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A Couple’s Turning Point

Listening to the Heartbeats Not the Words

Mary and Charlie signed up for couples coaching with me, Susan. We were following the model in our book, The Beauty of Conflict for Couples, and they were regularly using the 5-5-5 tool as homework to discuss their reoccurring issues.

When we got to the fourth session, Charlie vented his frustration.

“You gave us homework to talk about our reoccurring issues and mine is that she always wants more: more talk, more of my time, more attention!” Charlie came on our call with a head of steam.

“Why isn’t it okay for me to say, I don’t want to talk anymore tonight? Can’t my five minutes just be silent?”

Mary had a look on her face that I interpreted as – see what I am dealing with!

I decided to jump in. “Charlie help me catch up. First, let me say, I love that you are ready to dive in."

“Look, I have been very willing to do the 5-5-5 process and have to say it has been helpful. But I don’t like it when she says I am not doing it right. Just because I don’t reflect back what she says, or not talk enough, or don’t initiate - doesn’t mean I didn’t hear her or don’t care. I just want my five minutes to be MY five minutes.”

Mary jumped in, “I just want to know that you heard me. Isn’t that the point of talking. Is it too much to ask for a little reflection? ”

“But that’s not the point. It’s my five minutes. Right, Susan?” Charlie asked.

They were right into bickering.

“Stop,” I interjected.

“Look you both may have a point. Charlie, you can use your five minutes for whatever you like. However, I don’t think that is the issue here. Because you know that you don’t need me or Mary to confirm that – UNLESS there’s something else. So instead of confirming how the process works – how about you tell me what is really going on for you. Take your time.”

After a long pause, Charlie started to talk but then stopped. He sat back and closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “I am so tired of never being enough or not doing it right,” he said. I could see his body slightly trembling.

Long pause again.

“That’s what it feels like – like I am NEVER going to get this right.” He sat back, dropping his head.

It seemed like minutes passed. I believe they were both emotional. Mary reached out to Charlie. There were no words, but the message was so much clearer with the non-verbal acknowledgement than anything she could say.

Charlie finally continued, “I know this is so much older than our relationship. I never feel like enough but everywhere else in my life there are actions and work I can do to help me think I’ll eventually get going to get there. But what with you, Mary, there isn’t an action or something I know how to work harder on. I don’t believe it’s really about just trying harder.” At this point, Charlie was still looking down.

Slowly, he turned and looked at Mary. “I want you to know. This is all of me, and I am enough, even if you don’t think so.”

Neither spoke. They just looked at each other. Charlie stayed with the eye contact. Eyes soft and solid. Mary’s eyes welled with tears. There were still no words. Just being there together.

Charlie finally broke the silence. “Wow. Maybe if I actually sit in this, knowing long enough – like right now – I actually can believe I’m enough, and I can and will listen better.”


This was huge. But it wasn’t just a moment for Charlie. Mary acknowledged that she realized she pushed him because she wanted more emotion and reflection. But that was her stuff.

Mary responded, “The truth is, since we started these sessions, I think you have been more willing than me – and that scares me. You are showing up more than enough. I want that but I scare myself a little. What if I am not really any good at this?”

Both were their most vulnerable and both hung in. Not much more was spoken. Though towards closing they each shared that they felt like something shifted.

Charlie shared, “I get it. I have got to get that I’m enough. Maybe then I can start to hear what Mary is really wanting or believe I can share more. I do want more – not so much from her but from me.”

Mary responded, “I thought I needed him to try harder, to listen and talk more, but really, I’m beginning to think I may be the one who needs to listen more. And listen not to just his words but for his heartbeat. They show up very different than mine!”

For me, this was the session that marked a key shift in our work together. Suddenly, I was in the background and simply there to provide the space. They were showing up in the space fully and were relational with each other. I knew if that continued and they did their own work – they were going to be just fine.

Post Script

Charlie and Mary continued the coaching and soon reported that even though the bickering hadn’t completely gone away, they were each much more interested and engaged with each other.

As a result, they started to see each other as resources for feedback in making decisions about how they could more fully engage in their careers, their parenting, and some of the extended family issues they each were facing.

They discovered that even though they had different money styles and beliefs, that they now had the tools to talk more openly. When the discussion got heated, they now had a way through.

Why Coaching?

The quality of our relationships directly impacts our health and happiness.

I love working with couples because I can support creating a fulfilling relationship which then expands to people’s health, joy, and aliveness.

If you’re struggling with resentment, money conflicts, broken trust, or even the threat of divorce, I’d love to help you and your spouse through those places that seem irreconcilable.

Interested? Check out Couples Mojo Coaching. Not sure, reach out to me directly, susan@thriveinc.com, if you have any questions. Happy to chat with you! Just want to see what this is all about? Read our book: The Beauty of Conflict for Couples.

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