In Treatment -- Jake & Amy, week 5

When Amy arrives in her running clothes, Jake is sitting in the garden outside Paul's office waiting. He says someone is with Paul. They are 5 minutes early. They have apparently not been together. They talk warily.

They are sitting apart on the couch. Paul asks how they are. Then he says that he will not tolerate violence of any kind in the office. Amy says it's all right because they have been separated for a week. Paul does not respond as Amy and Jake expect so they join together for a moment to criticize Paul. Paul tries to make it clear to them that what they have been doing is chaotic and unproductive because they do not respect boundaries.

Then Paul asks what happened. Amy starts to talk about what happened. She had taken their son to her mother's. Jake came by and they argued and then had sex. Paul asked what happened. Amy says that while Jake was still in her, he says if she leaves her, he will kill her which she found disgusting. Jake then counters that what she and her mother do to their son, feeding him junk food, is disgusting. Paul asks if Lenny is overweight. And Amy says he is like she was. Amy is very defensive about their son and about her childhood weight.

Then they argue about their son -- his weight, his fighting, who is at fault. Jab. Counter jab.

Paul observes that they take the most sensitive subjects and then toss them away which makes it difficult to get t the bottom of  their actual feelings.

Paul asks if Jake had ever threatened her before physically. And Amy shakes her head. Amy says she was not afraid but was disgusted. Jake makes threats but denies meaning them.

Paul stays with the statement --"If you leave me, then I will kill you." He goes to the first half and the underlying fear in it, that something will happen to Jake if Amy leaves him. They are both quiet.

Paul asks Amy to go back to her feelings as a child being overweight. She resists. She is fine. Lenny will be fine. Paul suggests to her that it works for her to see Jake as pathetic, an underachiever to keep her from her own insecurities and negative feelings about herself.

Amy says no -- and she wants a divorce.

Jake reacts and looks devastated. Then says fine and he will take their son. They spar about Lenny a bit. Then Jake asks what she wants from him. She says nothing and can't they do this nicely. Jake gets up, crying, asking what's nice about it.

Amy looks impassive.

Jake sits down again and there is a long silence which Paul breaks giving an example of a couple who ended up staying together through therapy after deciding to divorce. He offers it as hope -- we know he is talking about himself and they begin to get that. Amy says she can't do this anymore. Paul asks if she sees anything positive and lists a few things.

Jake has fixated on the element of infidelity in what Paul said and pushes Amy about whether she has been unfaithful. Paul points out that neither of them is being open, they just attack and defend. Jake says he has come to save their marriage and Paul tells him to tell that to Amy. 

Amy buttresses her argument that they should divorce because all they do is fight. Jake is crying. Paul tells him to say what he feels to Amy. Jake sits forward, turns to her and says he doesn't want her to leave, doesn't want to lose her. He talks about how bad he feels without her. Amy's face remains impassive. Jake puts his head in her lap, sobbing. She awkwardly touches him or seems to in an automatic gesture but seems as removed and untouched as before. The session ends.

I wonder if what we are seeing here is a couple where the hidden agenda is an already made decision by one party to end the marriage. Amy has not seemed much interested in doing anything to work on the relationship since we first saw her 5 weeks ago. It is Jake who seems to want to work it out, to find a way to solve their problems. And Jake who voices a fear that the therapy will lead them to divorce. And he may be right, though it is not the therapy that creates this but a decision made by Amy before they came.

When a marriage ends, one partner has already made the decision, sometimes long before the other can even allow him or herself to suspect it. That partner begins a process of imagining life without husband or wife and a kind of psychological callous begins to form, sealing over what was an open connection between them. Amy's impassivity leads me to wonder if this is in fact the case with her, that she has already left emotionally and all that she sees remaining is the actual ending of the marriage, which she hopes Paul will see and support while helping Jake deal with his feelings.

Amy then might be seen as the leaver, having already left Jake emotionally and psychologically and beginning to imagine herself as single again. For Jake, the left, this process is just beginning and he must go through feelings of betrayal, abandonment and anger. 

In order for the therapy to help the marriage, both partners must want it to survive and improve. Without both of them wanting this, no therapist can alter the outcome. Paul may be able to get Amy to pause long enough to look at herself, at how she came to this place and what it means that she is again leaving a marriage, probably because of yet another man. And if Jake and Amy can hold on the mast of their ship, they might be able to ride it out and come out of the storm they are in in  a far better place with each other. But I must say I am not optimistic.

© Cheryl Fuller, 2018. All  rights reserved.