Past problems trouble relationship

Part two of our series ended with a clear plan. Jacob is to return for another session with his partner/spouse, Larry. Larry is held up in a hotel room. Jacob’s cry for help may finally be answered. The onus of responsibility is thrust upon his shoulders. A stable marriage has recently been challenged. Something out of the ordinary describes an unfamiliar portrait. Larry, an upbeat man with a great sense of humor has morphed, according to Jacob, his spouse of 20 years, into a depressed unkempt man. Something is happening and Jacob wants to understand what’s happening to the love of his life.

I am reminded of a basic tenet for marriage: We both enter into this institution called marriage bringing our history lock, stock, and barrel. Predictably unpredictable, a chapter in our history may surface from its kept dungeon to affect present time life. Gone unnoticed, it can potentiate ill effects upon a marriage. There are lessons to be faced by the carrier for him/herself, for the partner in marriage.

I have heard countless stories of marital conflict that can be traced back to repressed matters never completed, perhaps never fully addressed. Examples to illustrate this wide spread problem include history of abuse or neglect, alcohol and substance abuse, witness or participant to a traumatic event, divorce and separation, medical problems, and the list goes on at infinitum.

If I had to play a guessing game relative to Larry’s problem, I’d guess nothing. Speculation can be a natural impulse (what is going on here?); however, it’s dangerous. In order to conduct effective work, I need to clear my.mind and absorb the information provided and patiently allow for this experience to play out naturally. Unless suspect of an emergency situation, even in crisis, it is best not to pass early judgment. Detective stories have taught us that who we knew did it, probably didn’t. There’s more to the story.

I returned from a walk, which helped me holistically prepare for Jacob and Larry’s final session with me. They were traveling back to Buffalo, then onto Boston, their home. Given our brief encounter, I was prepared to suggest continued therapy for the couple. Perhaps, too, individual therapy may be in order. So, I readied myself for meeting Larry. Guess what?

Jacob entered my office alone.

“Hi, Marshall. As you can see, I came alone. Any rational discussion I had with Larry met with his refusal to join us today. He slept restlessly last night. We have to return to Buffalo later today. I wanted to avoid a battle. I asked Larry to at least ready himself for traveling while we met. I’m tired. I didn’t sleep well either. He’s still imbibing. This is a frame of Larry I’ve never seen in 20 years together. Oh, I’ve seen him drunk, but he gets funny and I excuse his drunkenness. I drink, too, Marshall. I don’t like getting drunk. So here I am.”

So, Jacob, did your discussions with Larry reveal anything more than you know? Did you learn anything new while trying to get him here today?

Jacob looked at me, dropped his shoulders, and sobbed. His body shook, yet differently from the first meeting. I let the experience take charge. A few moments later, I said to Jacob, you know don’t you?

He looked up at me, hands on his face, and shook his head. “Marshall, I do know now. Remember how I told you that we love movies. We saw ‘Spotlight’ in Boston. Now I recall that Larry avoided our postmovie critique. Larry’s folks sent him a newspaper article on the Catholic Church and the photos of priests accused of sexual abuse. Larry, this morning, showed me the photo.’ He pointed out the priest who sexually molested him while he was an altar boy. I’ve got to go Marshall, Thanks. I’ve already made calls for therapy for Larry and myself in Boston.” He rose, we embraced, and Jacob left. 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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