Don't Let the Exam-Season Become a Disaster...Here's my advice to...
Laughed straight between the sheets
A client, Joanne, 34, [all personal details changed for confidentiality] worries her boyfriend of five months, Philip, 35, could be too immature for a committed relationship. It's not that he hasn't shown commitment as he’s said he’s seriously falling in love.
So what's the problem? Philip had literally laughed Joanne straight between the sheets. On first meeting she was captivated by his sense of humour and cheeky glint in his eye. With an irresistible smile and laugh Philip lifted Joanne’s spirits. He was a breath of fresh air after an acrimonious divorce from her husband of two years who’d cheated on her.
However, increasingly Joanne's concerned that Philip’s humour and cheekiness in part reflects a childish side. When they disagree on something he goes into a little huff and won't tell her what's wrong (aren't the chaps always accusing we women of doing just that?). Then he'll start with some jokes and witty remarks and they’re straight back into each other's arms.
Joanne rightly doesn't want to always be the sensible/serious partner. She's already picked up the pieces after one relationship mess and doesn't want to pickup after Philip when he throws ‘his toys out of the pram’ in a strop.
I recommended a peremptory discussion, when they’re both calm, about how they relate during a disagreement. Joanne would discuss the positive ways they relate first: how he’s a great listener when, say, she's had a work problem and how with one funny remark he dissipates the stress she's feeling. Then gently challenge him on how he could be a good listener - and uplifting company - but goes silent when annoyed.
Happily Joanne discovered he wasn’t using silent huffs like ‘punishments’ but he’d simply always been expected to joke and make people laugh and found it hard to express himself when he wasn't playing that role - i.e. when he was hurt and angry. He still plays the clown but acts grown-up in the face of a problem.
An edited version of this was published in The Times
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