Thursday, June 28, 2007

men, marriage, and a fear of commitment

It’s been a while since the last time I talked about therapy (what? Like two weeks?). Yesterday’s session was particularly thought provoking so I just had to share.

My visits with Dr. W are evolving into a routine of sorts. Every visit starts out with Dr. W asking me about my sleep patterns from the last week. After all, my sleeplessness is what made me seek out therapy in the first place so it’s nice that she keeps asking me about it. However, we all know that my therapy is now about more than just my sleeplessness.

She then asks me how things are going at work. This usually determines the content of my session (and probably why I haven’t been blogging about therapy in a while). If work is the reason why I can’t sleep, we end up talking about that and my future and my professional goals, etc. If work is good and not causing me any stress, then we move on to the usual topic—the boyfriend.

Yesterday, after getting all of the fluff out of the way, Dr. W asked me about Jesse. I told her about my recent pregnancy scare (if you could even call it that) and how I asked Jesse what would happen if I got preggers (for that story, click here). I said to her, “I feel good knowing that Jesse continues to picture me as being a part of his future.” Dr. W replied (in total Debbie Downer mode which is so not like her), “How do you know he’s not just telling you things to keep you around?” I thought about that for a while. The truth is that I have no idea. I am certain that Jesse loves me and I trust and believe in that. As far as whether or not we’re going to get married, I have no idea. I do know that Jesse is a man of his word. I answered Dr. W, “Jesse doesn’t say things he doesn’t mean. But I trust he’s not just telling me what I want to hear. How do YOU know that he is or isn’t?” Sensing my defensiveness, Dr. W replied, “I don’t. But I want you to be open to the possibility.” I’m not open. End of story.

I’ve been getting the impression that Dr. W is lumping Jesse in with all of the male patients that she’s been seeing (and has seen in the past) about their fear of commitment. I’ve always felt that Jesse is unlike ‘all the other guys’. I refuse to believe that he could ever get lumped in a category. He’s special. And not just to me. He truly is different.

In the course of an hour, I went from being pretty happy to pretty hopeless about my future with Jesse. And then Dr. W took a shot at redemption. She started telling me about her male patients who have a fear of commitment. Dr. W said, “These men, they come in here telling me about how much they love their girlfriends and their girlfriends are pushing them to propose and get married and they just can’t. They can’t take that extra step. I challenged one of my patients to really look deep inside. I told him, ‘Your girlfriend is completely powerless. She’s already told you that she wants to spend the rest of her life with you and you’re the one who isn’t sure, who thinks that maybe there’s someone else out there who might be better. But it’s not about the grass being greener. It’s about the power and how you have it now. You’re afraid that will change once you get married. You can’t commit because you don’t want to lose or share the power.’ He didn’t see it at first, but then he began to realize that it really was about the power.”

I asked Dr. W, “So you see this a lot, huh?”

Dr. W said, “In my many years of experience with this issue, the loss of power was a common theme. I even saw this in some of the nicest guys. It’s usually harder for them to realize it.”

I wasn’t ready to hear the answer, but I was super curious. I just had to ask. “Of all the guys you have seen with a fear of commitment, how many of them end up getting married?”

I held my breath while Dr. W thought about her answer. I thought my chest was going to explode and then she finally said, “I’d say 90%.” My response: “Wow.”

I left my appointment feeling pretty good about myself and my chances of getting Jesse to be open to the idea of marriage. But the time I got to the Metro, the cynic in me had a thought and it ruined my hopeful mood.

What if Dr. W was just telling me what I wanted to hear?


Madame M. said...

Therapists will often play the Devil's Advocate to get their patients to question things that would otherwise never get questioned. Having said that, if you feel that Jesse is different and true (and really, he sounds like a great guy who is serious and committed to you), I wouldn't get nervous. I would just realize that she's doing her job.

sunchaser said...

Just that she paused before giving her answer indicates to me that she wasn't just making it up for your benefit.

90% does seem like a pretty high number though. And considering how much stigma there still is for men to seek out therapy (apparently from what I've heard, even if they have post-Iraq PTSD), her sample pool would have to be different than the general population of commitment-phobes, right?

But Jesse doesn't sound like a typical guy by any stretch! :)