Friday, August 30, 2019
Wednesday, August 28, 2019
“The last mountain peak that I have to climb is too frightening. The air at the top is too thin.” Demi was good at asserting truths that really frightened her.
Tom, her therapist, listened patiently. He knew what she needed to hear. He was certain about what the outcome would be, but his job was to listen, to ask questions that might lead to her discovering a way forward, a way she created herself.
Trans-continental phone calls continued their twice monthly meetings in California that had been interrupted by her journey back to Australia to be with Sy, her potential partner in the business of life after retirement.
Demi continued. “I actually don’t know any more than I knew the last time we talked. Well, yes, I know more about myself and why I am having this sense of abandonment again in my life, but I know nothing more about Sy’s relationship with other women in his life.
Tom supported her attempt to explain her suspicions about Sy’s relationship with women who lived or worked in Australia, women who were friends from long before Demi had met him. She understood that the two of them had no agreement about their relationship being monogamous. They had never had a conversation that even remotely centered on that aspect of their current co-habitation.
On the other hand, Sy asked her to be logical, rational, to avoid what he interpreted as her penchant for fantasy. And, he never said, “No, I’m not having an affair with anyone except you.”
Instead, he said, “how could you think that? I am here with you. When has there been an opportunity for me to be having a relationship with another person? There hasn’t been more than an hour at one time and fifteen minutes another for me to even see another person. I wouldn’t be interested in a ‘third party’ who would tolerate such an affair.” (In other words, “Demi, your suspicions are simply irrational.”)
Furthermore, he asserted, “Your distrust of others is a projection. Are you untrustworthy yourself?”
“What a crock of shit! Tom, that is not the right thing for a man to say to a woman who explained to him on several occasions that in her relationship with him she is determined to be forthcoming and honest. I have been totally honest. I have no interest in any other man. No one has measured up to him.”
“Demi, you and I know that you are looking for a very particular behaviour in a partner, one which you think you may have finally found in Sy.”
“Yes! In July of 2000 I felt entirely and absolutely loved by this tall Australian bloke. I felt like I was the center of his world, important in ways I didn’t know it was possible to be important. I found myself crazy in love with him.”
“Initially, I didn’t much care what Sy thought of me. Our first two weeks together may have been the first time I had no expectations for a relationship. Whatever occurred was enough. But at the airport as he walked down the concourse away from me to return to Australia, I was overwhelmed by a sense of loss.”
“Since arriving in Australia this time, I fear that I coerced him into saying it was ok for me to return to the southern hemisphere. Today as we talked, he assured me that since his work was filling his time and that he couldn’t leave behind the opportunities presented; it was his choice, too, that I come here.”
“And what more did you need from him to convince you of his honesty,” asked Tom.
“I don’t want to be an impediment, a tolerated presence; I need to feel my presence is as positive an addition to his life as his role in my life has become. His esteem is essential.”
“Demi, you do realize that you filter his responses because of your fear of how he may respond?”
“I really don’t know how he responded.” Demi lowered the phone from her ear, unwilling to hear what Tom might say. A moment later she whispered into the receiver, “He evaded me. I told him that I was operating under the assumption that we were having an exclusive relationship. He did reply that was his understanding as well.”
|Baobab Tree, Perth Botanical Gardens|
Tom responded, “You are dealing with an intelligent, complex individual who seems to understand you rather well, but who is not ready to capitulate to what he perceives as demands. My concern, in part, is that he may not know, may not understand what motivates himself. Therefore, the safest stance is to remain to some degree aloof, to avoid facing whatever has transpired in his relationship with other women in his life.”
“I want him to know. I want him to reflect, to trust me to be present as he figures out what motivates him to be angry, sad, happy, satisfied, overwhelmed, loving.”
“If one doesn’t know, one doesn’t have to face the dilemma of deciding whether to change or not,” responded Tom
“Yes, I must admit that far too often ignorance is bliss. I can understand his reluctance to share with me. To do that he has to admit his foibles to himself.”
I couldn’t stand not knowing, but I am still too tentative in my sense of who I am in Sy’s life to confront him about his ignorance. The risk is too great. He would dismiss me as one of those Americans who run to a therapist whenever ‘the mountain is too high.’”
“Perhaps he understands your vulnerability and has decided not to take the risk of giving away his power in the face of it. He may be reluctant to risk emotional intimacy, and that could drive the two of you apart.”
|Breakfast in Broome, Western Australia|
Pleading with herself and aware that she had made a full circle in this discussion Demi closed the phone call the same way she had begun.
“Perhaps in time we will be able to confront this mountain of emotions, but I suspect my lack of trust creates an atmosphere too thin to support life as we know it and so we won’t go there together.”