This is about a couple who came to see me in my private practice. They are a beautiful example of how the experience itself can potentially take us to the deepest and most loving of places.
I describe a session as if we are there now….
Margaret and Simon (not their real names) are in their fifties and have been together for 20 years and they know each other very, very well. They feel unexcited by one another and there’s a sense of lifelessness about their relationship.They’ve got into less than good habits of being blaming and tetchy with each other. And, deep down, there’s a feeling, if not for both of them but definitely for one of them, that they’d really like something more. They want more from this relationship.
Margaret says “Well, the children have left home. It’s just the two of us now. The feeling that we could go on like this, in this kind of dead way….it’s so painful. I’m so sad. I don’t know what to do. We don’t know what to do”
This couple had literally forgotten how to be close, particularly emotionally and physically. They did very little physically other than peck each other on the cheek and call that a kiss. They did sleep in the same bed but it didn’t occur to either of them that they could have a cuddle. In bed, they read and or watched television. Bed had become a doing place. They very rarely touched and the idea of sleeping naked in bed and cuddling was about as far away from them as going to the moon!
I ask them, very gently, to stop talking and I say things like: “Let’s all stop talking. Let’s just stop. Take a breath and let yourselves get in touch with what you’re feeling right now. Feel that sense of loss you’ve been describing and take another deep breath. Feel what you’re missing and let that pain be there. Just breathe and feel it. It’s ok”.
In a while, Margaret is crying and Simon is sort of wiping away a tear. I continue, gently and slowly: “It’s okay to feel these feelings. It would be incredibly surprising if you didn’t feel these feelings, given the deadness that you’ve both been experiencing for so long. So I’m going to ask you to do something. Would you be willing to just turn a little bit on this sofa here and look into your partner’s eyes? Look into the eyes of this person that you’ve been with for 20 years.”
There’s a lot of hesitancy at this moment…a huge amount of hesitancy. They look at me and they look around. Then, Simon does tentatively make the turn and sort of nods and so Margaret turns too and their eyes meet. (By the way, sometimes, couples burst into a giggle at this stage. They see each other and they giggle and they say, “Oh my god, we haven’t done this for years” or “This feels so strange.” I say, “Well, giggle away. Have a giggle.” Isn’t it amazing that your heart can really be sad one minute and giggling the next minute”?
This couple in front of me are both deeply moved and they become absolutely transfixed with each other’s eyes and they just look and look and the tears flow. Then slowly, they both reach out for the other’s hand and it’s so moving. I say “Just stay with this. Let’s just stay with it. This is the beginning of your new life. This is the beginning of your connecting again” and the tears flow lots. Of course, you can imagine, I’m crying too at this point
Simon manages to find words and says “I’ve missed you”, and Margaret says, “Oh, I’ve missed you, too. I don’t know how we got here. I don’t know how we got here in this lonely place. I’ve been so lonely.”
There’s more, but I don’t want you to end up sobbing on the floor. The thing is, this isn’t a romance novel, even though it may sound that way….this is a real couple in today’s world. They were so lost from one another. This encounter was the first stage for them of a deeply healing journey back to connectedness and intimacy. Over the coming weeks, they talked less and less, especially not in the blaming, hopeless and helpless kind of a way that they had been doing in the first few sessions. Their verbal life became rich, softer, caring, highly personal and positive. And they touched each other physically and emotionally more and more. The connection and closeness deepened steadily over the coming weeks.
It was beautiful to behold.
Sometimes we don’t notice that we are not intimate any more; it just feels like the norm…eventually, we notice and of course, that’s when it’s good to do something about it, ideally together…a session, a workshop, a programme….a something that feel right for you and will support your connection to deepen and grow.