At the end of the last episode, Helene called her ‘single’ friend.
She began the conversation with, “If I tell you something, you have to promise not to tell anyone, okay?”
“Okay. What’s going on?”
“Nolan and I are separated. I don’t understand why we are having these same problems. We talk. We do what needs to be done to keep our marriage going. We have these two precious babies and I know Nolan is hurting because he hasn’t seen them. I don’t know what to do.”
Her ‘single’ friend listened to her and waited until she finished. Then she told Helene to just hear her out and not to interrupt her. Helene listened.
“If I were you, I would just get a divorce. They do have what’s called a ‘No Fault’ divorce these days. It could be finished in no time and you can be on your way to a better life without him. I know a couple who got divorced in one day. Want me to give you the name of their attorney?”
Unfortunately, Helene’s silence was not an indicator to her ‘single’ friend that she should stop talking, so she continued. “Helene, you don’t need a man to make you whole. Girl, please. I know I don’t. No man is worth that much drama and if I were you, I wouldn’t take his treatment even if he were my husband. Why argue all the time? You don’t get anywhere. Bad treatment of a wife, does not a good husband make. I don’t believe that God wants you to have this much stress just to keep your marriage intact. If I were you, I’d be glad he’s out of my life. There are plenty of kids raised by single mothers, and they turn out fine. Look at me. I’m a well-adjusted single female. Being single is not a bad thing or an enigma, you know. As a matter of fact, being single is satisfying. Drop your zero, girl. Stop wasting time with that loser. Cut your losses now before it’s too late.”
Helene gave that conversation a little thought. But for some reason, it just didn’t sit right with her, so she called her slightly older married friend.
“Connie, do you have a minute? Is Anthony home? I really need to talk.” Anthony, Connie’s husband was away on business, so that afforded them plenty of time to talk. Connie listened to Helene describe exactly what she and Anthony had gone through years ago. Wow, I guess the challenges we go through are for a reason, to help others, Connie thought, then she prayed silently before speaking. Lord, please let me say the right thing.
“I’m here. Listen honey, right now you are upset and emotionally fragile. Nobody can think rationally when upset. You probably feel as though your marriage is over. It doesn’t have to be, and you don’t have to continue to hurt or to be sad. You have to be strong for yourself and for those babies. First things first…” Connie and Helene stayed on the phone for two hours. When they were finished, Helene felt better, and she had an idea of what to do next.
Nolan stayed with his co-worker Markus Tate, Jr., who had a two-bedroom, two-bathroom townhome and didn’t ask any questions when Nolan asked to stay with him for a while. Nolan’s job required him to be in the field 60% of the time, and Markus worked in a different department and had different hours. They would hardly see each other. That plan would work out fine. On the rare occasions that they did run into each other, Nolan was quiet and to himself. Markus thought that if Nolan wanted to talk, he would so he didn’t push.
Weeks went by and Nolan did nothing except go to work and go back to Markus’s house. He was feeling unbelievably bad but was not going to let anyone know what was going on. In his room at night, he would cry for hours with his pillow covering his head. He missed his wife and children.
His boss noticed a change in him and suggested the Employee Assistance Program through their health insurance. At first Nolan was reluctant to go, but then he thought, what the heck, it’s confidential; I’ll try it. Nolan ended up with a no-nonsense female counselor.
Jana Ohnstadt was the name on the many certificates lining the wall behind her desk. When Nolan did his pre-visit internet research, he saw a picture of her, which put him in the mind of Judge Judy. Dr. Ohnstadt specialized in family counseling and prided herself on the type of environment she provided for her clients. She was a great listener, never sitting behind her desk, when in session. She sat in the same type of chair her clients sat in and she always looked them directly in the eye when speaking to them.
Just as she finished cleansing her office, a knock sounded on the door. “Come in please.”
Nolan entered the office, albeit a bit apprehensive. Dr. Ohnstadt stood and extended her hand to him. “Nolan, right?”
“Please, have a seat.” She smiled.
“Thank you.” It was Nolan’s turn to smile. “Am I that obvious, Dr.? Does it appear that I am apprehensive about being here?”
“Yes.” She pushed her glasses up on her nose.
Nolan visibly relaxed. “You’ve looked over the pre-consult forms I filled out on the internet?”
“Yes, I have them on my desk, but I’d like to hear from you specifically, the primary purpose for your visit today.”
“I think I can help with that. I’ve been married for 35 years to the same man. I’ve successfully counseled married couples for 15 years, so you see, I have some experience.” She smiled again.
Nervous, Nolan crossed one leg over the other and began speaking. “I don’t know where to begin.”
“You asked why I’m here. I’m here because my wife and I have been separated for weeks now and I don’t know what to do about it. I miss her and our kids. We had a huge argument and I left, but during the argument, it seemed as if ‘something’ was putting negative thoughts in my mind. Like, something was telling me what to say. And the words, they would just tumble out of my mouth. I feel as though I was not even in control of my own mind.”
“What do you think that could have been?”
“Once we’ve talked more, we’ll discuss what it could be. It sounds really disturbing though.”
“I know we both said things we didn’t mean, but we couldn’t seem to reign in our words. I mean, I could have chosen to say nothing at all, but I di…couldn’t. I said some pretty hurtful things to my wife knowing they were hurtful and untrue.”
“Sounds like the Tsunami effect. A tsunami swells under the right conditions and then draws back from land and the shallow water, then with a vengeance it comes back to land at a swell sometimes reaching heights of eight feet or more. In your case, it was the progression of the argument. The foul words, the shouting, then whoosh, the crescendo of the ugliness became so horrible that it overtook the two of you. You’ve seen the pictures of the ravaged homes and land?”
Nolan was listening intently. “Yes.”
“That’s what happened. After the tsunami is done wreaking havoc, some rebuild, some can’t; the damage is too severe. If you choose to rebuild, it takes time and a lot of effort. Just as it takes time for people to rebuild their homes and lives. What you have to figure out is if you want to rebuild.”
“You’ve certainly painted a vivid picture doctor. Looks like I have work to do.”
The first two sessions were used to get Nolan’s assessment of his marriage. After several more sessions, Nolan started feeling comfortable enough to let down some of his defenses. At the fifth session, he even shed a tear.
“Listen Nolan; I have this habit of getting right to the point. Frankly, you might want to get moving if you want to salvage your marriage. Seems that neither you nor your wife know how to effectively communicate or resolve conflict. There is a power struggle going on between the two of you. Is the power struggle worth it?”