Today's Reading

Connor had visited the couple's custom-designed home that sprawled across a prime hilltop. The marriage was the first for Elena and the second for Matt, who was ten years older. Although they'd not admitted it to Connor in their previous counseling session, he suspected Matt and Elena's relationship was the cause for Matt's divorce from Anne, his first wife. Anne had primary custody of their two girls.

"You wanted me working from home so you'd know where I was all day," Matt replied in frustration. "This is a critical time for the company. We're trying to go global, and whether that succeeds or fails is on me. I have to be available when our overseas partners can talk. Everything is coming to a head. This is a make-or-break time for the business."

"I'm glad you brought that up. Tell Connor what you told me last night," Elena replied.

"Which part?" Matt said. "You didn't let me say anything for half an hour."

Connor winced. Elena swiped her eyes again with her tissue.
Matt turned to Connor. "First, I appreciate you listening to us spill our guts," he said. "This is hard, but Elena and I agree that we need help."

"Get to what you said last night," Elena said.

"Okay, okay. I have an apartment in downtown Atlanta that I use when I have to spend the night in the city for meetings. I've only spent the night there a few times over the past twelve months, but that's going to change when people fly in for extended sessions with management and our technical staff. It doesn't make sense for me to stay in Bryson, fight rush-hour traffic, risk being late, and keep people waiting."

"How long will this last?" Connor asked.

"No idea!" Elena interjected, throwing up her hands.

"It's hard to predict," Matt added. "I don't want to make a promise to Elena that I can't keep."

"I hate being alone, and he knows it."

Given the couple's history, Connor was confident that trust was a huge issue between them. But instead of identifying the problem, he decided to suggest a practical solution.

"Would it work for both of you to stay in Atlanta part of the time when Matt's there?" he asked.

"Are you planning on inviting Anne and the kids over for dinner?" Elena asked her husband.

"I want to see the girls, but I'll be super busy."

Elena turned to Connor. "What do you think about him having regular dinners with his ex-wife at the apartment where they lived when they were first married?" she asked. "He's kept the lease for twelve years! I told him to let it and her go!"

"She's the mother of my children! We have to communicate."

"I only want you to be more passionate about us than you are about her." "We're wasting Connor's time!" Matt replied in frustration. "I agreed to a civil conversation, not to listen to you repeat what we've been over and over and over. I'm looking for guidance, not a rehash of grievances."

"This is all new to me," Connor said in a calm voice. "It's helpful to learn about the practical and personal challenges you're facing."

Connor stopped. Both Elena and Matt were staring at him, waiting for a pearl of wisdom to drop from his lips now that he was more informed. He cleared his throat.

"Let me identify some resources that we can study together and use as a framework for moving forward. I'll send the information to both of you by the end of the day."

"You mean a book?" Matt asked.

"Or books," Connor replied. "I've found that studying the words on a page enables people to consider perspectives about a problem that's not possible in the emotion of verbal communication."

"I like that idea," Elena said. "I think it'll help me."

"I'd prefer audio," Matt said doubtfully. "That's how I best process and retain information."

"Okay, I'll get something that's available in both formats. Do you want to schedule a follow-up meeting now?"

"Yes," Elena quickly replied.

"I guess." Matt shrugged. "I want to give this my best shot."

"Let's make it in a couple of weeks," Connor suggested. "That will give you time to digest what I'll send you."

"Two weeks?" Elena responded. "I'd like to see you before then."

"That can be arranged if you're able to do the homework."

"Homework?" Matt grunted. "This is counseling, not school."

"It has a different meaning in this environment," Connor replied. "If it helps, think about it as research."

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