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There’s always more to story

In this, the third installment of our vignette, Janet had left her second session more empowered. She had allowed months to pass without much dialogue with Jarrett, her spouse. Noting his uncharacteristic behaviors, including late night arrivals, continuation of daytime work on weekends, and essentially a disconnect from Janet, found her longing for answers. I’ve talked to countless wives who assured me that their respective spouse was engaged in an affair. Given a similar description Janet posed, she believed he was having an affair.

Clients have taught me to support their belief. Discreet affairs of the past where wives entered into a detective role often led to husbands being busted and caught. The aftermath usually was ugly.

Checking his wallet, his vehicle, his clothes; sniffing for perfumes and different shampoo and the like unceremoniously began a confrontation. Today, women check for phone and text messages and other tech-oriented info. I recall one outraged woman displaying a text read-out that clearly pointed to an intimacy with a woman. His denial only further exacerbated her emotion. The air was thick, that day. Affairs don’t always dramatically end in divorce. The aforementioned example did.

What was Janet’s mind experiencing? What was she imagining? In her statement of introduction, she thought Jarrett was having an affair. She, however, provided no reference to playing detective. She was upset initially due to his late home arrivals, missing a lovely homemade dinner, showering, and crashing to bed.

They hardly spoke accordingly. Janet retreated to another bedroom. She worked at home and contributed to the household bills. Janet was embedded in a passive role position. She wondered yet didn’t challenge or confront Jarrett. Months of this new and different behavior was cause for concern. I approached early treatment by, reiterating, empowering Janet. She was depressed and no matter the outcome needed to get strong. Facing the unknown can be unsettling given her state of mind.

Hi, Janet. If you don’t mind me saying so, you look perky, energetic. She nodded in agreement. So, what has your week been like, Janet?

“When I left your office, at first, I felt down. While wondering if Jarrett is having an affair, I’ve come clear in an important point. I’ve lost myself in the interim. We’ve disconnected from each other during these months. I’ve wallowed in anger and self-pity. I’m guilty of disassociating from Jarrett. Man, the thought of his having an affair shook my sensibilities. I sat in my vehicle and for a moment got angry with you.”

With me?

“Yes, with you, Marshall. How dare you suggest that I need to look at myself while Jarrett is involved with another woman? Are you OK with his misdeeds? I drove around, listening to some music. I soon came to the realization that I’d lost control of my marriage and myself as you suggested. I needed to regain control. I wasn’t confident to challenge Jarrett. The next day, I got a deep-tissue massage from a friend. She printed out the tightness in various areas of my body. So as not to reveal my spousal problems, I let loose as she helped me lose my tightness. I went home, took a hot bath, drank some refreshing tea, and did some writing. I felt more discharge of anger and anxiety, Marshall.

“This might sound strange. I went to bed. I was spent. But I felt an inclination to run. Not run away but to go for a run. The next day Jarrett, of course, had left for work early. I awoke feeling refreshed. I got dressed not to work. I went for a run. I felt good in a way I hadn’t felt for months. I did work the rest of the day. I made dinner for us both. I ate alone and even indulged in a glass of wine. I put the food away. I read and watched a movie until Jarrett arrived. I greeted him as he moved by me to go upstairs.”

Wow, Janet, I have a powerful image. What followed? I sense you didn’t let this opportunity pass.

“Right you are. I marched upstairs and sat on the toilet seat while Jarrett showered. He nearly slipped when seeing me. He dried off and went to bed. Then, instead of retreating, I slipped into bed with him. He looked surprised and said nothing. I sat up and then sat on him. He winced, and then backed off. For a moment, I imagined him pushing me away. He didn’t.

“I finally grabbed his face and said, ‘What the hell is going on, Jarrett?’ You have disconnected from me. You come home late and say nothing; you don’t eat dinner and you go to bed. Are you having an affair? Jarrett gave me a long silent look. He said he was not. Are you lying to me, Jarrett? Don’t lie, I screamed.

“He gently sat me aside him. He sat up and blew my mind, Marshall. He lost his job as an engineer in manufacturing. He was being replaced. His shame was so deep, he couldn’t talk with me. I was angry and yet pitied him.

“We talked for hours. He and I cried a lot. I believed him. He’s not having an affair. He lost his work identity. Hearing that I’m in counseling, he agreed to come with me to see you. OK?”

Sure thing, Janet. Let there be peace one earth and let it begin with me.

Marshall Greenstein, a Cassadaga resident, holds a masters 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 editorial@observertoday.com.

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