more when I get home. It’s probably old fashioned now that I think about it, but I guess I haven’t really thought about it to much.”
Jill: “I know the kids are pretty tiring, and I’m a bit angry at myself for not getting very far in my course.” Corona virus of course isn’t helping, but I just feel like something is missing too. I think because I finished up work, and my life has changed. I guess I expected a bit more from friends. Oh and us just not spending quality time together as much. Even on holidays, we don’t seem to be on the same wavelength.”
Jack: “Yes, there is a bit going on isn’t there. I guess when holidays come around I just want to get out there and spend time out running and get into shape. I hardly see the guys anymore and my work mates are mostly all young guys, so I really look forward to the holidays.
I know work stress has been affecting my mood lately, and even though I’m only 36, I still get pretty tired. That’s the main stress, but I guess just trying to fit everything in and being happy at the same time is hard.
I can’t think of anything else contributing right now. But yeah, just stress and everything.”
Jill: “I actually feel better already. It’s good to tell you how I feel, and I didn’t realise just how much I was expecting you to be like my dad.
It’s good to hear how you are feeling, we haven’t had a chat like this in ages, and I think this is helpful.”
Jack: “I agree Jill. It’s good to talk it through, I feel relieved already and now I know how important this is to you. Likewise, I feel you have a better understanding from my point of view. Just talking about it, feels good to get it out of my head and I think we both can make some changes here…”
Smooth Conversation Update
Jack and Jill have much more clarity and understanding about this specific problem already. That’s exactly what the blue ‘Clarity’ cards are designed for.
Jill has identified some beliefs and ‘expectations’ stemming from her dad and childhood that could be contributing to her frustrations.
Jack is more aware of Jill’s experience and is tapping into some fresh discoveries about himself and how he show’s up at home after work.
They are both feeling good about talking this problem through, and the process has unlocked insights they were previously unaware of.
After a short break they decide to continue the conversation, to see what changes they can make, and perhaps find a way to repair this area of their relationship.
Jill: “We both want the best for each other, and our kids. We are both tired at the end of the day, but we both agree we can do better and make the end of the day something to look forward to. It means a lot to me.”
Jack: “I agree, Now that I know how important it is to you, and how you’ve been feeling. I really want to make it up to you and be better when I get home.”
Jill: “I know we can support each other really well. Definitely talking about things like this is helpful, and just cutting ourselves some slack I think helps”
Jack: “I remember back to school and my old boss. They were really supportive, and kept me going on the right track there for a while. Perhaps I need someone to talk to, or just even to reflect on that time and put everything back into perspective.”
Jill: “I can perhaps lower my expectations of you, as you come home. Perhaps I can give you some space if you need it, or just make our welcome home ‘short’ for 5 minutes’ then let you have a shower etc.”
Jack: “Yeah, I just want a shower first, Perhaps I can spend a couple of minutes saying hi, and then I know I am way more relaxed after a shower, so we can spend some quality time then catching up. I’m different to your dad, so I’ve got to do it my way.”
Jill: “I think family and relationship values are at the top driving this. Probably tradition as well, and just showing we care about each other, so quality, respect, support, trust, connection.”
Jack: “I agree, just feeling happy, being home, knowing that working all day is worth it. For love, family. Commitment. Peace. Creating a happy home to live in, and the future.”
Jill: “I think we can agree that we need to make a change. I’m happy to make a compromise, as I said earlier and give you some space if you need it. Perhaps you can let me know so I can manage my expectations better”
Jack: “Thanks – I think that will help, just knowing that I can de-stress when I get home first will be a big help. I agree to working on managing my stress and emotions better and trying some changes that we both agree on. I’m actually getting excited about it right now!”
Jill: “I’ll genuinely be excited to have you come through the door. I’ll be laughing and sharing something fun and interesting with you. We will both be in synch and feeling good between work, kids, relationship, etc. Not getting too stressed over the smaller things.”
Jack: “I’ll know things are better, when I can leave work stuff & the traffic chaos behind me, and walk into the house with a smile on my face, or at least say calmly that I’ve had a rough day and need some space. Just understanding and better communication really.”
Jill: “I can be more flexible when you get home. Perhaps a short call at lunch time would be good to take some of the pressure off when you get home?”
Jack: “Thanks, Yes I’d really appreciate that flexibility when I get home, especially if I am late or have had a hard day. I’m committed to leaving ‘work at work’ and being more aware of being ‘me’ when I get home. I think relaxing and spending some quality time without the kids could be a good idea as well.”
Jill: “I will not pressure you to talk when you get home if you don’t want to. I’ll try and leave ‘nagging’ and annoying topics to a different time. Perhaps in a regular weekly couple catch-up conversation?
Jack: “Thanks, that flexibility will really take the pressure off. I’ll work on self-soothing and try to leave the stress at work and I’ll contact you during the day more to touch base with how you are going. Maybe I can get one of those fancy blue-tooth earbuds to chat hands-free!”
Jill: “Let’s take the week long break in Tasmania we have been wanting to do”
Jack: “Deal! The kids will love it”
Wrapping Up the Smooth Conversation
Jack and Jill had a smooth conversation!
By recognising their values and beliefs, the conversation was guided with purpose and meaning.
- They were united in their problem solving and with clarity and understanding.
- They worked towards a common goal.
- Both showed commitment and have set solid intentions to build momentum.
- Finding common ground was a great move, it was the launching pad toward an amicable solution.
- They were flexible, and showing goodwill, demonstrating to each other they have the best interests of each other at heart.
- They understood why they need to change.
- They developed a vision to motivate toward achieving the change and desired outcomes.
- Both remained calm – strengthening love, trust and connection.
Being Supported During Change
Its important to note the above is just a made-up example of how a conversation could unfold. We need to acknowledge every individual and couples is different. Every conversation and experience is different.
The purpose of this example is to help you get clarity on how the Smooth Conversation questions work, and how they can help you communicate.
It’s also important to acknowledge the success of any conversation is up to each individual.
Couples counselling and psycho-education can help improve communication.
It’s important to understand the limitations of ‘Smooth Conversations’ – especially if there are contributing factors or underlying conditions in play.
If you have any questions about Smooth Conversations – be sure to get in touch.