(The first installment from “The Mean Dad” is on 12/4/16).
Amy: Dana and Jacob did indeed show up for the next session without canceling. I didn’t know what to expect when Dana and Jacob came to see me following the previous dramatic session. (See post from 1/2). ) It’s not uncommon for the couple or family not to explicitly refer to an earlier session. Usually any impact registers unconsciously and manifests indirectly. In this case I noticed reverberations from our last session.
Briefly, here’s a quick snapshot of what happened next: The couple came in, commenting that they’d been “given a break” since both Lance and Lila were away at various camps and the atmosphere at home and between them felt somewhat lighter. But for Dana, home still felt too tense. She began talking about how she’d like Jacob to be able to “relax” more, that even with the older kids away, she still felt like they had to be “on duty” a lot of the time.
This session belonged to Dana. She began talking about how Jacob makes her feel like she has to be constantly vigilant, checking in on the kids, making sure the house is perfect, dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s. The picture she painted was vivid, and one which reflected my observations from our last session.
Jacob listened. He responded mildly defensively, that things “needed to get done” but he wasn’t a “micromanager.” Dana looked at him. “Are you kidding me? What about the thing with the rug?” She talked about how he harped on a minor, minuscule bit of damage to their rug, so small that it was invisible to the naked eye. This small imperfection drove Jacob up the wall.
Dana was turning out to be a wise woman in many respects. I nodded admiringly in her direction. I said, “Sounds like you’re on to something. What happens to you with what you’re describing?” I was referring to Jacob’s continually being in motion, worrying that there was something wrong that he failed to correct.
I gave her the microphone for the rest of the session. Dana sat silent for a moment. “I feel empty” she said. I asked her to expand. She said, “Whenever Jacob and I are alone, he wants to talk about the next project, or the next demand. Or what we’re supposed to be doing for the kids. Or what they’re doing wrong. It’s like we’re always reaching for something. We can never be satisfied.”
I smiled. She continued, “I don’t feel like we’re ever alone. Even when we’re alone we’re not alone. It’s not that I don’t like having a nice life-style. I do. But not like this.” I said it sounds like Jacob’s busyness operates like a wall in their relationship. She nodded. “Exactly.”
Silence. Jacob was listening. I think this is the first time he heard Dana like this. She had alluded to her husband’s anxious perfectionism before, but this was different. In the formality of the therapy session, with her voice full of caring, Jacob heard his wife in a new way. Dana looked at him and said, “I miss my husband. This is a lonely life. I don’t care about stuff!”. Jacob smiled. His earlier defensiveness seemed to evaporate.
It felt to me like Dana was inviting Jacob–or rather, pleading–for a a de-cluttering of their relationship. She wanted to pare their duet down to make some breathing room for the two of them. The picture of this couple, as it emerged, showed how they each contributed to a kind of loneliness in the marriage.
The session ended on an uncharacteristically quiet note. Another layer of the onion peeled. A wife’s loneliness revealed in full color.
Next session on 1/6: “A Husband’s Loneliness”
We’re on the home stretch….This series concludes on 1/8.