"We Almost Lost Our Daughter -- Then Our Marriage"

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The Counselor's Turn, continued

"Leigh needed to give Sean more credit for what he did for the girls or around the house, and to tell him, nonjudgmentally, when she needed him to pitch in. As the tension eased, she was able to do that, and now he frequently does the dishes or the laundry without being asked. "We also spent several sessions helping Sean lower his stress level so he didn't snap at Leigh or feel the need to distance himself. 'Don't let favorite pastimes get edged out by work and family demands,' I told him. Sean now meets two friends at 5 a.m. three days a week to ride his bike into the mountains. He also takes a few minutes to sit quietly in the car and meditate, or simply close his eyes for five minutes, before going inside the house after work.

"Focused now on making their marriage a priority, the couple religiously reserve one night a week for a date, and they set aside half an hour every day to talk about anything other than the children. 'I also call Leigh in the middle of the day just to say hi,' Sean reported. 'I think about her all the time, but she never knew that. Now she does.'

"By the time they ended counseling, Leigh and Sean were quicker to recognize problems and resolve issues before they mushroomed. Basic rules for conflict resolution -- such as tabling volatile topics until they both felt calm enough to discuss them -- also helped. Recently, I received a call from Leigh. It was around 3 p.m., and she was at home resting because she was once again pregnant with twins -- this time, boys. When I called to congratulate her, she sounded ecstatic: 'I feel great -- physically and emotionally -- because Sean and I are finally on the same page.'"

This month's case is based on interviews with clients and information from the files of Lynn Heitler, LCSW, a licensed clinical social worker in Denver. The story told here is true, although names and other details have been changed to conceal identities.

Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal magazine, May 2004.


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