As they walked in the room and hesitated; deciding where to sit, Jason and Sheila appeared awkward and disconnected. Sheila chose the single chair closest to the door. Jason waited for her to choose her seat before sitting himself alone on the double sofa. They created a picture that was to match their story.
Two months prior, Sheila had asked Jason to move out of the home they had lived in for some 15 years. This had been a shock to him. Tears still welled in his eyes when he remembered the afternoon of that conversation. As the tears welled Sheila sat unmoved as if she didn’t notice.
After some 15 years of marriage Sheila had had enough. Enough of Jasons refusal to get a better job, a better group of friends or better life goals. She was tired of being the breadwinner, the organiser and the dreamer.
Since he had moved out Jason had joined the gym and lost 6 kgs. He had applied for several new jobs and was short listed for two. He had started paying into the retirement fund at work and had sold the old car cluttering up their garage which had been waiting for some 5 years for him to ‘fix it up’. It was clear Jason wanted Sheila back.
“I just can’t feel the way you want me to feel Jason”, said Sheila.
“I’m not asking you to. I’m just asking for a chance”, he woefully replied.
At the end of the first session I suggested they come separately to see me.
In our one on one session Sheila told me that she was not sure whether she wanted their marriage back or not and she was not sure what she needed in order to make the decision.
“He is pushing me away with all his want”, she exclaimed.
When I saw Jason he said he was confused by Sheila’s indifference. He wondered what that indifference really meant. He wasn’t sure he could hold out hope much longer. I could also see that Jason was sabotaging any chance of a relationship repair by incessantly texting Sheila and turning up unannounced with flowers or her favourite custard slice. He was growing desperate and frustrated and had started to get angry with her for ‘stringing him along’.
At the end of my session with Jason I asked him how he was showing Sheila his commitment.
“The flowers the calls, the lawn mowing, the changes I am making, the declarations I am making………..what more can she possibly want?”
“Have you asked ?” I replied.
I think that it is easy to show commitment when things are certain. When the ground beneath our feet is secure and when we know we are loved. It is so much more difficult to show it when we are not certain of the end result.
I was thinking that this was the perfect opportunity – a golden gift of an opportunity, for Jason to prove his commitment.
In the next session together Jason gathered his courage and asked Sheila what it was she really needed from him right now. And like magic – she told him.
In a session some 2 months later Sheila was able to tell Jason that she wanted their marriage back and that she missed him. It had been a long road for them both. Pure joy and relief radiated around the room. Jason had been able to deliver what she needed most; the space to feel again.
Giving what feels almost impossible to give when your partner needs it is the most powerful statement of commitment we can give.
NB This is a fictional adaptation.