Several years ago, a friend of mine asked me to see a young couple for marriage counseling. Mr and Mrs Doe were reportedly married for only nine months. The marraige was falling apart and they were thinking about getting a divorce. I was told that they loved each other, but were constantly fighting and both were exhausted and miserable.
Mrs Doe was beautiful, highly educated and an accomplished executive. She was born in Iran, but was raised in U.S. Mr Doe was social, friendly and had recently finisihed his residency. He was born and raised in U.S.
During our first session, I asked Mr and Mrs Doe, what the problem was. Before I had a chance to finish my question, Mr Doe exploded. ” Mina, I am done. I can not handle this any more. My wife is jealous, possessive and controlling. she wants me to spend every single minute of my free time with her. She does not want me to see anybody. Not my mother, not my sister, not my friends, not my colleagues, no one, no one, but her. I can not even go for a walk without her. When she does not get what she wants, she goes nuts on me. She cries, complains that I do not love her, tells me that I am cold, tells me that she should not have married me and……. She goes on and on and on, until I lose my temper. Then I feel guilty. It is awful. Just awful.” He said.
I turned to Mrs Doe and asked “What do you think is going on ?” Mrs Doe, with a smile on her face and tear in her eyes said “I know, I am sensitive and get hurt very easily. But, he should tell you that he does not give a damn about me and my feelings. You see, on his list, first it is his work, then his mom, then his sister, then his friends, then his sports, then his poker game. Everything else/everybody else is more important than me. I wish I were indifferent. I wish I did not care. I wish I did not love him so much.” Crying uncontrollably.
I waited until Mrs Doe calmed down. Then I said ” I understand that you are in alot of pain. I also understand that you think what you feel is love. But frankly, what I see is fear of abandonment, an intesne need for reassurance and attention. I am curious about this. How do you feel about individual therapy to figure this out?” Mrs Doe’s reaction was mixed. On one hand she seemed relieved. On the other hand, she gave me the look, the how dare you look ! ” So you think, I am the problem. I know, that from now on, anytime that something happens, he will say, even Mina thinks you are the problem. We have marital problems. We both should be here. I do not understand how individual counseling with me will help our relationship?” She asked.
Knowing that Mrs Doe was confusing her neediness for being in love, I paused for a moment and said “I hope, you learn how to “love” him less, so you can treat him better.”
Last week I ran into Mr and Mrs Doe. They are expecting their second child. A son.