It is important for couples to always resolve marital issues. Unresolved marital issues lead to open or subtle conflict. The ill feelings that one spouse harbors toward another is always made manifest through his communication with the adolescent. This communication places the adolescent in a situation where he becomes the conduit for negative communication between spouses. The adolescent that picks up on ill feelings being expressed may react in a multitude of ways. Some of the more prevalent ways that an adolescent will react is either becoming a very good child so as not to cause more stress on the family, becoming a rebellious child, or becoming manipulative and learning to use the split between parents for his own advantage.
Sage and her daughter Sidney were very close. They talked about everything together. Sage and her husband were not close at all. They always argued and fought over everything. Sometimes when Sage was especially mad at her husband, she would go into her room and cry. Sidney would sometimes hear her crying and would go to the room to comfort her. Sage tried to not talk bad about her husband in front of Sidney, but when she was upset, her feelings would get the best of her and she would let everything out.
For the most part, Sidney tried to keep the peace in the home. She knew that her parents were already stressed and she did not want to add problems. She worked very hard at getting good grades, staying out of trouble, and following all of the family rules. Once in a while Sidney would see the family rules as being unjust, especially if the rule came from her father. Sidney often saw her father as being a selfish, tyrannical man that her mother had no business being with. Whenever Sidney could not get permission from her father, she would call her mother, who would always see things her way.
Frank did not like the way his wife and daughter always sided against him. He did not want to force his daughter away, but sometimes he would tell her “no” just because he was tired of feeling walked over. Frank also hated feeling like an outsider in his own family. Frank started feeling irritable whenever he came home. He noticed that his frustrations were manifesting in harsh tones and mean words, but sometimes he just didn’t care.
As time went on, Frank started feeling more and more separate from the family. Sage felt disconnected with Frank and the two of them argued more and more. Sidney felt that her mother was depending more and more on her for emotional support. Sidney began to feel stressed and started seeking ways to avoid her family. She also started to develop stress related illnesses, like chronic migraines and panic attacks. Finally, even her grades and outside relationships began to suffer. Without the emotional support that she needed, Sidney slowly slipped into a depression.
After their daughter’s suicide attempt, Frank and Sage decided to do things differently. The couple decided that they could not offer the emotional support that Sidney so desperately needed unless they were emotionally stable themselves. The first thing they did was to attend marital counseling.
In marital counseling, they began to work out positive ways to communicate and resolve problems with one another. They also explored solutions to issues that they had never been able to fully resolve. As communication became more viable between Sage and Frank, Sage no longer found herself expressing negative feelings about her husband to her daughter. Sage even found that she started pointing out positives about Frank. Frank tried to use kinder words and gentler tones in his speech. He tried to be understanding and emotionally supportive of Sage. As he did so, he felt less isolated from his family. As time went on, Frank found that he naturally desired to draw his family closer to him with kind words and supportive language.
Sidney did not know why, but she began to feel less and less stressed. She began socializing more with friends. Her grades improved. She spent more time at home with her mother and father. She also noticed that she was starting to feel the affection that she had always desired from her father. Sidney started to feel like she could talk to her mother about her emotional problems. She had always been afraid to in the past because her mother seemed so fragile. Now it was her mother who listened, while Sidney expressed her fears, hopes, and dreams.