Partner Lesson #6: Idiosyncrasy and Neurosis RULE!


So, let us begin with a little background.  Enter one Lyralen Kaye, raised upper middle class in the suburbs of one city or another, mother a housewife for the first 14 years of Lyralen’s then young life, father an outgoing, charismatic salesman who sang in the church singing group, arranged neighborhood barbeques (or, more likely, suggested them and got other people to do the work).  Lyralen’s mother had been the homecoming queen at her college.  Lyralen’s father, the president of his class and halfback on the football team at Notre Dame.  Lyralen’s mother dressed her children in red, white and blue.  The girls (eventually there were 4) wore not only patriotic colors, but matching outfits, though none of them were twins.  A leitmotif derived from the Brady Bunch, one might surmise.  A keeping up with the Joneses, a commercial for Lux detergent, a smile-for-the-camera-we-are- Americana-at-its-best.

In other words, like many upper middle class families, the family looked perfect.  It was all about image.

Let me be perfectly clear.  It was about image, image, image, image, image, image, IMAGE!

Now, dropping the antiquated usage I can honestly say that those people DROVE ME CRAZY.  I know, I know, everyone drives me crazy, but they were the first.  I mean, this metaphysical bent I have?  I didn’t learn it.  I was born with it.  I came out of the womb consumed with a desire to talk philosophy and meaning.  I believe my first word was, “Nietzsche.”

So here I am, 7 years or so past birth, watching these adults, (all members of the Catholic church) cocktails in hand, laughing, the women in pumps, the men with loosened ties, the appetizers–the cheese balls, the cantaloupe balls–that I sometimes passed around.  A woman leans closer to my father, laughs up into his face.  My mother’s tight smile in a group of women who chatter around her while she says nothing.  The way she changes when she turns to the men, the ease in the muscles of her face under skin that is peaches and cream.  Her blue eyes, frosted blonde hair.  And afterward, as she takes apart the character of each woman, the way my father drinks the 4th drink too many.  I’m watching this and I’m thinking, I will die before I have a life like this!

Of course, no matter how much I resisted, I also internalized some of those values, mostly in the category of looks.  My first two girlfriends were femme and gorgeous.  They both had eating disorders, but, you know, who doesn’t if they look like that?  It costs to be a Jody Foster look-a-like (that was my first girlfriend, who I not-so-affectionately refer to as the train wreck….or at least I have, but now I must say metta for her and be all Buddhist).

Enter one Lyralen’s-Partner-To-Be, circa 1987.  Rocking and blinking when overwhelmed by social situations.  Her face revealing every passing emotion, including and especially anxiety.  Who loves her white Fiat so passionately she keeps trying to fix it herself, climbing under the car in a man’s winter hat, climbing back out covered with grease…and beaming all over her face with pride.  Who gets so anxious about the first fight that she goes and sleeps in her car.  Who sings atonally in the shower, plays her guitar and sings loudly (also atonally), who claims the laundry room as her special space (it’s the size of a large closet) and moves in there when intimacy gets too much for her, piling in the guitar, some big books and a nest of pillows and blankets.  Who wears boy’s cords and old t-shirts, who literally puffs out her chest with pride when she links her arm with mine at parties.  Who holds my hand on the streets.  Who goes and buys poetry books by Adrienne Rich just because I mention I like her work.

*                                         *                                       *

It is, in fact, 1987.  A quick learner, I sit next to my partner on the single bed mattress and box spring we use as a couch, watching her wipe her greasy hands (from the Fiat) on her jeans, hoping she doesn’t get any on the carpet.  I listen to her talk about how she got the starter in, but it kind of hangs down away from the rest of the engine, held in place by 2 wires and maybe she should take the car to a mechanic if she can’t get it up and staying up.  And I realize, for the first time, how much easier it is to love someone so radically and emphatically herself, so imperfect, so openly anxious…than it is to love the physically beautiful trying to live up to an image in her own head.  My partner teaches me, in that one moment, what it  means to be real.

Of course, over the ensuing 25 years, the lessons in individuality and permission continue, though she did stop rocking and blinking, grew more confident and slightly less anxious, became an IT geek (so socially acceptable in the world defined by Steve Jobs and Bill Gates). But privately, in our home, she walks around in men’s underwear and t-shirts from the 80’s (because it’s summer), her hair standing on end, lifting up her glasses to squint down at Siri.  She still spills food on every shirt she owns (all 30 of them, the same style in different colors), still asks me how to get grease out, still repeats the last three words of any conversation in a mutter as she walks away, thinking about who knows what.

I mean, look at the material!  I can write comedy about us forever!

And I can look at her, her slightly turned out feet, her unbrushed hair, the 40 books piled next to her bed (she’s read 10 pages of each of them), and feel my chest straining to get big enough to hold my heart.

I recognize that my partner is neurotic and idiosyncratic, while I fall more into the category of completely whacked.  It makes for an entertaining 24 hours.  One after another.  For 25 years.

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Avoidance 101


I plan to generously pass on Lessons Learned from My Partner in the next 7 blogs.  I got angry at her today, and for some reason that makes me want to remind myself of the things she has taught me in the last twenty-five years.  I’m sure I could fill many more than 7 blogs, but I’m not sure she could stand it (she’s become addicted to reading this thing!).

So.  Lesson 1:  The Healthy Uses of Avoidance as a Relationship Strategy

First, one must understand that I’ve learned most of what I know about how to behave from books.  Or, to put it bluntly, I decided at about, oh, age 6 that my parents were completely clueless (and that they thought I was an alien from outer space and had no idea what to do with me), so I looked for other resources.  I read books on how to communicate (“I” statements, be honest and direct), books on how to be assertive (“no” means “no”), books on how to deal with children, how to have better sex–I mean, I have a reading disorder.  I read unbelievably fast and remember almost everything I read.  I read a couple books a week at minimum.  I get that this makes me strange and a bit of a freak.

Anyhow, all the early reading meant that I created my own rulebook on how to behave, communicate, be assertive, etc (the sex part I extemporized on…a lot, but we won’t get into that).  And, as I have mentioned ad infinitum, I have a certain penchant for drama and never doing anything halfway.  I mean, if I’m going to be direct, I’m going to be DIRECT.

I will say this–being DIRECT creates a lot of drama in your relationships.  Like, you’re getting to know someone, and you notice that she is a monologuer.  Meaning, she says, “Hi, can you talk?”  You say, “Yes.”  She then talks for 44 minutes without taking a breath.  (If you’re me, you’re holding the phone away from your ear, swearing at it, making faces at it, dancing around and generally being extremely mature.)

Now, my rulebook says to be direct, so I call this person up a couple days later (this all happened about 20 years ago) and say, “Did you know you talked for 44 minutes in our last phone call without even asking me how I was?”  And she says, “YOU WERE TIMING ME???!~!!!!!!”

This was when my partner decided to do an intervention on me.  She sat me down and said, “You need to learn that if you don’t want to be friends with someone, JUST DON’T PICK UP THE PHONE!”

I was like, “You can do that?”

My partner then tore all her hair out at once.  It grew back, though.

“YES!!!!” she said (after the hair had been cleaned up and she’d stopped swearing).

“You don’t have to tell people everything you think?”

“You’re completely hopeless,” she told me.

Later, she came back and explained that if you want to be friends with someone, but not as close as they want to be to you, you wait before calling them back.  Or you do only group outings.  There are, it turns out, about a million ways to keep people at a distance without telling them that you’re timing their phone calls.

Who knew?

Besides my partner, I mean.

And so I came to study Avoidance 101.  I thought psychological health grew out of direct communication, but it turns out that mostly drama grows out of anything the least confrontational.  AND, my partner tells me, if you tell someone what bothers you about them, that’s actually pretty intimate, so if you don’t want to be close to them, it’s better not to say it.

Wow.

Of course, if you do want to be close to someone, direct communication of the skillful variety is a good idea.  My partner has to study that with me, though, because guess what?  Being direct isn’t always her strong suit.

Anyhow, here I am, making a pitch for The Healthy Uses of Avoidance.

Some of us just need things spelled out.

All the time.

And while I am a student of avoidance, I personally prefer to say what I think with no punches pulled, and to hear things that way as well.  As long as it’s gentle, kind, and basically complimentary.  Of course.

Suffering Is Optional?!&*%#@


What about my poor partner, for whom kvetching is an art form?

No, seriously, this saying has always DRIVEN ME OUT OF MY MIND!  Like, okay, say I’m sad.  I’m just supposed to presto-change-o kill that emotion?  I mean, outside of alcohol, drugs, chocolate, lots of sex, shopping, etc, how is someone SUPPOSED TO DO THAT?

I have a lifetime full of attitudes that may, perhaps, at times, mildly, gently, occasionally need adjustment.  My attitude toward this saying can be summed up in the delightful sentence, “Can you New Age lightweights go get some real grief?”

But in my obsession with Buddhism and yoga, I have been reading The Wisdom of Yoga by Stephen Cope (because even though yoga teacher training means I’m reading about 10 other books, I just have to go off on what interests or informs me).  And it turns out that the full saying is this:

“Pain is a given, but suffering is optional.”

Ah-hah!  I wasn’t so off in talking about real grief!  Because the thing is, it’s really, really, really important to draw the distinction between the first and second halves of that sentence.  Pain is a given.  Meaning, it is inescapable.  We die.  We lose people we love.  We sometimes treat each other horribly.  There are natural disasters, wars, epidemics.  Fear, sadness, sorrow, anger, horror…these are a part of life.  You can’t avoid them.  They are not optional.

Then what is suffering?  According to Cope, who is liberally quoting the Buddha, Patanjali and Jung among others, suffering is the constant re-enactment of our own life patterns.  He says that this, really, is karma.  These patterns.  They are laid down in childhood, they are laid down by repetition, they are grooves in the brain.  We fall into them like ruts in a dirt road.  But they are not inescapable.  Of course, here’s the thing: They are not exactly easy to escape.  It’s not easy to find the way to freedom.  It’s just very, very possible.

The Hindu religion and Buddhism were and are very concerned with the nature of suffering or dukkha.  The sages in India studied the mind in order to learn about human suffering.  The Buddha himself, after entering samvega (the full realization of suffering and meaninglessness), wanted to eradicate suffering.

Now, I’m a beginning meditator (even though I’ve been at it off and on since 1987), but not at all a beginning seeker.  And what I know is this–your patterns don’t whoosh, disappear.  They remain, but not so deeply grooved, if you find a way to freedom.  You have more choice.  You are not held by your history to the constant dukkha of repetition.

There’s something else, though.  As you grow into an ability to hold your own patterns, to know them as you and not you simultaneously, as you grieve for the pain at the heart of them, you become sad in a permanent way.  It’s a mature sadness, that is held within freedom.  It’s compassion and understanding, because you have gone into the dark and come out alive.  It’s a recognition of the world of causes and conditions, the world in which war and poverty and pain exist.

I know that grief, fully lived out, teaches us our humanity.  I have yet to read, in Eastern religions, about the power of grief (or intimacy, for that matter, which is also a path).  But I also know that, as one of my meditation teachers said so eloquently, that there are many paths to the moon.  We all look up, we see it, but we take different routes to get closer.

The best thing about meditation and the full practice of yoga is that they are practices.  I think it’s probably best to be in a sangha, a community, to deepen and practice, but it’s just really great that you can practice alone and get freer.  In other words, you DON’T NEED A F*&(ING THERAPIST!

This is a great relief to me.

And, I’m going to meditate again right now.  Because this morning I was super edgy with my partner.  I’d had another one of those moments of seeing her, hearing her, completely separate from my own experience and fear; and, once again, the world shifted.  I realized that I don’t know squat and I’m madly constructing reality all the time and I got her wrong, which is not something I like to see or admit.  Even though she’s more loving than I even knew, even though I felt an incredible opening, a sense of compassion, yesterday, seeing her.  Truth is, this morning, I was just pissed off.  I mean, who is she to make me change how I see the whole world?

I have confessed this to her already.  One might suppose that I would be grateful to her for popping me out of a dukkha rut, but I found it incredibly disorienting, to tell you the truth.  I didn’t know where or who I was without my familiar way of seeing.

Need I mention that I live for these moments?  Popped out of dukkha, admitting I’m crazy, which pops me into closeness as long as my partner doesn’t judge at all.  Which she hasn’t been doing.

I get to be happy for a little bit in my dukkha, unenlightened life.

Onward.

I mean, what else is there to say?

My Beloved Irritation OR 1 day and Counting


You know, it’s not just anyone I would let drive me crazy for 25 years.  I mean, I looked around first.  I did some searching.  There is a certain resume involved.  She had to pass many, many tests.  (I say this as she grinds her smoothie for tomorrow morning.  On her best behavior, no doubt, given what day it will be.)

Okay, seriously.  There’s this cliche that relationships are a lot of work.  It’s not that it’s not true, but work is like, effort, time, thought, whatever.  Intimacy requires that you open the closed doors of your heart and witness the shadows and the scurrying for cover, all the while not moving, not running, not letting the pain make you forget that this is love we’re talking about, this is about becoming someone more pure, more capable of generosity.

This week, I looked at my partner.  I listened to what she was telling me about her experience and I very reluctantly let go of my own perspective to hear things I hadn’t known before.  I gave up the idea that I was smarter or right, or accurate, and I listened.

If you think this is easy…well, it’s a good thing you’re reading this blog, because you’re crazier than I am (hard as that may be to believe).

The conflict we had this week–predicted by me, even though no one took the bet–isn’t an easy one to work out.  It’s not like, “Hey, sorry,” and then, “No biggie.”

My partner is very disappointed that the blogging and humor didn’t save us from ourselves.  I’m just sitting in the non-reactive moment meditation has provided, admitting I don’t know how to do anything but sit in the non-reactive moment meditation has provided.

It’s so powerful, not knowing.  I mean, it’s powerful not knowing when you admit you don’t know and don’t need to know in order to survive.

Tomorrow is 25 years of me not knowing.  Of course, most of the time I thought I knew everything.  (That was on my partner’s resume of qualifications to drive her crazy for 25 years.)  The fact that I didn’t know squat the whole time comes toward me now that I possess a soupcon of humility (and not much more than that unless I’ve just meditated for a really long time).

It’s 25 years.  We stay together because we laugh, because we care about the world in the same ways, because we believe in goodness, kindness and trying to learn to be loving a little bit more each day that passes.  We stay together because we are both completely insane and what sane person would even get half these jokes?

We don’t know.  We are writing the next chapter as we breathe in and out, as we go back to the Stork to fire him for the second time and he delivers a phenomenal session, making me wonder if he reads this blog just to beat me at my own game.

We love.  We hurt each other.  We open the closed doors of our hearts to each other, then run away screaming.  Or, on a good day, we sit, holding what light there is, letting that light be us, for each other, on each other’s sides, until the next struggle begins.

A Good a Reason as Any OR Almost 25 Years and Counting


My partner and I have been really getting along.

I am going to say the word now.

Intimacy.

Excuse me while I go writhe on the floor and then puke.  I’m sure I’ll be fine.  Afterward.  In a minute.  Or an hour.  Or something.

This closeness, this utter tenderness, this fierce desire to make sure she’s okay, this affectionate, wry amusement, this moment of knowing, this listening, this seeing.  Her beautiful skin.  Her utter boyness in boy clothes.  The way she wants to be touching me all the time.  This history, these twenty-five years, the way we’ve hurt each other and then mended, or not.  This person who is my family, who holds the knowing of me, who is trying to let me hold the knowing of her.  The way she is so afraid I’ll leave her, stop seeing her, or just disappear.  The way I’m so afraid she’d take advantage if she knew how utterly, utterly I love her.

What I call the above paragraph is as good a reason as any to have a big blowout fight.  Because you can only stand the intimacy word for so long before you want to run away screaming.  (Sometimes I run around the house screaming preemptively, which my partner either tolerates or finds amusing, because she hopes it will prevent the blowout fight.)

By the way, though I’m using the word “you,” meaning, “me,” I would like to state for the record that my partner is every bit as likely to blowout as I am.  Although publishing this blog may tip the scales slightly in favor of me being the exploding firecracker.  We’ll just have to wait and see.

Perhaps we can take bets on whether we can make it the next 7 days until the 25 year mark without having the blowout-I’m-more-afraid-of-intimacy-than-you-are fight.

Of course, here’s the thing: if we do have the fight, we’ll have to forgive each other.

And another thing:  we’ve gotten relatively skilled in saying, “Bet we’re fighting because we just can’t handle the closeness.  Let’s  pretend we’re on different planets.  You go in your room and I’ll go in mine and then I’ll call you from my cell and make space sounds in the background to make the other planet thing realistic.”  (That’s not what we actually say, but I may call on it in a pinch.)

I love my partner so much because our relationship is one in which being f-ed up and afraid of intimacy is liveable.  I mean, she sometimes asks me to be more emotionally available, but the fact that I sometimes have to throw in an insult when I’m being all romantic is as much a cause for humor and rolling around laughing as it is for conflict.

When we got married the first time, 15 years ago, before it was legal, I said to her, “You’re a controlling, kvetching, passive-aggressive jerk and I’m going to marry you anyhow.”  This made her very happy.  It took away all the pressure of pretending to be perfect, or my knight in shining armor, or any of that absolute bullshit.

In this reality of neuroses and craziness, of grief and hilarity, that is our life, I am truly happy that we are returning again to the acceptance of all things.  I still believe, as my character Reverend Alex says, that love is a practice.  I think it is a practice of accepting my partner for who she is, of sitting with my own discomfort instead of trying to control her (or making jokes until she makes me stop) when she’s irritating me, of letting her be herself as much as I possibly can.

I think this is love–this fear of intimacy, this need for too much, this knowing the fight may come in the next seven days, this forgiving, over and over again–and the refusal to take shit, when that is, in fact, appropriate, as it has been on both sides at different times…the complete and utter imperfection we bring to each other…this is the real thing.  My partner has always wanted to be the one who saved me, who healed me, who helped me…but the truth is she’s the one who’s driven me crazy, who’s forced me to become better, to look at myself in my deepest darkness, who’s held me when I felt weakest so I could stand up and go save myself again.

I celebrate love as completely imperfect.  I celebrate love as freedom from trying to be good enough.  I celebrate the laughing at neurosis and knowing absolutely it’s never completely going away.  I have learned this with one person above all others.  In and out of couples therapy with Oingo-Boingo, Niminy-Piminy, the Sheepdog, the Poodle, and the Stork-Man (among others), cartooning our way through the careening diagnoses and the how do you feel about that questions.

I celebrate that the fight may come though I don’t want it to, because I am not in control.

I celebrate that I will try not to fight, and I may anyhow.

I celebrate.  This madness.  This daily life.  This one person, who gives me back to myself, sometimes roughly, sometimes with the utmost tenderness.  As I give her to herself.

Metta for us, in our almost 25-year insanity.

I honor the light in her, and in myself.

And I still wish she would let me give her a wedgie every other day or so.  What’s with that boundary?

PS–Don’t forget to bet on whether or not we’ll have the fight.  And who will start it.

PPS-I’m betting we’ll have it, that it won’t really be a blowout, and that she’ll start it.

PPPS-Or maybe I will start it.  If I plan on starting it, does that count?  Or is it throwing the game?

The End of My Life as a Christopher Durang Character OR Mixing Metaphors


Yes, I plan to commit suicide in my role as a Chris Durang character.

In other words, the Stork’s swan song is imminent (there’s my mixed metaphor).

I haven’t fired him yet, but I have sworn to do so.  I haven’t taken an oath in blood, but I figure blogging about it is almost as good, as far as commitments go.

Truth is, after he said, “Lyralen might abandon me,” it was only a matter of time.  Because who can pass up an invitation like that?  Besides, it was completely unprofessional and inappropriate.  I think sometimes my partner and I should continue our pattern of going through couples therapists like bottles of Smart Water (health freaks that we are) just so we can see what else they can come up with in that category:  inappropriate and unprofessional.

See, they’re self-employed, and they report to no one besides their clients, who are in therapy, face it, because they’re f*(&ed up and don’t know any better.  So they think they can make up the rules as they go along.  NOT.  WITH.  ME.

Okay.  Would you like to know what the Stork did this time?  I was actually saying something profoundly intimate to my partner.  In fact, I had three profoundly intimate topics in one session, which might be a record.

The first referred to a promise she made to me and how we might finally have a start on an agreement about fair fighting.  I said that it should be egalitarian, that I have to live up to it, too.  Then she made a practical suggestion about how we could do it.  I told her I thought it was a good idea and maybe one of us should take a stab at writing the fair fighting agreement.  She said she would.  Then I said, “That’s about all I can do on that subject,” and she said, “Okay.” (She really meant the okay, because we’d argued about it so much and she knew giving concessions is hard for me.  She is a person of compassion, my partner.)

The second–I decided to tell her that sometimes I can’t see her clearly because she reminds me of my father.  I get confused about what love is when she reminds me of him.  I start feeling distrust.  We were pretty much in the middle of talking about this, and in the process, one of us mentioned a Breathwork and IFS workshop she’d done over the weekend.  I said, “Yes, when you came home I wanted to just listen about it, but we still hadn’t resolved the fair fighting thing, and I’d been waiting for you to get back to me about it, and I was anxious, so I didn’t want to be close until we worked it out.”  The Stork, who’d got interested in the breathwork thing, says to my partner, “You did a workshop with Stanislav Grof?”  And she was like, “Yeah, but not this one.  The one I did with him was this fall, at Kripalu.”  And he’s like, “I didn’t know he was still alive.”  And she’s like, “Yeah.”  And he’s like, “I did one workshop and then decided to get trained in it.  I bet it helps with accessing x, y & z.”  And she’s like, “Yeah, I really like it.”  And he’s like, “Lyralen, what about you?”  And I’m like, “Honestly, I avoid it like the plague.”  And he’s like, “I thought you did a lot of bodywork.”  And I’m like, “Yeah, but rebirthing and that kind of breathwork make me want to run for the hills.”  He’s like, “It’s good to not have any control.”  And I’m like, “You really want to see me out of control?”  And so he turns back to my partner and starts monologueing about her experience and I say, “WATASHI WA!”  And I point to my nose.

In case you’re wondering, watashi wa is Japanese for me, and in Japan, if you reference yourself, you point to your nose, not your heart like we do in the West.

My partner started cracking up, because she knew I was really saying, “Shut up about the breathwork!  I have an AGENDA.”

So then I went back to talking about wanting to see her more clearly.  She said she understood, and she wanted to change things because she hates my father.  Which was good, I thought.

Finally, I got to topic #3.  The night before, I’d asked her, “Do you really want to be closer to me than we normally are?”  And she said, “Yes.”  So I’d thought about it, and said, “I can’t tell the difference between you wanting closeness and just getting mad at me when I say no to meeting all your needs.”  And she said, “I can’t tell the difference either.”  And I said, “I can’t turn into someone who finds it easy to be all mushy.  I wish I could be as open-hearted as Don was, but I can’t.  I get too scared.”

And then the Stork said something useful.  I almost fainted.  He said, “You can’t be someone else.  But you can be present as yourself.  Like Oscar Wilde says, ‘You might as well be yourself.  Everyone else is taken.'”

I said to my partner, “That’s what closeness means to me.  Like when we’re getting along and your neuroses are an endless source of amusement instead of something to criticize.”

But then the Stork says, “I’ve been kind of fading in and out, there’s just something very subdued about this session.”  And I’m like, “I’ve been crying all day because of Don.”  My partner says, “I’m exhausted from work.”  She and I look at each other and we’re like, “This is okay with me, is it with you?”

The Stork says, “I’d like to go back to the fair fighting agreement.  You know, in IFS*, you can still get angry, you just have to speak for parts instead of being blended and speaking from parts.  You know what I mean, don’t you (to my partner)?”

My partner nods.

Then he looks at me.  “Lyralen, do you understand?” As if I’m in kindergarten.

“Yes,” I answer homicidally.  Because he has only explained this about 15 times (he’s a born-again IFS person and talks about it incessantly) and besides, I read the IFS books and knew all about speaking for parts instead of from parts before session 1, which I have told him over and over again.  Also, I am conceptually gifted, so understanding the concept wasn’t exactly rocket science for me.  What I wanted to say was, “Yes, I read the books and in case you haven’t noticed I’m a lot smarter than you are.”  What I did say was, “I already told you I’ve done as much as I can on this topic.”  And he’s like, “I just want your partner to know that if she tries not to get angry at all it will build up and she’ll explode.”  And I’m like, (more homicidal by this point) “But I still can’t do any more on this topic.”  He says, “Oh.  Okay.”

Therefore, I have taken an oath to fire the Stork so I don’t have to kill him.  Much as I will miss the absurdity of Eckhardt Tolle quotes, IFS repetitive lectures, and his abandonment issues, enough is enough.

My partner, who is less reactive to the Stork than I am, basically agrees with all my conclusions.  She says, “He just has to be the center of attention all the time.”

So true.  And obviously a problem, because I need to be the center of attention, if not all the time, at least 60%.  Though 70% is better.

I’m sure this will be a topic with our next couples therapist, as my partner isn’t really happy with 40%, let alone 30.  As I’m sure you could guess.

And so, back to the world of therapist interviews.  Perhaps we will meet another therapist who talks with puppets, or who dresses as the Wicked Witch of the West or who turns into a dog between visits.  I am not looking forward to it.  To say the least.

IFS:  The Richard Schwartz theory that we are all made up of subselves called parts.  Some of these parts are protectors, some critics, some firefighters, some exiles (lost children), etc.  My partner is an experienced peer counselor in this method and is now, as I’ve previously mentioned, doing a professional training in it.  To prove my intermittent sainthood, I’m doing a workshop to get some practice in it.  But, more importantly, I am really interested in writing a comedy called, “Me and My Parts VS. You and Your Parts.”  (Which has to have some couples therapy visits in the plot.  It just has to.)

IFS info:  http://www.selfleadership.org/

How to Win at Couples Therapy


Yes, couples therapy continues with the Stork.  Which makes it, I don’t know…about 4 months now.  And of course, couples therapy would not be continuing if I were not winning.

How to win?  You have to convince both the therapist and your partner that you are not the problem, or at least not the biggest problem, and therefore the focus should not be on you and your pathology, no matter how crazy that pathology might be.

Believe me, that kind of bullshit requires a level of creativity you can only reach if you have, say, an MFA in Theatre from Sarah Lawrence College.

Spin.  Since I am quitting producing theatre, I’m now considering a career in spin.  I will open a coaching practice on winning at couples therapy.  It might not save your marriage, but it will certainly keep you from killing either the therapist or your partner, which is a huge plus.

How, might you ask, did I pull this one off?  Well, I had a leg to stand on.  And, I am both extremely persuasive and relentless, which help.  The leg to stand on:  my partner had something she really needed to atone for.  I mean, one could realistically say that she needed to change.  The fact that she is genuinely atoning, and is genuinely sorry, does not change the fact that I am milking this one for all that it’s worth.

Then, there’s the Stork.  I flat out argue both metaphysics and psychological theory with him, and I continually tell him he’s preaching to the choir, and then I get really funny.  He likes the funny times.  And he’s in love with concepts, and he keeps telling both me and my partner how psychologically sophisticated we are, so I guess he likes the intellectual arguments, too.  (I once kept an individual therapist jumping through hoops for two years before she finally said, “I know you’ve been having a really good time testing me, but I think it’s time you did some work.”  So busted.)

So, I am winning at couples therapy.  Unfortunately, I love my partner and I realize the day is fast approaching when I will have to share focus and blame, but I want to state, for the record, that I will not go willingly into that dark night.  There are lots of darknesses I have embraced, endured and recovered from, but this one, no sir.  I am going to keep the focus on her for as long as possible.

I should also say, for the record, that when we’re not in couples therapy the focus is still on her more than her share of the time, but not all the time, and I do apologize when I know I’m wrong (even though I rarely am…that’s a joke) and make attempts to show, through my actions, that I’m still in this, with effort and attention.  I don’t want to talk about it, but I do try to show it.  She does the talking.  “I can tell you’re really trying,” she says.

“Yeah, sure, whatever,” I answer.  Because I have no intimacy issues.

You might wonder how I get away with this.  Well, I did plan a birthday for her, took her to Maine and out to dinner, endured watching her open presents I’d very carefully chosen (I like to carefully choose presents and leave them around for her to open when I’m not there), and was generally emotionally present for the whole thing.  It was a bit like running a triathlon three times in a row.

When I was 19 I met Henry Hawkins, author of The Five of Me.  (Yes, he was the male Sybil and lived in my apartment complex in Arizona.) He asked to read my poetry and told me I denied sensitivity with the greatest sensitivity.

Which just goes to show that I have changed not at all in the intervening lifetime.

How long can I continue to win at couples therapy?  Well, stay posted.  I’m hoping at least until June 8, which is our 25th anniversary.  I may just give my partner a card that says, “I am now willing to call a non-compete in couples therapy.”

I wonder if she’ll like that or if she’ll just want to shoot me.