The road to a break-up
We met Monica whose emotionally charged call arrived just as I readied to go home. Her sobs were spliced with incomprehensive words. A crisis-sounding call left me no choice: she needed help now. “Can you put your crisis on hold until tomorrow” wasn’t an option.
I unpacked and soon after met Monica. She explained, once gathering herself in a moment of bare equanimity, that a planned date was met with a text from a man she’d been dating. He broke up with her. The shock brought out rage and anger. Calling me rather than friends or family had me curious. Time didn’t allow for history. Briefly, I learned that her family resided far away and she had no close friends. She lived alone and was employed. She denied any plan to harm herself or the man who rejected her by text. She agreed to come again the next day.
Monica arrived as scheduled the next day. Noticeably different was her outfit, jeans with holes in the leg area, a dark hoodie and sneakers. Makeup was barely perceptible.
So, Monica, welcome back. Did you get any sleep last night? Your emotions were intense. I wonder if you were able to calm down adequately to generate some sleep?
“Not much. All night long, I fought the temptation to call Donald or to text him. I’m so sorry; I was a mess last evening. I decided to call in sick and chill today. My brain was in overdrive. I couldn’t deal with work. I drank coffee, had a beer and had no appetite.”
How are you feeling right now, Monica?
“I kind of have a mixed bag of emotions. I’m so ticked at Donald, the coward. Yet, I feel so embarrassed for not being strong enough to handle the text. My parents taught me the importance of keeping my stuff together, you know what I mean?”
Monica, I’m glad you reached out for help. Self-preservation took hold despite the emotionally charged experience. You are to be commended. Has it related to your parents’ teachings?
“Yeah, I guess so now that I look at it.”
I do wonder about your parents. Are you close to them? Had you thought to call them, too?
“Not really, Marshall. I don’t think they’d understand. They are old school, kind of traditional in the dating experience. They don’t get the online dating thing.”
Is there any desire to share your grief from this experience now?
“I don’t think so.”
Can you elaborate, please? Assuming your parents to be loving and accepting, what response might you imagine?
“You see, I guess I need to explain more about myself. I moved here for a great job. I didn’t want to live in my midwestern city anymore. I needed a change. I had a job without a future. I had a boyfriend who was an OK guy, but, you see, I felt a calling. Do you understand what I’m getting at?”
I’m not sure. Help me understand more Monica.
“My life was normal — good family, a job, friends and a boyfriend. I felt comfort. Yet I had an inner calling to try something extremely different. The calling kept me awake and I lost my appetite. Everyone was concerned. Whoever I shared my thoughts with gave me a ‘what I should do’ answer. That’s not what I wanted to hear. Not even Ernie, my boyfriend, got it. I was really anxious. In our family we fix our own problems. Our church pastor was recommended to help. He was nice. He aptly referred me to Bible verses to answer my questions. My anxiety level prevented me from managing. I was at a local cafe and saw a billboard that included professional business cards. One was a family therapist. I called the number and spoke with a nice woman who agreed to see me. That was my intro not only to therapy, but also to someone who really heard me. That’s what inspired me to follow my desire to relocate. Everyone, my folks, friends and my boyfriend, got upset. I found a job, an apartment and drove here alone. The rest is history.”
Monica, what about meeting this current … well, maybe not current, boyfriend? Can you provide me some history?
“I guess so. After six months of going to work and coming home, I felt lonely. My folks called occasionally. My friends back home ditched me. Ernie soon found a new babe. Guess I’m dispensable. I joined a dating service. Eventually, I met Donald. At first, he was charming and funny. I needed a change. Ernie was dull. A nice guy but he was more into traditional stuff. Donald and I had fun. We skied, drove his fast car, drank whiskey and had sex. God, what a fool I am. I gave myself to this man. He told me that past girlfriends weren’t into sex. Now I wonder. We would text during the day at work and at night. He would say all the right things, like I’m beautiful, sexy and fun.”
Monica then got quiet. Monica, I wonder if there’s more to you that perhaps Donald didn’t recognize.
“Can we talk about that another time?”
We made another appointment.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.