Apart from these patterns of belief and behaviour, it was clear that it was vital to pay attention to the way in which a problem was presented, just as in individual work. Just as an individual in trouble would often present their problem in a way that became a barrier to change – better the familiar problem than the terrifying unknown – so couples would do the same. The first task then was to make sense of the way in which the problem was framed by this first presentation.
So a reconciliation referral may involve one party asking that you make their partner see sense and return to the marriage. This request might require powers of magic since the partner was not prepared to come to any appointments. What was being presented was perhaps an inability to face the fact of the partner’s departure, and to cope with the sense of loss, defeat or powerlessness. Alternatively, it could be that some people felt that they had to present themselves in this way to justify my time and attention – to simply ask for help with distress was too hard or too burdened with the expectation of rejection.