"All the dreck I've run from my whole life is now in my face. I don't know if I can take it," he tells me in a later session.
"You're in the dark night of the soul," I tell him. "Everything you've ever known, ever lived for, has cracked open. And you're not sure what to replace it with yet, but you will be. Trust me, David, it'll come to you."
"What will come to me?" his voice is full of despair. I glance at Sarah, who, without hesitation, turns to her husband. "For one thing," she tells him, "I'll come. I have come. I've never felt closer to you. I'm right here."
It took David many weeks to let go of his need to be perfect, weeks to accept something he'd seldom allowed himself before: feeling the support from his wife. Along with our concern that clients like David will reject what we're saying, either by blowing up or storming off, there's a fear that, if they take in what we say, they'll move from inflation to deflation and fall apart. And it'll be our fault! But as a therapeutic coach, I've learned to like it when perfect or puffed-up difficult clients fall apart. It's good for someone like David to come unglued; it's been a long time coming, and he needs to. Although it's painful, his collision with his own humanity won't damage him. It'll bring him back to his real, imperfect self. And back to Sarah.
"For over a month now, I've been a shit, but Sarah. . . ."
Sarah interrupts him. "You haven't been a shit, David," she says.
"Fine," he dismisses her. "I've been a total pain in the. . . ."
"Stop it," she exclaims. "I can't stand it when you talk like that. You've been sad, David, that's all, very sad."
"I'm trying to give you a compliment," he tells her. "So, for weeks I've been . . . vulnerable," he grins. "That's a word you both love--vulnerable, OK? And Sarah's been great, really terrific."
"I think she's being terrific right now," I tell him.
"I love how you are now," she tells him. "I'm sorry it's so painful, but, shoot me, I like this guy. I don't need that other guy, the perfect one."
"The new me," David says wryly, "David 2.0."
"Tell me about David 2.0," I ask.
"Well, obviously, he's sadder," he says.
"For the moment," I tell him.
"For a while now," he pushes back.
"Fair enough, then. He's sadder. Is that it?"
David looks at his wife. "No, that's not it," he says, and sighs a big sigh. "Look, I'm not gonna say he's dancing on the furniture."
"OK, that's what you're not gonna say."
Sarah stretches out her arm to the back of the couch, her hand close to his face, but doesn't touch him.
"I'm kinder," he says looking at his wife. "Softer."
"Sweeter," she pipes in.
"Maybe," he says. "Maybe a little."
"David," Sarah goes on. "Face it, admit it. You're becoming a mensch, a true human being."