In the business of relationship counselling, you would not expect to see a marriage you would admire, but there have been a few I admired for different reasons. A couple made an appointment to discuss the difficulties they were experiencing with an adult son, who is struggling with alcohol and drug addiction.
They made it very clear, from the start, they were not interested in ultimatums, detachment, tough love, or letting their son hit rock bottom. These concepts felt harsh and dangerous, and they could not comprehend ‘letting go’ of their son, when he needed them the most.
Their son is supported professionally, and they are prepared to invest emotionally, relationally, and financially to get him the help he needs and wants. They did not come to counselling to seek support for their son, they came to improve themselves, their home and family, and to protect their marriage.
In our first session the husband moved two of the chairs in the room close to each other, explaining he needed to be able to hold his wife’s hand. They both sat down, and reached for each other’s hands. It was a symbol of 38 years together; sharing passion, love, marriage, pain, history, three adult children, and two grandchildren. Throughout it all they held onto each other, just as they were doing now, during this painful experience of an adult child going through his own hellish journey.
As a professional I teach, educate and encourage couples to turn toward each other in times of difficulty. It is an exceptionally humbling, and awe-inspiring experience to be taught by my clients; they show me what this actually looks like in the reality of life and marriage. After 38 years they were experts in their marriage, and this is a summary of how they kept love alive.
LOVE IS ACTIVE AND ALIVE
They were both proactive in seeing what needed doing, and doing it.
LOVE WAS NOT A TRADE OFF
They did not pull back their love from each other when they did not get what they wanted.
MANAGED THEIR EXPECTATIONS
They understood expectations breed resentment, and their focus was on how things were, rather than how they wanted it to be.
THEIR POWER WAS EQUAL
They were aware of, and interested in each other’s needs. They communicated directly, and asking straightforward for what they wanted. No game and blame playing here.
NO FANTASY WORLD EXISTED
They understood the ‘white picket fence’ is a fantasy world, and nothing real and worthwhile exists there.
THEIR FOCUS WAS NOT HAPPINESS
Their happiness was a byproduct of a life well lived, investing in their marriage, and making a positive contribution to those entrusted in their care.
This way of being in their marriage has sustained them through many a painful experience, and will once again support them in navigating the tumultuous journey of an adult child who is drug and alcohol addicted.
The love for their son is active and alive; seeing what needs doing, and offering their love and support unconditionally. They are not trading with their love for their son; he is their boy, and he needs them now more than ever. They hold no expectations, there is no blame; the focus is on what is occurring right now, not how they would like it to be.
They are empowering their son by asking him directly what does he need/want from them, and turning to each other for comfort. There is no fantasy of tough love, or abandoning their son, only the reality of keeping a relationship with him alive, without losing themselves, their marriage, or enabling his addiction.
The focus is not their happiness, or even the happiness of their son. As a couple, as parents, and grandparents, they fully understand the fundamental needs every human being has. To be safe and secure in the certainty of family, being significant and respected, experiencing love and connection, learning together, and contributing to family, and others.
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If you can identify with this and would like to find out more about how we can help
Please call Newlands Counselling on 1300 001 220
Copyright Sandra Bowden