Re-routing the River: Jessica and Steve’s Story: Part One

Sometimes, when you’re dissatisfied with your relationship, you want changes to be made quickly.

But what if you’re being unrealistic?
What if you’re being unfair to your partner?
What if you need to adjust your expectations?

Positive change in your relationship is absolutely possible – but lasting change takes time, work and commitment.

In this three-part case study, I explore how.


Part One – Setting a Vision

Jessica* came to me with her husband Steve* for Relationship Coaching, complaining that she felt patronised and belittled by the way he spoke to her. Jessica found Steve’s approach to problems very direct and “black and white”.

“For example, rather than listening to me when I’m talking about a work problem, he just gets annoyed and starts telling me what to do! Also, he speaks really loudly, which can be quite intimidating.”

Although Jessica had become used to Steve’s communication style early-on in the relationship, she’d bottled up her building resentment for years.

Until now.

And now they were here, Jessica wanted things to change – yesterday. Having bottled everything up, the lid had now blown, and she felt she couldn’t tolerate their problems any longer.

Now she was sitting in a Relationship Coaching session, with the opportunity to speak, Jessica started to really offload. She listed all the ways she was dissatisfied with Steve’s communication, and I could see Steve visibly withdrawing, turning away from her, folding his arms, breaking eye contact.

I had to step in.

I explained that whilst listing all the things your partner does or doesn’t do in the relationship, and pointing out all their flaws may feel cathartic for you, it will actually get you nowhere in the long run. Rather than being constructive or providing any helpful information that you can both use to move the relationship forward, it will just feel to your partner like a character assassination.

I explained one of the first golden rules for solving problems in your relationship:-

Rather than focusing on what you don’t want, focus on what you do want.

It might sound simple, but I have lost count of the number of couples who find it easier to point out the negatives than to think of positive solutions.

Focusing on what you do want gives the relationship a positive, hopeful focus, and can be really motivating.

Focusing on relationship goals means that you can form a clear pathway to achieving your relationship vision.

I explained that although sometimes we really want to rush ahead, taking the time out at the beginning of any journey, to set the destination, and look at the map, can save lots of time and heartache later.

Jessica and Steve were set a homework task – to each go home and write out, individually, up to three positive changes they wanted to see in their relationship.

They agreed that sharing these with each other would be the focus for our next session.


Join me in the next blog post – Re-routing the River: Jessica and Steve’s Story: Part Two – to find out how Jessica and Steve got on.

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*Client confidentiality is always protected. Case studies are therefore fictional and for illustrative purposes only.

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