Mitch seemed agitated from the minute he had walked in. Something was on his mind. After the small talk, he paused and looked down at his hands.
"You know how much I love Meg," he began. "She is the light of my life, the mother of our children and a great woman." His pace slowed. "There is no question about my love for her or wanting to stay married. But there is a woman at work who is getting pretty friendly. To tell you the truth, I am enjoying the attention and the light-heartedness of our relationship. Nothing has happened that is out of line; I just enjoy having fun."
"I'm curious if Meg knows about this new relationship and how she feels about it," I said.
"I haven't told her anything because nothing has happened." He paused and added,
"I guess something is happening for me since I want to coach around this today."
"How are you feeling?" I said.
"I feel torn. I love Meg and want to stay married. But there is a part of me that is opening up with this other woman. It's my fun, playful side. So much of my time with Meg focuses around duties and responsibilities. We don't have the time to just hang out."
"What did you used to do on your dates?"
"Before the kids were born, we were care free," Mitch said. "We enjoyed going to our favorite Mexican restaurant. They have the best margaritas."
"How often do you make time like this now?" I asked.
He couldn't recall the last time. A look of guilt crossed his faced. "I guess it's been a while," he confessed. "When we get time together, we slip into 'meeting' mode. It's as though we are working through an invisible agenda. I want to have fun, not feel like we are having a meeting."
"Tell me about the FUN agenda," I said.
"The FUN agenda would begin with dinner at our favorite restaurant. Her parents would keep the kids overnight so we could stay out late and have time alone," he said. "We could set up ground rules to keep us from slipping into our 'business meeting' mode. On our FUN dates, the point is to laugh, joke, relax and share time together. I don't want to troubleshoot problems. I want it to be fun."
"You are creative and romantic," I said. "When could you two talk about the serious subjects?"
"We have a difficult time talking about tough subjects. Meg easily talks about feelings and I don't. She has suggested counseling, but I haven't been open to it."
"What are your goals for the relationship and how will you make that happen?"
"I want to focus on my relationship with Meg. It's not the woman at work that interests me; I just want to have fun," Mitch said. "Meg and I need to be able to talk openly about anything, so maybe counseling would be a good idea. I could talk to her about it."
"When will you have this conversation with Meg and how will I know that it has happened?" I pushed for accountability.
"I will set up the FUN date and surprise her with it on Friday. I'll talk to her about the possibility of counseling over the weekend," he said. "I'll e-mail you on Sunday to let you know that the date and the conversation happened." He added, "I'm a bit nervous, but I don't want to lose Meg or ruin my family."
Mitch had taken significant steps to shift his energy back into his marriage, including adding more fun (since that has been lacking for him) and by being open to professional counseling. Taking a step back from the situation helped him to gain perspective and make a clear decision on how to move forward.
Coaching challenge: Identify one relationship (significant other, friend, coworker, etc.) where you'd like to introduce more fun. Brainstorm three fun activities that you can do together. Talk to him or her and plan to do at least one event in the next two weeks. It can be as simple as taking a walk over lunch to enjoying a weekend trip. The point is to have fun with someone you care about.