TJ and Ashley’s story is a familiar one for many. 

Their marriage started out happily enough. They were young college students and enjoyed each other a lot during their first few years together. But things changed when TJ started graduate school during an economic downturn. TJ felt a tremendous amount of anxiety about his financial future, given the dim prospects for most students at the time. Competition was fierce and in TJ’s determination to ensure his family’s economic stability, he dedicated himself to his studies, leaving little time or emotional bandwidth for anything else, including Ashley.

This period of limited connection was difficult for Ashley, and it persisted long after graduate school and into TJ’s high-demand career. While disappointed at first, eventually Ashley shifted her focus away from the marriage and created a comfortable, happy, and fulfilling life as a friend and mother. 

To the outsider, TJ and Ashley’s relationship may look idyllic–TJ excelling professionally, Ashley busily involved with friends and her community, both invested and caring parents– but their marriage is much more brittle than meets the eye. Resentment and hostility have been simmering under the surface for more than a decade with TJ feeling unappreciated and unacknowledged for the sacrifices he has made to provide for his family and Ashley feeling neglected and unnoticed (except when TJ is wanting sexual attention).

In this episode of Room for Two, Dr. Finlayson-Fife helps the couple think through the long term trajectory of their marriage and how they are undermining their current and future happiness by functioning in such a non-collaborative way. She helps Ashley see the rejection that permeates her interactions with TJ and teaches that the path forward is to stop walling and avoiding and to start looking honestly at herself, her real desires for the relationship, and her role in the lack of intimacy in the marriage.

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