In their late 50’s, married for 30-some years with 2 grown kids and a grandchild, Mary and Tom were in deep trouble. Mary was deeply hurt and royally pissed off. She felt Tom was shut down and put roadblocks up around anything and everything that gave her joy – projects, travel, shared adventures. Her mom had recently died and she felt life was too short. She just wasn’t going to take it any more! She had talked to a lawyer, found a condo and was ready to move out. Tom finally understood just how serious Mary was and convinced her to come talk with me before taking any more steps toward divorce.
Together they decided that neither of them wanted to have any regrets, so they decided to give their relationship one more chance. They signed on for a Big Picture Partnering ™ coaching program knowing that out of this work together they were going to get help, acquire the tools and mindset to make major changes, and see if their relationship was going to make it or break it.
We went to work together. Applying the Big Picture approach, doing their homework and using their coaching sessions fully, the less difficult parts of their relationship smoothed out quickly. Mary stopped talking about moving out. She learned that their style differences didn’t mean they could not partner. She worked on letting go of her anger. Together they learned to listen to one another. Then they created goals together. They began to practice their newfound partnering skills on house remodeling projects and vacation planning—both things they had always fought over in the past. Both remodeling and vacations got them involved in partnering on their budget and financial picture together—another major area of contention in their past.
At the three-month benchmark, Mary and Tom came in saying they felt “more like friends again.” There was less anger and sarcasm in the air. “We have a long way to go, but at least we are talking and the Big Picture tools are giving us a new way of working together and we realize we have a lot to lose if we don’t.”
Mary and Tom successfully completed the Big Picture Partnering™ coaching program. They decided to continue with a Maintenance Program coming in every 2 – 3 months for “tune-ups” as they refined and integrated their skills. I saw them the other day after a 3-month hiatus while they partnered on their own.
I have to tell you it was delightful to see them and I could hardly get a word in edgewise during our coaching session! Mary and Tom took turns saying “Oh, and I just thought of one more thing we are doing!…..” And then there was another fun thing they had accomplished, and then another and another! This went on for 90-minutes until we were all laughing and rejoicing realizing how far they had come!
This couple has gone from the brink of divorce, fighting or shutting down, to chatting back and forth, laughing, sharing stories, companionship. Mary’s eyes light up when she shares something Tom is doing. He listens to her, encourages and praises her activities.
Making plans together, completing projects together and financial cooperation, aspects they fought over, are problems of the past. Mary and Tom are planning two adventurous international trips this year and beginning to anticipate a retirement of more artistic and travel adventures from the secure home-base they have stabilized through partnering. They have another grandchild on the way and are proudly involved in their lives. Tom has opened up to his spiritual side and has started a men’s reading group at church. He and Mary are totally in control of their financial picture, have hired a good investment person to advise them and are making decisions about their future together. Their home is completely remodeled and they love it as a restful haven they have created together. Mary has cutback on her work schedule and is fully integrating her artistic pursuits that give her great joy. They are totally aware when they need to talk and upgrade their partnering if they have the slightest hint of disconnect. They are true Big Picture Partners fully enjoying the life they have learned to create together.
Where it is a desired outcome, I have been known to frequently turn couples on the way to divorce around. Within a few months many of them go from talking to attorneys, looking to separate, all the way to saying
“We feel like friends and companions again. Amazingly, we’re on the same page. We now know how to talk about things we couldn’t even discuss before! By talking I’ve changed my perspective. Things I assumed before I now see differently. It’s not that we necessarily agree, you simply taught us how to listen and talk to one another in a new way! It’s working.”