Marriage Grows More Difficult For Jilted Esther

Last week, we met Esther. She had joined Adam, her husband, for his session. Adam recognized his displaced anger on Esther. He expressed his heartfelt love for her. She responded by silently leaving the office.

Later, she called me and asked for a session. We agreed to meet later that day. The first session offered only a hint in its initial stage of what Esther might be experiencing. Her body language spoke without associated words. Given some time for Esther to generate the energy to speak her mind, I began to get a glimpse of an injured psyche. Sometimes body language alone can provide a language I might understand intuitively. More substantive and clear information was necessary to gain greater comprehension.

Esther arrived for her second visit. She wore sunglasses, an athletic suit and sneakers. She wore no makeup. I greeted her, offered her water and we began the session.

“How have you been the past couple of days, Esther?” I asked.

She slowly took off her sunglasses. Her eyes were red and puffy. She began to cry. She spoke — however, I wasn’t able to hear her words. I gave her tissues to dry her tears.

“It’s getting tougher,” she said. “I’m unable to sleep. I don’t even want to sleep with Adam. I can’t sleep with someone who has disrespected and disregarded my life. My appetite sucks. I’ve eaten a couple of power bars. I feel like I’m imposing on my friends. They offer warmth and love. We’ve gone out on the boat. I’ve taken out the kayak a couple of times. I have to confess, I’ve even smoked some pot just to calm me down. Look what I’m wearing. I always wear makeup. Right now, I could care less how I look.”

As I listened to Esther, I wondered what she was really experiencing. My intuition suggested a kind of early stage grief reaction. No one died, yet Esther has lost a substantial part of her marriage and perhaps herself.

“Marshall, I feel stuck. After all the years with Adam and even with his revelation, I’m questioning the longevity of my marriage. Do I want to continue even as Adam works on his stuff? Do I trust him? Will he really change? I hurt so badly. It goes deeply into my soul. I’ve stood by Adam even though he’s not reciprocated. Our marriage has been a fake. Instead of growing, our marriage has been beaten down by Adam’s moods, and, as I told you, Marshall, this has gone on for years. Maybe it’s good we didn’t have kids. God, we’d have screwed them up.”

Esther was slowly unleashing years of silence. I didn’t know if she revealed her dissatisfaction with Adam even to her good friends. I sensed that Esther may need to decide not only the fate of her marriage, but also her own future. Though early in her therapy, I decided to hold back on the impulse to suggest longer-term therapy. So, Esther, do you think that a decision about the future of your marriage needs to be made now?

“Oh, I don’t know. I’m so angry, so resentful,” she said. “I don’t want to feel this way forever. Can I feel good in the marriage? I guess maybe both of us need some serious help.”

“Do you feel safe taking on a journey through your real pain and discomfort, Esther?” I asked.

She sat silently for a moment. “I’m losing it, Marshall. I’ve been losing myself for too long. I don’t like feeling this way. I deserve to feel good about myself and my life. Do you suppose that’s possible?”

“Yes, Esther,” I said. “You may need to consider that to meet your personal and maybe even marital goals, it will take a firm commitment. Do you need time to deliberate on this serious question, Esther?

“I know I need help,” she said. “I’m ashamed, embarrassed and feel awful. I can’t go on like this anymore. Listen, I may feel like crap, Marshall; however, I’m safe. I assure you. Please don’t worry. Let me go and I’ll call you tomorrow. I promise.”

She shook my hand with a firm grip. I sensed she meant what she said. I would await her call.

Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.