Paul and Amber were a young couple on the verge of divorce. They had been together for two years and had recently separated. They really loved each other and shared common values and hopes for the future, but the forces tearing them apart seemed unsurmountable: As the father of Sophie, a 13-year-old daughter from a previous relationship, Paul counted on Amber to help out with Sophie on the weekends he had to work. Amber felt ill equipped to be in charge of moody and strong-willed girl for most of the weekend and Paul didn’t seem to take her distress seriously. They also argued about the division of household chores, finances and spending time with their respective families. Their relationship, once warm and affectionate, had grown distant and cold. Their explosive arguments left them feeling battered. Maybe divorce was the answer.
As a last-ditch effort, Paul and Amber decided to give couple counseling a try. With limited finances, they couldn’t afford the $80 to $100 sessions that are normal fees for private practitioners. They called JFCS and were referred to the Relationship Solutions Clinic. This clinic is staffed by graduate students in the final year of their clinical training who are supervised closely by an experienced clinician. With a fee of only $20 per session, this fit perfectly into Paul and Amber’s budget.
Several critical things occurred in the counseling. With the help of their therapist, they learned to slow down and really listen to each other’s concerns. While there were no simple solutions, simply hearing how the other partner felt helped create an atmosphere of trust and cooperation. Paul and Amber learned conflict management skills that allowed them to stop arguing when things became too emotional and to come back to the conversation when they were calmer. They learned that the challenges they had when Sophie was with them were common to blended families, and Paul adjusted his work schedule to be home more when his daughter was there. They developed better problem-solving strategies and experimented with different ways of dividing chores and keeping track of expenses until they found something that worked for them. They learned to accept that no marriage is perfect and all couples have ongoing issues to work on. Now that counseling has concluded, Paul and Amber have moved back in together feeling hopeful that they have the skills to manage and thrive.
People sometimes divorce or break up for good reasons, such as abuse or addiction, but many people simply lack the skills and guidance to make their relationship work. Many people start relationships full of love and hope and promises; unfortunately, they may lack the tools to weather the challenges that inevitably come after the passion cools. Ending a long-term relationship can stop the immediate pain but it also comes with its own set of difficulties. If you need help mending your relationship, JFCS is here to help you.
The Relationship Solutions clinic is held at JFCS on Tuesday evenings between 5 and 7 p.m. Availability is limited and participants must meet income guidelines to qualify for the reduced rate of $20 per session. Appointments are required. Contact Kathryn Bentley at 452-6341, ext. 240, for more information.