In the last few days, I have had a challenging exchange with the John Lewis Partnership. My personal experience was one of their intransigence, lack of movement, holding the power and it reminded me of our couples work when two people cannot arrive at an amicable and mutually positive way forward.
Despite my offering of a resolution, in my case, JL decided to stick to their ‘rules’ and even when writing to the new head/chairperson there was a repeated mantra which rendered me as the powerless one in the relationship.
In contrast, of course, we often work with resolution with couples to good effect. When working with couples, be they distressed, angry or just simply worn out or down we as therapists are often faced with a polarity between both believing they are right, and needing to navigate through the fields of resentment, personal justifications, and sometimes true distress and bewilderment.
As with me, I encountered something with JL which I considered unfathomable, bewildering and a sense of meeting a brick wall which I could not get through, go round or climb. I see this with some of the couples we work with.
So now the question arises do I separate and divorce from JL? The same question arrives in the therapy room, we often hear this from one of the parties and question are they really ready for divorce or is this a statement borne out of desperation and perhaps a need to change something in the other. Is this the place for further exploration, discussion and work?
As therapists we will listen to and work with all of this. Sadly, with JL I was ultimately met with a closed door, no room or will to negotiate (in my opinion) and as with couples, I have no doubt they would say they had been honorable and informed me that:
‘We strive for the highest levels of customer service and hate to let our customers down – unfortunately, this may not always be possible’.
Perhaps this is also true for PRT therapists? We let some clients down? They do not get the resolution they had hoped for? The difference for me is that I believe we will also go the extra mile, we have our sleeves rolled up and enter the domain of couple work with care, consideration, honesty and whilst it is not our job to keep people together nor indeed to separate them, my hope is that will walk away from the therapy knowing and have confidence in and with the therapist that they did their very best with the mandate of work they were offered.
I am not against appropriate boundaries and sometimes we are the boundary makers in couple work, we hopefully have confidence in the wisdom of the boundary we are suggesting and clients can see that, even if they do not immediately want to engage with it.
My experience reminded me of the way therapists are highly evolved in the domain of conflict resolution and have tenacity within the work and how this is often sadly lacking in other fields of work which are despite protestations not client centred.
Judi Keshet-Orr Founder and Course Director LDPRT
The views and opinions expressed in these blog posts are held by the author(s) and are for general interest in the field. These blog entries do not attempt give advice to the reader, they are for educational and information purposes only.