Keeping a healthy marriage


Last article, we met a gentleman named Madison. At first glance, he appeared to be a striking, healthy man. Sometimes, yes, appearances can be deceiving. Madison used the first session to describe himself, though almost as a former self. He was obese and carried a host of serious associated medical problems that were debilitating. His wife, Mabel, was his caretaker. His ill health precluded his ability to function in rudimentary activities. Madison eventually heeded his primary care physician’s call for a dietary change, which didn’t work, and thereafter a consultation for a bariatric surgical procedure.

By his own admission he was a mess. Being close to retirement provided inspiration and motivation to seek a healthier life-changing approach.

While focused squarely on his physical medical health, Madison neglected his emotional health. Ergo, the depression became the condition that required his attention. Mabel was to join us as per our plan for the second scheduled appointment. I wondered how Mabel, as caregiver for Madison during his ill health years, fared herself. Lots of questions regarding the impact upon her psyche, their marriage and unknown factors ran through my mind. I keep handy the experienced shared by many that caregivers and caretakers sometimes take a physical, mental, emotional and spiritual hit. While providing love to another, sometimes an individual loses something of their own in the process. Well, it remains to be seen.

Madison and Mabel arrived for the appointment. Mabel appeared to be about 5 feet, 1 inch tall and I’d guess (don’t ask, right?) about 110 pounds. She was, however, a strong-looking woman. She wasn’t skin and bones, so to speak. My initial thought kept silent was that Mabel had to be strong during Madison’s unhealthy years of obesity. Her handshake was strong. I thanked her for joining us. So, Mabel, as you know, I said, Madison came to see me last week. He provided a medical history that sounded scary. Now, a year or so following his decision to have bariatric surgery, wow! His outward appearance suggests greatly improved health. However, Madison labeled himself as depressed. Seems that a critical part of his health wasn’t given adequate attention. What do you think?

“Marshall, I’m glad Madison came to see you. These years prior to his decision to get surgery have been nightmarish. You see, I love my husband. I married him even though he was overweight. I keep myself in good physical condition. While he’d overeat and eat poorly, I ate healthy foods. He resisted my many attempts to encourage healthy eating. Madison is headstrong. He lives life on his own terms. He even resisted exercise. He opposed exercise. He’d make fun of it. See, we’re different in that way, too. I’ve been a weight-lifter for years, even before meeting him. But, you know, Madison can be charming, romantic and loving. Yet, he can be a bit of a BS’er too. Guess he charmed me into marriage. He and I both worked. We have two kids. Both are healthy and independent on their own. Both are girls and are exercise fanatics. They are both single, employed and live a distance away.”

I interjected for a moment. So, Mabel, Madison says that when he became debilitated from the growing list of serious medical problems, you became his caregiver. ‘That’s right. I’m glad (she turned to Madison) you told him that. I drove him to appointments, the store, even to visit our kids. I cooked, cleaned and oversaw any maintenance on our home. I could go on, Marshall.” So, Mabel, how has this experience, your deep loving action to Madison, affected you personally? “Marshall, I’m tired. Yes, I’m physically healthy, yet I believe emotionally exhausted. This past year, Marshall has been getting healthy physically. We haven’t dealt with our marriage.” I looked over at Madison. He was silently crying. We made another appointment to address Mabel’s honest sentiment.

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

Marshall Greenstein, a Cassadaga resident, holds a master’s degree in marriage and family counseling and is a licensed marriage and family counselor and a licensed mental health counselor in New York state. He has regular office hours at Hutton and Greenstein Counseling Services, 501 E. Third St., Suite 2B, Jamestown, 484-7756. For more information or to suggest topics, email