When they returned the next week, Clare told Sharon that despite some initial skepticism, she'd stayed with her feelings and had a significant insight. In both situations, she'd felt unheard and unseen, as though her desires didn't matter.

"Do you remember having similar feelings when you were a child?" Sharon asked.

"It's the story of my life," Clare replied. "I felt invisible as a child. In my family, my opinions were always wrong—or worse, they didn't even matter."

Inside that core of strong feeling, Sharon explained, was Clare's story beneath the story. "What fuels a couple's recurrent conflict is, inevitably, a much deeper wound that's being reactivated. As long as these wounds remain buried, the conflict—in different guises—goes on and on."

As for Jeremy, on both occasions he felt that his innocent friendliness and generosity had been misconstrued. It didn't take much delving to find his story beneath the story. Orphaned at a very young age, Jeremy was raised in foster care. Having never felt he belonged anywhere, he works hard—bestowing his attention, bestowing cookies—to make himself feel accepted by others. Clare's scolding him hooks him right into his own defensive behavior. He makes light of Clare's feelings, and so the cycle continues.

These links to a well of painful memories actually brought great relief to Clare and Jeremy. Now when Clare looked at Jeremy, she could see the little foster boy inside the "inconsiderate husband." When Jeremy looked at Clare, he could see the unheard, unseen girl inside the "controlling wife."

Next: Why this approach works


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