We pick up the dialogue a few minutes in the therapy session…
Patient: Everything was fine last night, but when I woke up this morning she was out.
Therapist: That had to be very unnerving. What went through your mind when you realized she was gone?
Patient: I didn’t understand it, but I thought she’d be back soon. Like in the past.
Therapist: So, are you saying this has happened before?
Patient: Oh, sure.
Therapist: How often does she just go out like that?
Patient: Oh, probably four or five times a year.
Therapist: Four or five times a year?? She goes out with no warning, no notice, four or five times a year?
Therapist: Why do you keep putting up with this?
Patient: Well, it’s not like I really have a choice. Sure, it’s frustrating, but I guess I’ve gotten used to it. I’ve just accepted that it’s part of the deal. A necessary evil, I guess. Most of the time we’re connected, sometimes we’re not.
Therapist: On the one hand I affirm your resilience, but I have to tell you that this is not normal.
Patient: Same thing happens to all my friends.
Therapist: Then you need to get some new friends because this is NOT normal.
Patient: Yea, like yours never goes out on you?
Therapist: No, she doesn’t. That never happens.
Patient: Well, aren’t you the lucky one. Hey, c’mon, it’s not like it happens every week.
Therapist: Well, I certainly hope not! You’d certainly be a sucker if it did.
Therapist: I mean co-dependent. You’d have to be co-dependent to continually tolerate such disruption.
Patient: Well, it’s not like I can live without her.
Patient: OK, when she goes out are things a little more peaceful, a little calmer around the house? Absolutely. Am I more productive? Do I get more done? Sure. But after a several hours I miss her. And the kids REALLY miss her. Bad! I’m talking major meltdown.
Therapist: So, it’s not only negatively affecting you but affecting the children as well. Don’t you see how toxic this pattern is?
Patient: Yea, but as soon as she’s back the kids are fine. I am too. Continuing to be upset when she’s back on board doesn’t make any sense. We just pick up where we left off before she went out. But…
Therapist: But what?
Patient: This time was different. This was the worst. She wasn’t just out for hours, but the entire day and most of the night. The kids were freaking out. I was able to get their minds off the situation for a short time by having them play Uno with me. Later we walked the dog, went to Sonic and got milkshakes for supper.
Therapist: Did you call the police?
Patient: No, why would I do that? The police couldn’t help us. Besides, I knew we’d get her back eventually.
Therapist: Eventually? Wow. She was gone without a trace, probably left in the middle of the night, was gone for over 24 hours, no contact or connection whatsoever, and you didn’t even consider calling the police and filing a missing persons report?
Patient: Why would I file a missing persons report? Who’s missing?
Therapist: YOUR WIFE! You said your wife vanished, that you were worried, and that your children were on the verge of a psychotic break and…
Patient: Wait, my wife wasn’t missing. She was home the whole time.
Therapist: WHAT??!! Then who have we been talking about this entire time?
Patient: I was talking about our internet going out. What did you think I was talking about?
Therapist: YOUR INTERNET??!! This is about losing your *+^#~>@! INTERNET??!! You made a therapy appointment with me because you and your family lost WiFi CONNECTION??!!
Patient: Are you OK? Your face is getting red… and I can see the veins in your neck…
Therapist: (looking up to the ceiling) Please God, let me have a job at a tree nursery or a goat farm.
Patient: Doc, are you OK?
Therapist: (still looking up at ceiling) My brother-in-law has a landscaping business. Or I’ve always liked horses. Just anything that doesn’t involve talking with people…
Patient: Umm, I’m going to just slip out…
Therapist: (still looking up) Please, God. Plumbing, heat and air conditioning, flipping houses, anything. Ooooh, what about automotive repair? You know I’ve always been into cars…
Ramon Presson, PhD, is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Franklin (www.ramonpressontherapy.com) and the author of several books. Reach him at [email protected].