In Treatment -- Paul, week 6

Kate and Paul arrive together. They are waiting for their daughter, Rosie, to check in with them so their cell phones are left on. They are concerned about where Rosie has actually been.

Rosie has been out for 24 hrs. Gina asks if this didn't happen before a few weeks ago. Kate talks about the shelter she runs, that Rosie volunteers there four times a week. Paul says she is a born social worker, always has been. And Gina asks how he knows that. Paul talks about ways Rosie mediated among friends. Paul somewhat hostilely interprets Gina's question to indicate that Rosie also mediates at home. Kate concludes that Rosie's volunteer work 4 times a week is too much. Gina asks when she started volunteering and they answer around 6 months ago. Kate thinks maybe Rosie should do more ordinary teenage stuff. Paul again interprets what he thinks Gina is actually asking. Gina tells him to stop that.

Kate calls Rosie and she answers. Paul says he wants to talk to her. Kate lies about where she and Paul are, telling her they are with an accountant. Paul says Rosie is not staying with that friend again. And then says he would ask why this now and turns the issue into a reaction to the problems between Paul and Kate. Gina points out that when Rosie vanishes, they work together. She asks if Rosie senses the conflict. Kate thinks they have concealed it well. Paul says he thinks it is more tense now because Kate ran into Laura.

Kate ays she saw Laura and says she is not some poor innocent thing. Kate describes her as like a girl Paul was once involved with, a very seductive woman. She accuses Paul of being just like every other middle aged man, falling in love with the beautiful young woman.

She describes Laura as having a spoiled aloof look about her, that she was very fake. They bicker about Laura and Kate says she is threatened because she is the kind of woman who always gets her man and that Paul has always wanted a woman like Laura. She says she is not Paul's fantasy. Gina reflects that even so he married Kate. Kate ays he wanted the trophy wife and got the homemaker.

Paul says he fell in love with her not just because of her beauty but also her strength, that she was grounded and strong and he needed that. Kate says she does not need him anymore. Paul looks stricken. He says he needs her and has always wanted and needed her. Kate says not like he wants Laura. And Paul asks why she does that, jumps to those conclusions.

Gina asks how it is that Kate no longer needs Paul. She says she would like a partner who was present and available but she lives without that and no longer needs it. Gina asks her what kind of partner she would like. She can't say in detail, then says she would like someone who would tell her about his day. She ays it isn't just about being wanted, that she wants to be a part of something. Then she says women like Laura are all about sex and she can't compete with that. Gina tries to tell Kate that Laura isn't the same threat that she imagines. The danger is that Paul may have fallen in love with Laura. That Kate fell in love with the way their relationship was a lot like a therapy relationship before and now she doesn't need that. And that confuses Paul. Laura loves Paul because he listens to her with attention. She admires him. 

Gina says Kate is trying to redefine herself as independent within the marriage. Paul interrupts. Gina tells him that it is not all him, that Kate is part of the problem too. That being needy was what Kate did to attract Paul. Paul is angry at Gina and accuses her of trying to push Kate out, that Kate is reacting out of her childhood issues. Gina says maybe he doesn't want to talk about childhoods because then he would have to talk about his. Kate says she can't take this, that she knew it would turn into the history between them but that isn't helpful to her and she leaves. Paul follows.

I was leery of Gina's agreement to see both Paul and Kate for precisely the reason this session fell apart. The issues between Gina and Paul are completely unresolved. He cannot be open to what she says because he is engaged in resistance to her all the time out of his unresolved anger at her and his resentment that she has, quite accurately, persisted in linking his behavior to his father's. I can't see how any therapist, no mater how gifted, could surmount this problem. My choice would have been to refer the couple to another therapist,  someone who neither has a prior history with and someone both can feel safe with. 

That said, Gina's observations about Kate and Paul, how they came together and what is happening now, seem spot on to me. Paul has always been able to enact his therapist role with Kate, to be the strong one and once Kate no longer needs that to feel secure, they are both left not knowing how to be with each other. But instead of dealing with that -- because neither one has seen it -- they act it out; Kate with her affair and Paul by allowing himself to develop feelings for Laura. And underlying all of this are their childhood issues. It's almost never simple with couples.

Kate's action, leaving because she cannot deal with the conflict between Paul and Gina, is clear and direct. She is right that it is not helpful to her now to their problems as a couple. 

Will Kate come back? Your guess is as good as mine.

© Cheryl Fuller, 2018. All  rights reserved.