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A partner’s frustrations

Last article, we met Jacob, a first-time walk in. Private counseling practices generally are found to schedule clients. Never say never. Walk-ins are welcomed. However, Jacob was my first walk-in client. My brief indulgence into a post-lunch siesta was interrupted. Time allowed for this unplanned visit.

Jacob had noticed my window ad while on a walk. He and his partner/husband, Larry, were staying at a local hotel. Larry declined to join Jacob in a walk. They were on a short trip to check out the local Comedy Center. Comedy was a special interest to Larry, an amateur stand-up comic at open-mic venues. They reside and work as restaurateurs in Boston and were presently visiting Larry’s folks in Buffalo, his place of origin.

Jacob needed the walk both for exercise and for a break from Larry. It was fortuitous that he saw my sign. He needed to talk. He is worried about Larry whose mood and daily functioning have soured. He’s imbibing excessively, sleeping restlessly, and is eating more than usual. He is disinterested in intimacy and cries out in his sleep. Jacob left uncertain of future sessions given their brief planned stay. An early morning call from Jacob was met with his request to meet this day. Time at lunch (siesta time sometimes) gave us an hour. He arrived on time, alone.

So, Jacob, it’s nice, to see you again. I wasn’t sure if you’d call. How are you? How was your time with Larry following your visit yesterday? “Well, I walked back to the hotel. Larry was watching a movie. He was drinking wine. A half-opened bottle was in the fridge. He was in pajamas and unshaven. He hadn’t showered. I said hi and gave him a hug. He felt rigid; like he didn’t want to be hugged. We hug a lot. I sat in another chair and quietly watched this suspenseful movie. Larry loves movies. He gets into the drama and gets emotional. Throughout this movie, he barely spoke except for some unexplained senseless outbursts of swearing. I was a bit shaken. Eventually, Larry showered, shaved, and dressed. We went to check out the Comedy Center. Larry ordinarily would get excited with the prospects of future excursions. We wanted to plan another trip when a certain comedian was slated. He stared at the line-up of events and turned to walk away. I think he forgot I was there. I called out to him. Marshall, this sounds crazy, but his eyes were glassy.” From what … alcohol? “I got anxious. Then he seemed to snap out of his whatever and we enjoyed dinner at a local restaurant. Marshall, what the hell is going on?”

Jacob became visibly shaken. Tears flowed freely. A look of helplessness took hold. How does Jacob begin to comprehend a change, perhaps transformation, in his spouse’s life? How do I attend to his reasonable question without Larry present? I stood up and asked Jacob if he wanted a hug. “Thanks, yes, I can use a hug.” Jacob held me tightly and shook. He didn’t want me to let him free. I whispered to invite him to sit, drink some water, and consult with me on a plan to alleviate his anxiety. He sat, drank a large gulp of water, dried his tears and looked at me wildly blinking his eyes. “OK, OK, Marshall. What do I do? I love Larry. Can you help me figure out a way to snap Larry out of this thing? We’re scheduled to leave for Boston in three days. We’re to drive back to Buffalo tomorrow afternoon.” Can you come tomorrow, I asked, and bring Larry? Explain your concern. That you are worried must be constituted into a concrete plan. Please insist that he join you. Come tomorrow morning. If Larry is unkempt, bring him anyways.

Jacob rose from his seat and proposed an idea on getting Larry here tomorrow. “I’ll be truthful and insistent that he come with me. He’d act the same if the roles were reversed. Thank you, Marshall. I’ll talk to him immediately.” He left and I silently said some prayers for healing.

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 an d 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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