Working it out in marriage


We’ve now met Mabel, Madison’s wife. She provided an overview of a marriage with some contrasting styles. She described herself as a health-conscious woman and Madison as an “eat-anything and no exercise” kind of man. His habits eventually led to an increasingly debilitating medical matter of gravest concern.

Eventually, Madison became dependent on Mabel due to his compromised position. Her physical strength, I can only imagine, aided in her care giving Madison. His obesity and girth had to have been an enormous struggle and challenge to her. Yet, details spared we may not know; she may not reveal the daily, weekly, monthly or even yearly experience.

Madison and Mabel came for the third appointment.

So Madison, I’m sorry we ended the last session while you were reacting to Mabel’s description, her portrait of her life in a caregiver role. How did it make you feel? Did her words and/or her sentiment have an impact on you?

“Yes, definitely Marshall. We went home and I asked Mabel if we could sit and advance her words? She agreed. We spent hours talking, reminiscing and hugging. You know, stuff we hadn’t done together in years. I guess that I’m responsible on a grand scale for problems in our marriage. I love Mabel. She could have chosen any man, yet, she chose old chubby me. Was my charm as she referenced just a ruse? Was I covering up my insecurity of being overweight?”

What do you say to Madison’s questions, Mabel? “Well, Madison, you were charming. I was used to men whose physical presence attempted to wow me. It was shallow. We could talk on any subject. You were really interesting; and a good kisser, too, I might add. Something happened to you along the way. We didn’t talk as much and certainly not deep subjects. You worked and I did, too.

“The girls came into our lives and I did most of the parenting. I know you loved them. You got into an unhealthy lifestyle, especially with food. I couldn’t control your food intake or choices. The girls followed my lead with food and exercise. I think maybe you were depressed then, dear.

“Guess I didn’t see it then. I was busy with work, the girls and home. When I think back, you became isolated. You ate and eventually you got sick. Doctors told you straight forwardly where things were at. You ignored their help. Fast forward, the girls left to do their own thing. You continued an unhealthy lifestyle. Then, you really needed me. You became all about your bad habits and medical problems. I had to stop my interests in order to care for you. I love you Madison. I was afraid you were going to die and I’d be alone. That really sucked, you know?”

Madison began to cry. So, how do you feel now, Madison?

“I feel bad. I’m mad at myself for everyone’s suffering. I must have made life difficult for my three girls. I’m so sorry, honey. I guess I really was messed up. Not just medically but also emotionally. I neglected you and maybe even the girls. I want to talk with them sometime, too. Maybe all of us could be in family counseling. I’m working on being more independent, sticking to my healthy diet and exercise plan. I appreciate all you did for me, Mabel.” Mabel began to cry.

Suddenly, they rose and met in an embrace. Their bodies shook from teary vibrations.

I wonder, folks, if family counseling may be a good idea? Also, I want you to consider couple’s counseling. And, Madison, what about others in your life? Did you isolate from co-workers, family and friends? “Yes, we talked about that too. I felt so ashamed of my body. I didn’t want to see anyone. I didn’t say anything about my surgery and healthy lifestyle changes to anyone. I don’t know why. Maybe I can explore that more fully, Marshall.”

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