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Monday, November 03, 2003

We have decided to try marriage counseling.

Again.

This will be the third bite at the apple. The first time was about a year after our child was born and lasted for about three months. It was a disaster. The second try was a few months ago and ended almost as soon as it began.

For the nine months before our child was born and a good two years after my wife was a raging lunatic. Of course, that is an easy thing for a husband to say; it is almost a cliché to not say something to the effect. But I can assert this on the authority of no less an independent arbiter than her own mother, who actually took me aside THREE SEPARATE TIMES over an 18 month period to apologize for her daughters behavior. Now believe me when I say that a mother-in-law is not inclined to take her son-in-law’s side over her daughter on any position, particularly when it involves the mother of the first grandchild in the family, unless the behavior is really egregious.

As we live in these perverse times when a man is expected to work 60 hours per week and then come home and take 50% responsibility for childcare, housework, etc., and anything less is an affront, of course her problems became my problems, particularly as busting my ass on childcare in the first year and a half while working like a dog at work got me exactly nothing in the way of relief from the tirades. Of course ‘we’ ultimately had to go work it out rather than she taking herself off to a doc and getting a prescription for little blue pills. Now an aside – I may have made points in an earlier blog posting about how women misrepresent themselves while dating – I found out only after we got married that she had been through 8 years of therapy with three separate analysts in the twelve years prior to our wedding. (Another data point about the ‘lunatic’ and ‘misrepresent’ issues). Wife digs up the name of a family therapist and the one weeknight per week where wife allowed us to be apart from child for two hours was then spent in a hot dingy office with a palsied dirty 60ish woman listening to wife sob into the ever-present kleenex rather than having a nice dinner and glass of wine at a local restaurant.

I had always resisted the notion of paying somebody to listen to your problems – my view is more ‘if you got an issue I got a tissue now leave me alone’ – though I will admit that there are times when I could use an occasional listen from somebody with some insight to offer. But to my chagrin I found myself in my perfect definition of hell – baby at home, sleepless nights, crazed wife, sexless relationship, my only break being dragged into a room where I am forced to talk to a shrink and listen to wife berate me for not being supportive enough. The shrink made it worse. This was no Dr. Melfi or some interesting Woody Allen type analyst. The quack was an old lady who had some sort of MS or nerve damage who as a result could barely walk and just kept herself functioning but forget about clean. The loafers she wore were years old and disgustingly filthy, with big protrusions on the side where her hammertoes popped out, her clothes dirty and old, her hair unkempt. There was no air conditioning in the office and as it was late summer; she kept the window open no more than two inches because she had some security locks on it that would prevent them from opening further. And she had no insight, nothing to say. After three months of telling wife that I hated the shrink, hated going every week, I decided that my only strategy was to refuse to talk any more. In a parody of a bad silent movie I sat there for two weeks like a sphinx until the others finally concluded that we were wasting time.

Two years later, we decided to try again. This time she dug up a suburban type, a man more or less our age with a clean office a couple miles from where we now live. In about five minutes wife and I had nicknamed him “Dr. Gay Denial Man”. Though he is married and has kids (I have bumped into him other contexts and confirmed the children) there is no question that he is a queen. How can you take counsel from somebody about your relationship when they can’t even deal with their own issues? I mean, come out of the closet, nobody cares any more, live your life the way you are. But don’t go telling me how to deal with my issues when you clearly can’t deal with your own. That lasted two sessions. At least wife and I had a laugh about it, and anything that can get us laughing together these days is well worth the price.

So I have agreed to give it another shot. But this time I am insisting on different ground rules, and maybe it will work. I sure hope so.

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