Sunday, June 6, 2010

In which I go to a therapist to figure out my Man Problems and solve at least one of them

When I was 38, I went through a nasty breakup, if you can even call it a breakup when you and the other person were never even really dating according to him but he called you almost every day to talk for an hour and emailed and surprised you on your birthday with a chocolate souffle with raspberry sauce and took you to meet his parents, who said, "Oh! You're the one Andrew has been talking about!" but he had told you that he was Getting Over His Divorce so he was Not Ready for Another Relationship so you were warned, weren't you, and you shouldn't have been upset when he abruptly and cruelly cut you off after you finally consummated your non-relationship, three months after it started, hissing into his phone message that you seduced him against his will.

Diagram that sentence. I can't.

So yeah. My dad had died a few years before, I had been discarded by not one but two men (Andrew and the Plane Jumper) in the past three years, and I was doing something really, really wrong.

I needed help.

I decided to seek the advice of a professional. My friend Leigh referred me to a counselor she knew. I thought, $75 an hour - that's a lot of money. I had no intention of filing it on my insurance.* What if I wanted to run for public office some day? I wanted to optimize my time. So before my first visit, I made a spreadsheet of all the men I had dated, with our ages at the time, how long the relationship lasted, whether we'd slept together, why we'd broken up: any information I could think of that might be relevant.

I took it to Janet and gave it to her on our first and what I thought was going to be our only or one of two visits.

She laughed.

Apparently, nobody had ever presented her with a spreadsheet before.

I thought she might be able to divine a pattern that was invisible to me.

Apparently, therapy does not work that way.

What therapy does is teach you that you are mad at your mother, which was news to me. Then you learn to forgive your mother because she did the best she could and for crying out loud, she was 20 years old when she had you and then had three children under five with a husband who was away at war and it's not even like she did anything horrible, like beat, starve or ignore you, it's just that she had other children besides you who demanded her attention and then she dressed you all in matching outfits that she sewed herself.

What it also teaches you is that you are used to men who go away because your father was in the air force and had to go away every few months and isn't that what men do? But no. That's not how it is supposed to be when you are dating, but if you are not very confident about your appeal to begin with and have imprinted on such a pattern, then maybe you make some Bad Choices.

The good news is that after you realize your parents weren't perfect, you say, "Well OK, neither am I but I love them both madly and I wouldn't trade them, so let's move on with that, shall we?" instead of wallowing in it as some people do not to name names but the Past is the Past and Get Over It Already and stop using it as an excuse not to be happy. You have a damn choice.

The other good news is that you realize that you do not have to put up with crap from men and you do learn to recognize some red flags, like someone who tells you yes, yes, no, no. Sometimes, the red flags are as obvious as your landlady/real estate fairy godmother saying, "I'm not sure how to tell you this but I know Andew's family and have known them since he was a little boy and he is Bad News. His marriage ended because of an affair, but it wasn't his fault. It never is." You learn to heed those red flags instead of overlooking them in your desperate search for love and companionship.

The other good news was that Janet heard all the Andrew stories, she told me he was indeed Bad News and to stay away from him. She also said that I would hear from him again.

Which I did.

Nine months later.

He called, told me he had moved (not out of town, but to a different place), and gave me his new phone number "in case I wanted to reach [him.]"

I calmly told him that if he really wanted to talk to me, he knew where to find me and said goodbye.

When he married a few years later, I learned through the grapevine that he had been dating his wife the entire time he had been playing with me.

I dodged a bullet.

* Janet also refused to give me a diagnoses that was filable. "You're not sick," she said. "You're just sad and need someone to talk to."


  1. Yes, indeed you dodged a bullet. What a smart thing you did by going to therapy...with a spreadsheet no less. Ha! I'm a big, big, big fan of therapy. I went for many years, and would still be there fifteen years later if my therapist hadn't moved to Ohio. I love that your therapist diagnosed you as sad and needing someone to talk to.

  2. " and the other person were never even really dating according to him, but he called you almost every day to talk for an hour."

    This is called phone dating. The man gets his needs met by having you listen to him, but you get nothing in return. I've had this happen enough that I finally now know it's a red flag.

  3. Wow, dodged a bullet indeed.
    I think so many people that seek therapy are just that: sad and need to talk to someone.
    I love the idea of you showing up with that spread sheet!


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