A Simple Truth
by Gale V. LaFreniere
A couple who came to my office because of a problem with their sex life. This was the issue I tackled and investigated for the first month, while trying to get to know them. After some more digging, I was able to determine that the wife had a problem with the husband’s eating habits. She felt that he was just wasting his life away, continuing to eat at drive-thru fast food places and was gaining weight. She was very concerned with his health and felt that he did not care. The wife further stated that with the husband’s weight gain she was slowly becoming “turned off” by his appearance and didn’t really know how to tell him. She would try to tell him in passing or would give hints but with very little success. She then started to criticize his eating habits and would get into arguments during meal times. In the meantime, she was slowly becoming disinterested in becoming intimate with her husband. After the second month in therapy, the husband was able to share that he felt rejected by the wife because of her constant picking at him and criticizing his eating habits that he would just eat at drive-thru places so that he didn’t have to spend a lot of time with her during mealtimes!
The above scenario is very typical of couples’ issues where the presenting problem may not be the root issue. It is still a problem but may not be the main problem to tackle. As you can see if I had focused on the couple’s sex life, I would not have been able to completely see the whole picture. Therapy is most always this way, where the therapist’s role is to help the client and/or clients see the whole picture, to act as the guide to help them navigate their way through the forest of their relationship. The therapist is a model for them and teaches them skills to effectively communicate with each other their intimate desires. And, I don’t just mean their sexual proclivities. Those are usually the easy ones.
With the couple above, I started them with learning to communicate to each other their feelings and verbalizing these rather than acting them out. I spoke to them about being friends first who cared for each other and who believed in the other’s ability to make decisions regarding their own lives while respecting the other’s welfare. I encouraged both to share their preferences, both sexual and otherwise, and explored ways they could satisfy each other as lovers, and not just in the bedroom. I re-introduced the concept of foreplay and dating and how they could redefine these concepts to fit their current needs. I explored how sex is no longer just sex for them rather, it became a means to communicate, albeit ineffectively, to each other their hurts and their needs and encouraged them to rediscover the simple goal of sex: fun and connecting. Together, we came up with a code phrase, a simple but very effective in its message, one which effectively made Nike, millions of dollars: Just do it!
As their therapy progressed, we continued to work on their relationship and to help them figure their way out of their forest. They continue to fight but now they kiss and make up sooner. They have learned to talk to each other on most difficult issues and have learned to agree to disagree. Most of the time, they have learned that after the words have gone, their experience of each other continue to keep them together.
Such is therapy, sometimes words are just a means, but it is really the experience of it that teaches you the most enduring lessons. It is true that it takes a whole lot of hard work, and it makes the fun times after therapy sure worth it.