They first separated when they had been married for approximately one year. This was a time in their relationship where J was realizing her husband had a temper problem. J could not recall the content of the argument that led to their first separation, citing factors that could have been related to stepfamily formation as well as stressors due to financial problems. Her most salient memory of that time is that she asked him to stay away a couple of days and he was gone for a week.
J stated that her husband had left many times over the past five years. She noted, though, that her trust began to “erode” after the first time he walked out. Her feelings about him and the relationship noticeably changed after his first, week-long absence: “The trust for me started eroding at that point and has gone downhill since then, every time he walks out or tells me to take my kids and leave.”
J noted her husband’s continued withdrawal from discussions about their problems, detailing his defensive body language: “…he rolls his eyes, crosses his arms frequently…;” and noting that he either “…gets quiet or gets mad and walks out of the room.” As an afterthought, she added, “Or becomes sarcastic.” She could observe his rejection of her attempts to engage him.
Twice during the interview, J reported interactions with her husband that illustrated their continuing difficulties. Nonetheless, J willingly continued the interview, with no apparent change in her ability to focus. For example, J remarked that during a break in the interview, “…my dear husband just told me that I need to go on with my life without him. But I still have lots of experience from the past 6 years.” She added “LOL,” which is Internet shorthand to indicate the message writer is “laughing out loud.” She stated that she had experience with those kinds of remarks from her husband. In fact, she seemed so unemotional about it, that it could have been construed as a functional form of communication for this couple.
J attempted to draw her husband into a conversation about their problems during her interview. She had related that she believed their auto accident five years ago was a “critical event” for the couple, and asked his opinion. She reported that her husband made a sarcastic comment. When she asked him if they “…were going to put all this behind us and start building a life…,” his response was, “…I don’t know what I want.” Note that this conversation took place after he had told her she would have to “live her life without him.” She persisted in discussing the future; he withdrew again. By the end of the interview, it was clear that J retained the ability to focus while faced with her husband’s pronounced signs of withdrawal.
The auto accident was a significant event for this family, occurring approximately one year after their marriage. The accident itself was directly related to stepfamily factors: J’s son accused his stepbrother of damaging a videogame component, so his mother and stepfather made a trip to the store, with J’s husband angry and withdrawn, when the accident occurred. The accident was devastating to the family. J’s husband was charged and convicted of negligent homicide, as the driver of the other car died. Both J and her husband sustained injuries, and J had undergone many operations and was on long-term disability. In the context of discussing typical communication, J noted that her husband was “…just very angry since our car wreck and doesn’t want to do much of