Random Thoughts

On developing a relationship

... seeing clients in my home office

by Ed Boyd

In 1963 we bought a house at 350 Washington St. in Melrose, MA.
It had five bedrooms, enough for our seven children. In 1984, after the two
boys, Michael and Peter moved out to be on their own, their first floor room
would make a nice office. As I was interested in having a psychology office
where I could see clients as I had my Psychology license, MA#2175 in 1977. I
got a contractor to see if this could be arranged, cheaply. The contractor
said all that was necessary was to take the closet out of the hall to make a
waiting room. Then a door was put in that went to the sink, toilet bowl and
with the clothes washer and dryer. The side door from the porch led into the
waiting room. With a sound damper for privacy that I bought, I was in

I was still working full time at my job. I made an evening and weekend
schedule. I did this, off and on, for several years until we decided to move to
a condo in 2000. It was necessary for me to shred all the notes I had made
over the years.

Here I sit, twelve years later with only vague memory of persons I talked
with. I don’t have any notes to help me recall. But I do remember a couple
that I saw about 25 years ago that intrigued me then and do now as I think
about them.

A young man, about twenty-five, was referred to me saying, “I have started a
new relationship with a beautiful woman and I don’t want to screw this up like
I have done with other relationships.” We talked for a couple of sessions. As
we finished the second session I said, “If it is a relationship that interests
you, why not bring the woman to these meetings where all three of us can
consider a relationship?” Dan (lets just call him that) said he would think
about this and talk with the woman.

Parenthetically, some mention should be made of family therapy and its
influence on us in the eighties. A journal, Family Process was read cover to
cover by many of us. In general, what must be considered is what goes on
between persons.

In the very next session, Dan brought a woman with him. Sally (lets just call
her that) said she was interested in relationships but was not ready to commit
to anybody. She was shorter than Dan, blond and easily smiled, on the verge of
a giggle. Dan had dark curly hair with a frown as if something bad will

I asked them both to tell me about their most recent experience. Sally said
she had gone to Australia and spent a year there. So far from home she
remembers her exciting sexual episodes away from her parents. Dan came from
Manhattan and settled here in Concord, MA. In common, they both had “split-
off” from their family of origin. They both were on their own and had not been
back to see family for some time. I explored this, trying to get an idea of
what their parents were like and did they have brothers and sisters. Sally
said her father was a big man and a tyrant. Her mother was quiet and passive.
Dan said both parents were very remote, seeming uninterested in him. Sally had
a younger brother and sister. Dan was the older brother. Neither ever talked
about their sibs which made me wonder but I never spoke of that and now wonder
why. My overall impression was that both sets of parents were never abusive
but were indifferent to both Dan and Sally.

When you have both Dan and Sally “split-off” from family, a family therapist
like me will work to have them both re-join their family. The idea is that Dan
and Sally have a better chance to develop their relationship by re-connecting
to their families. Sally’s family was from Connecticut so I gave them both
instructions of how to re-join her parents. Dan was from New York City and I
gave them both instructions of how to re-engage his family. They were
instructed to go together to visit each family. (This is the time when I
wished I had kept some of my notes.) We spent several months talking of these
visits and I had the feeling that both had re-joined their families. I also
felt that these visits gave Dan and Sally a good idea about what they would do
with their relationship. I began to feel that I was standing in the way of
them making their decision and said so. I shook hands with both wishing them a
whole lot of luck.  

About a year later I got a small note of thanks with a beautiful picture of a
six-month baby. This is the kind of result that swells a therapist’s chest.

May 4, 2012

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