The relationship that existed between John and Nancy during their early years together was just as turbulent as Arlene and Kevin’s. According to John: “one of the big problems in our early marriage was that I would say things to Nancy that would hurt her, but she wouldn’t tell me. She would just withdraw.” Nancy agreed: “Yes, I would have to stand back and sort of lick my wounds, whereas for him when it was over, it was over.” “Now,” John continued, “she’s learned to say, ‘I have a headache,’ when she doesn’t feel well. And I say, ‘You poor dear, why don’t you go to bed, or take an aspirin or something?’” While this still keeps John and Nancy in traditional masculine and feminine roles, Nancy is at least describing her needs and disclosing that she feels ill. Previously, she wouldn’t communicate to John that she had a headache and John would perceive her as being lazy or inconsiderate of his own needs.

After a marriage seminar, Nancy became more open in her communications, and now John has more information and can be more considerate of Nancy’s needs. Remnants of the old, traditional pattern in their relationship remain. Nancy often still feels she is being ignored by John and he often still tears her down in front of other people, despite efforts at more open communication:

I constantly criticized myself, Nancy and our relationship. That criticism tore down her self–image. But she never said, ‘Hey, you’re destroying me,’ Now I’ve learned, and I can usually tell when my kidding or comments are hurting her. When her self-image is high, I can tease her and say, ‘You’re no good,’ and she can laughingly reply, ‘yeah, but I’m twice as good as you are.’ We both know it’s a big joke and everything is okay. But if her self-image is low, she believes every negative word. Sometimes I misjudge where she’s at and she will tell me, ‘that hurts’ and I’ll back off. So we have both grown.

Communication seems to be a critical factor in helping this couple move through their storming stage. John was comfortable in being sarcastic and critical of other people. Nancy was not comfortable, but rarely told John of her concerns. With more open communication, John began to modify his behavior. He also began to express more positive feelings, along with his usual negative feelings. Nancy indicates that he now lets her know every day that he loves her: “I’m afraid that before I was like that guy who said, ‘I told you when I married you that I loved you, and if anything changes, I’ll let you know.'”


Share this:

About the Author

Avatar photo

William BergquistWilliam Bergquist, Ph.D. An international coach and consultant in the fields of psychology, management and public administration, author of more than 50 books, and president of a psychology institute. Dr. Bergquist consults on and writes about personal, group, organizational and societal transitions and transformations. His published work ranges from the personal transitions of men and women in their 50s and the struggles of men and women in recovering from strokes to the experiences of freedom among the men and women of Eastern Europe following the collapse of the Soviet Union. In recent years, Bergquist has focused on the processes of organizational coaching. He is coauthor with Agnes Mura of coachbook, co-founder of the International Journal of Coaching in Organizations and co-founder of the International Consortium for Coaching in Organizations.

View all posts by William Bergquist

Leave a Reply