In my practice I love to use diagrams and often draw pictures on a white board for couples as we move through their therapy process. I like the idea of making difficult concepts simple to understand, and I love it when clients take out their cell phone to take a picture of what I am showing them so that they can remember it. When couples come into the office in crisis, one of my most effective and helpful graphics I use to help couples diagnose their marriage, and to know if separation is an option is what I call The Circle Exercise. After reading about the exercise, I am going to want you to complete your own …
The circle above represents a healthy marriage. Outside the circle represents freedom and being single. Inside the healthy marriage are two small circles. The blue circle represents Person A, and the gold circle represents Person B. In the healthy marriage the partners are firmly inside the circle, facing one another. Each person is focused on the other.
This second circle represents the marriage of an unhappy couple. In this example, Person A is firmly inside the circle, focused on his partner, Person B has pulled close to the edge of the circle, and is looking back and forth between her spouse and the possibility of leaving the circle,which means leaving the marriage.
In the third circle Person A is firmly inside the circle focused on his spouse, while Person B is on the line of the circle, and the focus is looking and back and forth between her spouse and the divorce decision, as if to say over and over, “Do I stay or do I go? This marriage is in imminent danger of Person B leaving the relationship.
In the fourth circle Person A is firmly inside the circle focused on his spouse, while Person B is outside the circle with her back turned on the marriage and looking out toward freedom and being single. When Person A senses that he is losing his spouse, attachment panic is triggered and he does everything he can to pull her into the circle. This pursuit of his wife usually involves being on his best behavior, doing things he usually did not do such as writing love notes and sending flowers, calling and obsessing over her needs. The problem is, his wife is not receptive to his pursuit, and is mostly annoyed by it.
Now it’s your turn …
An exercise: Below is a circle, and that circle represents YOUR relationship. Anywhere inside your relationship circle draw a small circle that represents where YOU are today. This could be firmly inside the circle, near the edge, on the line (half way in/half way out), or all the way out. If possible, ask your partner to draw where his or her position is within or without the circle. If your partner is not available, draw where you believe them to be within or without the circle. Next, draw an arrow showing which way your focus is directed. Is it directed toward your partner? Is it directed outside the circle to freedom and being single … or … someone else? Have your partner draw his or her arrow, or draw where you believe their focus to be directed.
The information you just gained from doing that exercise is very valuable as we work to diagnose your marriage. We still have a bit more to do in our diagnostic process, so I don’t want you to be jumping into any conclusions just yet about what it all means. Just keep reading and learning all you can about this, and know that we will eventually be able to make a very accurate assessment, and we can then prescribe the best plan for you and your family.
If you haven’t already, visit the ARE page where you can further gain information in diagnosing your marriage. After that, take a look at the stages in which a marriage dies. All of this together will help you understand just how serious your marriage issues are.