section, you see recurring, intermingling risk patterns. They primarily flow
from relationship and communication risk exacerbated by
ineffective problem solving and decision making. Although the
story revolves around the marriage, signs of Individual Risk are driving
the bad outcomes. The underlying process is instructive.
“It was about six months
into their marriage when Kathy began to have some worries. Dan started becoming
jealous over every little thing.”
Kathy identifies this as the start of the bad outcomes. She
saw Dan’s jealousy as an Individual Risk point and worried about it. Worrying
was her main approach to problem solving, though. She did not take a proactive
approach such as, Dan, it feels to me like you are getting jealous over
little things. Will you help me understand better what you see in my behavior
that causes you to get upset. will you help me with this?
“She did not know what he
was talking about.”
Once having identified Dan’s jealousy as a risk point, she
left it at that. Not knowing what he was talking about meant he was being
unreasonable. It did not have anything to do with her or her behavior, or so
“Another problem that
seemed to be getting worse was all the time he spent at his mother’s
He had been very close to his mother before their marriage
and remained so after they married. Kathy had not expected this and saw it as a
problem. Again, it was Dan’s behavior causing a problem for her. Interestingly,
she did not identify her feelings as jealousy. Had she been able to do this,
she may have had more insight into Dan’s feelings.
“It might not have been
so bad if his mother liked her but she always ignored Kathy whenever she was
Kathy’s real issue appears to have more to do with Dan’s
mother’s behavior than Dan’s. It was not so much Dan’s relationship with his
mother as her feeling left out. Also, she still is not identifying any problem
on her part. The trouble is with Dan and his mother.
“Dan still had his
occasional jealousy spurts Kathy no longer felt flattered by and he still saw
his mother daily. The only change was the brewing competition between Kathy and
his mother, Patty. Kathy sometimes felt like she did not have a husband
anymore. . .”
Underlying the family risk is a sense on both their parts
that neither of them is receiving the level of attention and faithfulness they
want and need. Kathy’s suspected unfaithfulness is with Dan’s friends. Dan’s is
with his mother. Also, Kathy is turning to Jess to fill the void. This becomes
more important as time goes on. Here, simply note that Kathy is turning to her
relationship with Jess as a solution to her problem with Dan.
“She tried discussing how
this made her feel but Dan defended his mother to the end. It got to the point
where Kathy finally gave up on the discussions because Dan would just storm out
anytime she mentioned his mother.”
It is interesting that Kathy’s telling Dan how she felt led
to his defending his mother. Do you think the conversation went like this?
Kathy: I am lonely. I feel like I need you to hold me and
help us feel close.
Dan: I have to take care of my mother too. She needs me,
especially now that she is alone.
Kathy: I know your mother needs you. It is nice for her
that she has a son who loves her so much. I am only saying I need you to hold
me and for us to feel close. Help me make it easier for you to be close to me.
Does it feel like I’m pushing you away or something?
The conversation likely did not go like that. This may be
more nearly the way it was.
Kathy: I am getting tired of your spending all your time
with your mother. You pay more attention to her than you do to your own wife.
You act like some little boy who runs home to Mommy.
Dan: My mother is a good person. She took care of me for
all those years and I am not going to walk out on her now. You will just have
to accept that. If you don’t like it, it’s your problem. I have to get the hell
out of here. You can go cry to that damn TV. You pay more attention to it than
you do to me.
“After his mother moved
away, things seemed to fall back into place. Dan had been talking about having
a baby and now with Patty gone, Kathy felt like this would be a great time to
start a family.”
Note that Dan had been talking about starting a family. It
was his idea or at least his decision. Also, they already had a family. A child
would only be an addition to their family. The problem was they already had
serious issues despite the fact they were getting along better right then.
Adding a child to their family could be expected to cause worse problems. A
child does not solve problems. Rather, a baby adds new sources of difficulty.
“A couple more months
went by and Kathy began to worry again.”
As could have been predicted, the difficulties recurred. The
risk points had been ignored or at least not resolved and the momentum toward
more bad outcomes for their family increases.
“He let this happen to
them and she hated him for it.
He had been planning this move
since his mother first moved away.”
From Kathy’s point of view, the problems are Dan’s fault.
Recall how her father took charge when she had difficulty. Is it fair to assume
she believes the man is fully in charge of problem solving and decision
making? If so, he also becomes responsible for bad outcomes. They are his
fault. At a minimum, she did not accept much personal responsibility for what
was happening to her family.
“Kathy knew she would be
miserable in their new home and two and a half years after the move, she found
her life getting worse and worse.”
If she knew she would be miserable, it is not surprising she
was. Nonetheless, she seems to have just let things drift. She did not lose
control. She simply chose not to exercise any control over what was happening.
“The only happiness she
had was from their daughter, Jess, who was born shortly after they moved.”
This is a critical point. She was finding her happiness from
Jess. The child was meeting the mother’s adult needs for companionship. To the
extent Kathy also was meeting Jess’s needs, the relationship was becoming
“Kathy desperately tried
talking with her husband in hopes of resolving some issues. Yet that just
seemed to make things worse. The more she tried to discuss things, the longer
he stayed away from their home.”
This is a continuation of a long-standing pattern of
ineffective communication. You might suspect that Kathy focused on how badly
she felt and on how Dan should change to make her feel better. It is unlikely
she encouraged him to let her know how he felt about her and their marriage. It
is equally unlikely Dan’s approach to communication and problem solving was any
better. Instead of hanging-in-there and working on their problems, he left.
“The only thing making
Kathy believe he may still be interested in their marriage was that he still
got jealous easily. Even though it was annoying, she reasoned he must still
care about her if he still got jealous.”
Kathy had come to value his jealousy. She thought it meant
he cared. Importantly, she did not check with him to see if it was an
expression of caring. The reality is it was not.
“. . .she was not about
to call her mom and dad and tell them her problems.”
Recall that Kathy had waited in her father’s den for her
mother to come pry her problems out of her. As you see, this had been a long
standing pattern. Instead of taking a proactive approach, Kathy waits to be
“Kathy just let
everything build up inside of her. Most of the time, she felt she would go
crazy but taking care of Jess somehow kept her sane.”
This supports the last observation. She lets problems build
until she blows up or gets rescued. Also, you can see the consistency in her
behavior with Jess. She continues to use Jess as a way of dealing with her
problems with Dan.
“Kathy came up with a
plan. First of all, she would have to tell her parents.”
Does this surprise you? By this stage of your learning, it
is unlikely. Waiting to be rescued can be risky. Maybe no one will come. If all
else fails, yell for help.
“The hardest part of
Kathy’s agenda was getting started. In order to do this, she had to tell Dan
she was leaving.”
This was an unexpected indication of maturity. It would have
been more consistent for her to leave without telling him she was going.
However, later events will shed a somewhat different light on her behavior.
“Kathy knew he (Dan)
would be stopping by that day because his business partner, Jim, was going to
bring some papers by that Dan had to sign. Finally, at four in the afternoon,
Jim came by with the papers. Kathy offered him a cup of coffee in hopes he
would keep her distracted for awhile.”
The subconscious behavior of people is sometimes very
interesting. Link this incident to the next.
“She was a little
startled when she saw Dan sitting in his car in the driveway.”
She had asked Jim to stay; and he left only because he
needed to get home for dinner, as you will recall. Also, Dan was expected. If
she valued Dan’s getting jealous, she had manipulated the situation in a way
that almost guaranteed a scene.; and a scene there was.
“She had no idea why he
looked so angry.”
Perhaps you could give her a clue or two.
“She was not hearing what
he was saying now because she instantly became enraged herself.”
This is the point of climax, the risk point at which she and
Dan crossed the threshold. Now events would precede from their own momentum.
“As a matter of fact, I
was waiting for you to come home because I am taking Jess and we are leaving
you as soon as we can. I cannot handle your neglect and that crazy mother of
yours anymore; I will not handle them anymore.”
It was inevitable Dan would explode. The crazy mother
comment was across the line. Kathy had pushed him over the edge. Yes, it is
also equally fair to say he had pushed her over the edge. You will have an
opportunity to explore that side of the risk process later.
“She was going to have to
call her parents and tell them. They were the only ones she could turn to. She
would call them as soon as her face healed and then she would go live with
them. She and Jess would move in with her parents, she would get her
secretarial degree, and she would save some money for a place of her own.”
Her plan was to have her parents take care of her. The
additionally interesting point is she was putting off calling. She had known
for a long time what she would do to extract herself from her predicament. The
decision to leave Dan and return to her first family had been made for years.
She could not just call her parents and discuss her situation, though. She
needed them to come to her. This was the most effective way to get them to take
responsibility for her problems.
“As she was washing the
dishes, Kathy went over in her head what she would say to her mom and dad. She
decided not to tell them about Dan hitting her but would say she was afraid he
might. She knew her parents were not thrilled with Dan as a husband so her
being afraid of him would be the clincher she needed to get them to come get
Kathy is little-red-ridinghood and Dan is the big-bad-wolf.
Daddy is her rescuer who will swoop her away to a place where she is loved and
does not have to be afraid. You may want to go through the narrative and focus
only on the relationship, communication, problem solving, and decision
making between Kathy and her parents and especially between John and
Miriam. It will give you some insight into how Kathy’s attitudes and behavior
“First, she told her
mother how much worse Dan’s neglect was of her and Jess. She described her plan
of moving in with them and working on a degree. And somehow, as the
conversation led up to her confrontation with Dan, she let it all out.”
Of course she did. Now that her mother had initiated the
conversation, Kathy needed to be sure her parents knew how bad it really was
and how desperately she needed them. She had to assure they would rescue her
and protect her for a very long time.
Now that you have seen how the risk process worked for
Kathy, repeat the activity for Dan. You will see he followed a parallel process
that interacted with and complemented Kathy’s.