Piercing the Illusion of Intimacy

Piercing the Illusion of Intimacy

From Symposium Storytelling Evening 2019

By Ryan Howes

May/June 2019

I was a green, newly licensed psychologist in my 20s about to meet my new couple. Ted and Marci had been married 25 years and were hanging on by a thread. It made me more than a little intimidated when I realized they’d been in and out of couples therapy since I was in grade school. As I opened my door, Ted, a bulldozer of an orthopedic surgeon, burst by me and promptly took the only chair that seemed suitable to him—mine.

As Marci and I took our places on my couch, I already sensed this session would be a difficult. “So, Doogie,” Ted started immediately, referencing the child doctor of 80s sitcom fame, “where shall we start? My narcissism? My heartlessness? Those tend to be Marci’s favorite complaints.”

Marci interrupted. “Look, Ted. We’ve been to nine therapists already. I’m tired of therapy, and I’m done with you. I want a divorce.”

Silence. Thirty seconds in and the bomb had been dropped. Ted, who’d just seemed so chatty, if not chipper, was now having a staring contest with the floor. Not knowing what else to do, I turned to Ted and asked, “After hearing what Marci just said, how are you feeling right now?”

Ted looked at me like I’d spit in his coffee: “Feelings?! This is hardly the time or place for that!”

I was disoriented. “Well, this is therapy, and your wife did just ask for a divorce,” I managed.

“Don’t bother,” Marci said, turning to me.

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