A lovely brunch and hike ensued, and they have been a couple ever since.
The early days of their relationship were long-distance, and Denise found herself pregnant after Thanksgiving, when they had spent only a few months together in total. They had already known they wanted to spend their lives together, so they married before their first son was born. They later had a daughter and another son.
One of the biggest problems in their marriage came as a confluence of events: financial, empty nest, job change and milestone birthday. They thought they were set financially and then 2008 hit them hard. With children in college, and Denise and Dominic thinking they were heading for retirement, suddenly everything changed.
Denise got very depressed.
Their coping skills are very different: she becomes angry like a wave, and he freezes. Given time, they are able to talk things through, see one another's perspective and support each other. In other words: become anchors for one another again.
They would walk and talk, side-by-side, and "Spit Out All the Hairballs" that were lodged in their thoughts, throats, and hearts. They decided to yoke together like oxen, and not turn on each other. Even though there was an intense desire to blame each other for their situation, they decided not to.
What we would do with this couple in counseling is to normalize their stresses and help them find ways to talk that are productive instead of causing further stress and hurt. This would get them out of the angry and frozen positions (remember emotional the brain knows fight, flight, or freeze). Change is stressful, whether they are good events or challenging. We would address Denise's depression, and begin with determining ways she could mange her depression.
We would look at underlying patterns in their long marriage that work for them and encourage more of that. We would also look for the unhealthy patterns that need intervention, and teach tools and skills for communication and resolution.
Denise's Tips and Tools for Other Couple's
? Be Kind.
? Take a walk together, looking forward (face-to-face seems confrontational).
? It's okay to have big emotions, but don't use them against each other.
? Respect who each other is; you are not the same person.
? When it comes to raising kids: You are both doing everything, and there's still more to do.