June 23, 2011 at 2:37 pm , by Jennifer Castoro
We’ve all had our share of stressful days at the office, after which we’ve gone home to greet our hubbies with little more than a peck and a grunt. But for Jon, a 38-year-old chief financial officer at a small engineering firm, every day is sheer torture. And his wife, Lara, a stay-at-home mom to their 1-year old son, can’t deal with his stress any longer.
Lara’s turn Jon is completely shut-down, anxious and jumpy, and ignores her and their son. She wants to help ease his stress and empathize, but every time she asks a question about his day he snaps at her. He’d been out of work before he took this new job, so she understands he’s reluctant to leave it, but his boss is a raving tyrant. She did anticipate that Jon would work hard, but he’s doing more than that, keeping his phone on at all hours and skipping weekend activites. They haven’t been married very long and Jon didn’t work for much of the marriage, so she knows they’ll be able to survive if he gets out of this horrible situation. So why won’t he help himself?
Jon’s turn He’s so tense from the situation at work that he has no energy left for his wife or his son. He’d heard his new boss was difficult, but he had no idea it would be this bad. The man bullies everyone, berates his employees and calls Jon at 2 in the morning. He was happy at his former job but when the company moved to a new state and Jon didn’t go along, he thought he could find something else he liked just as much. Now, he feels stuck and he’s not sure why – maybe because he was recently unemployed or because his own father unhappily stayed at the same company his whole career to provide for the family. Jon plans to stick it out and learn to deal with his ogre of a boss, but he’s resigned to a life of misery that his wife can’t accept.
The counselor’s turn First, Jon had to learn to deal with his stress, then the couple had to figure out ways to reconnect. At heart, Jon was insecure and thought his success thus far was undeserved, so he took his boss’s affronts personally and was terrified to quit. Lara compensated by placing no demands on him whatsoever, allowing him to ignore her and their son and wallow in his misery, and asked him irrelevant questions that only fueled their disagreements. Jon’s self-doubt was partly due to depression, and once he began treatment his anxiety was reduced. He learned ways to lessen his stress at work, like tuning in to his body’s signals that his stress levels were rising, taking deep breaths and calming responding to his boss then leaving the confrontation. He also came to accept that he isn’t doomed to this job forever and acknowledges that he doesn’t have to like his boss to work with him. Now that he’s able to cope with his fears, he’s more comfortable sharing them with Lara and leaning on her for support, bringing them closer again.
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