Strong emotions such as anger and anxiety can be an indicator of underlying unresolved issues. This is what Jane and John discovered when they found themselves struggling in their relationship.

When high stress from a demanding job resulted in John becoming emotionally unavailable in his marriage, Jane noticed feelings of increasing anger towards him. She was annoyed that he forgot to do things which he said he would do, he left the disciplining of the children to her and their conversations had shifted from “deep and meaningful” to mundane. Jane’s description of their marriage was, “it’s like we’re flatmates these days”.

Jane wisely chose to seek help before the anger turned to resentment – a much more destructive emotion.

With the help of her counsellor, Jane was able to use the anger she felt as a motivator to identify the issue and make some positive changes. She identified also that her marriage was of immense value to her and worth putting the effort in to overcome their present struggle. She acknowledged that John needed her support and compassion during this stressful time. In session, Jane was able to put together a plan for how to communicate with John; expressing the problem, unmet needs, how she was feelings, how it was affecting her and how it was impacting their relationship.

The resulting conversation fostered increased understanding and empathy for one another. Jane’s action provided them both the opportunity to talk, take stock and make some decisions that were of great benefit to both their relationship and John’s work. John grew in self-awareness and learned to better understand the anxiety he was feeling about work and developed skills to express it in a healthy way that was of benefit not just to his marriage but in his workplace and other relationships too. They both learned that whenever they feel a strong emotion – anger in in this situation for Jane and anxiety for John – they can use it as an alert that something is out of balance. Then they can take a closer look at what is happening in their lives and relationships to determine what it is and how they can deal with it in a positive way.

These days, John and Jane schedule regular marriage time. They have coffee or dinner dates and talk about issues early – before they even become issues sometimes. They have learned that frequent conversations like these keep them accountable to one another and foster greater intimacy.