Friday, February 19, 2010

Marriage Problem or Customer Service Problem?

By Julie Marie Rahm

How many times have you vented at your spouse at the end of the day? When it happens often enough, you start to think you have a marriage problem. Most likely it's something else. See if this story sounds familiar to you.

One of my clients is a 35-year-old mom of a 10-month old daughter. She came to me, because her metaphorical "level" had tipped from a steady horizontal to nearly vertical toward the negative. She had feelings of resentment around the demands on her each day, and guilt around feeling that resentment. She feared that her marriage was crumbling around her.

When she described a typical day, her tasks included the care and feeding of her daughter (dressing, diaper-changing, bathing, feeding, playing, laundry, dishes, watching her at all times except when napping, walking...), taking her daughter to the doctor, waiting for the heat pump repairman, preparing dinner, keeping the house clean, ...I'm sure I'm leaving out some details, but you get the idea. On this particular day, the repairman said he would arrive between 9AM and 11AM. He arrived instead at 1:15PM. The doctor's appointment for the baby was at 1:30PM. For my client, frustration quickly turned to anger. She had difficulty getting the appointment for the baby in the first place and didn't know when it could be rescheduled. Cold winter temperatures meant the house needed heat, so the heat pump had to be repaired. How was she supposed to get both tasks done? The rest of her day went downhill from there. When her husband arrived home, she let him have it. Consequently, they thought they had a marriage problem.

What my client had was not a marriage problem, but a heating and cooling company customer service problem. The attitude of the repairman was not at all apologetic. His late arrival combined with his attitude triggered for my client every past memory and experience of people not keeping their word, disrespecting her, having more to do than she could get done, and being taken advantage of. We took out her metaphorical "utility knife" and cut the cord to those old experiences. We cut away the cumulative effects of all of those experiences and memories. Then, we created neutrality for her around repairmen showing up on time or not. The next time she experiences a similar moment, she will have only the feelings around that moment to deal with. Having neutrality around the issue enables her to have clear thinking and respond effectively.

We also discussed her feelings around the multiple tasks she handles each day. We talked about the importance of her tasks, and that her purpose is what she is doing in each moment. We cut away more of the cumulative effects of her experiences and memories until she became neutral to her daily routine. Now when something does not go as planned, she is equipped to handle it effectively. She finishes the day with plenty of energy and no longer feels she needs time to relax. The "little things" that are really the "big things" no longer deplete her energy.

Gaining mastery over the seemingly insignificant things in our days gives us mastery over ourselves and our lives. It gives us clarity and choices, peace and happiness.

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