The crux of the difficulties couples experience is the playing out, in ways large and small, of those unresolved feelings of childhood: pain, rawness, fright, anger.
“Jimmy, why don’t you tell Terry what really happened?” Julie says in a tight voice, twisting in her chair to confront her husband. With black hair and ice-blue eyes, 36-year-old Julie is as Boston Irish as a cold beer at Fenway Park, and about that frosty.
“You go ahead; you tell him,” Jimmy grumbles, trying to sound tough. At 41, six feet, five inches, and an easy 260 pounds, he looks like a linebacker gone to fat. In her stocking feet, Julie might clear five one or two, but beneath his bluster, Jimmy seems afraid of her. Watching her lean into conflict with a hard smile on her face, I’m a little afraid of her, too.
“No, Jimmy,” she insists, her voice hard, “you tell it. Just do it right.”
“I thought I was,” he says.
Julie had called me about two months earlier, complaining that their bickering was out of control. Now, in this, our fourth session, she and her husband are doing a great job of letting me see what she meant by that. They’re describing what should have been a fun waterskiing afternoon with their 8-year-old daughter the previous weekend.
“Where was Chloe?” Julie demands, turning to face Jimmy full on.
“What? Why are you—? She was in the water,” Jimmy answers.
“What was she doing?”
“Jeezus!” Jimmy’s eyes dart around the room as if…