Mark’s experience was quite different than Cathy’s. (For Cathy’s story, please read After the Honeymoon.) Although their honeymoon had been totally amazing, he was glad to be home from Paris. For years, one of his favorite end-of-the-day routines had been to grab a quick snack and head to the bedroom for some late-night TV. When his stomach was full and he’d wound down from the day, he’d flip off the TV and drift effortlessly to sleep.
When Cathy came in that first night at home demanding that he turn off the television, he was confused. Her mood seemed to come out of nowhere, and he had no idea how to respond, so he tried to give her a minute to calm down. She didn’t. In fact, she got even more emotional. When she grabbed her pillow and left the bedroom, he thought she was acting crazy. He wondered how such a small issue had become such a big one for no apparent reason. He had absolutely no idea how to respond to this weirdness, so he froze. He expected that she would calm down and return in a minute or so to talk about it rationally. She didn’t.
As the years went by, Mark continued to use the same strategy. Cathy’s feelings were so easy hurt, and she often got far more upset than was necessary. Each time he withdrew to give her some time to calm down, but it never worked. Instead of calming down, she would actually get more emotional the longer he was quiet. He couldn’t figure it out. How could she be so critical of him?
Mark soon started spending more and more time at the office to avoid the inevitable blow ups. He especially enjoyed the company of his new assistant. She was fresh out of college and so excited to work for him. She had only good things to say, and he basked in the glow of her attention. Working late one evening, he asked her to dinner and things developed from there. He concluded that the problems in his marriage were Cathy’s fault, and that he would be much happier with his new love. He certainly felt more appreciated and much safer with her than he did with his wife.
After reading Mark’s side of the story, what do you think this couple could have done differently? We’ll take a look at their options in a future note.