Dear Love: When Did The Requirements Change?
I’m getting more and more lost as time goes on, and I’m sick of second guessing myself. I remember when all I had to get my husband to do anything was take his hand, look into his eyes, and ask. When we were fifteen, we both jumped right in to loving each other with our eyes wide open. I was under Rich’s spell—and he was under mine. And the only thing I needed to make him happy… was me. Now I know as adults needs will change, but it seems like not only does Rich need something else, but I haven’t even been clued in to what it is, and the way he’s acting makes it seem like it’s out of my reach. Am I supposed to just know? Because I don’t. Love, when did you change the requirements? And why the hell wasn’t I told?
“I’m so sorry. I know we were supposed to get started ten minutes ago,” I said to my new marriage counselor. Dr. Whitney Hammond smiled, her eyes patient and kind.
“I’m sure Richard will be here any minute. It’s okay. The first time is usually harder for one spouse than it is for the other. If you want, we can take your mind off of it and you can start by telling me all about you,” she said back. I nodded, feeling more at ease.
“Um, sure. I am Shahira Davis. I’m an HR specialist who made the leap into business owner seven years ago. I run a staffing agency. I love makeup, perfume, shoes, handbags, crab legs, my two best friends, and Rich.” Dr. Hammond laughed at my summary.
“Straight to the point. I like it. Clear, succinct, direct and with perfect eye contact. You definitely teach interview techniques,” she said. I laughed too.
“Force of habit,” I said.
“It’s fine. But you can relax. This is not an interview. I just want to know who you are… who you really are.”
“I’m a woman in love. And I’m not saying that as someone who made their life about a man. I’m saying it because of all the things I’ve been in my life, that’s what I’ve been the longest. I love my friends. Love my work. Love my man. Love is what I do best,” I explained. Dr. Hammond nodded, writing something down.
“That’s a wonderful response. And it tells me so much about you, Shahira. You obviously feel things very deeply, and take your heart’s desires very seriously. I admire that,” she said. The door opened and Rich walked in, looking guilty and a little disheveled. I smiled, hoping to relax him.
“I’m sorry, babe. Things went crazy at the job at the last minute. How you doing, Dr. Hammond? I’m Rich Davis,” he said, holding out his hand for the doctor to shake. She did, and gestured to the couch where I was sitting. My husband sat next to me, kissing me on the cheek. Dr. Hammond put her notepad down and leaned forward.
“Okay. Welcome Shahira, and Richard. It’s so wonderful to meet you both, and I’m excited to help you rediscover your commitment to one another. I’m proud of you both for being here. Let me just say that I don’t stand on a lot of ceremony, and the three of us are going to get pretty intimate with each other so feel free to be as relaxed as possible here, and to call me Whitney. The most important thing to remember in this room is that your honesty is never wrong. The truth is not always pleasant, but it is always right. If the two of you are serious, a commitment to the truth is the first step. Are we in agreement?” she said. Rich and I looked at each other, then at the doctor. We both nodded. Whitney smiled.
“Great. So why don’t we jump right in? First, I want each of you to take a turn telling me why you think you’re here. Just straightforward, in the simplest terms. Why are you sitting in front of me? Richard, I had a few minutes alone with Shahira, so why don’t you go first? Why are you here?” Whitney said, picking up her notepad again. Rich cleared his throat, looking at me quickly before turning away. I could tell he was nervous.
“Well… I’m here because Shahira wanted—I mean, we’re not—look. I thought we were okay, but if Sha thinks we need this kind of help, then that means she’s at the end of her rope with me. Sha is my whole world, and if she’s at the end of her rope with me, then that’s the end of my world. I can’t have that.”
“Okay. So you’re here because it’s what your wife wants?” Whitney said, taking notes.
“I mean… yeah, I guess,” Rich said, nodding.
“What do you want, Richard? Do you have the relationship you want with your wife? Do you think everything is okay?”
“It’s fine, I guess. We’re not lovesick teenagers anymore, you know? We’re comfortable now. Older. Things mellow out over time. It happens to everyone,” Rich finished. He sighed and turned away, and I knew he knew that he’d hurt me.
“I commend your devotion to your wife, Richard. But you won’t get anything out of this unless you find your own reason to be here. So for the next session, why don’t you try thinking about how this can help you, what it can help you discover about yourself and your relationship,” Dr. Hammond said.
“Okay. I—I can do that, I think,” Rich said back. I took a deep breath, willing the tears away. Dr. Hammond looked over at me, smiling in reassurance.
“Well thank you for your honesty, Richard. Shahira, why are you here?”
“I remember when all I needed to put a smile on Rich’s face, was me. All I needed to put a laugh in his mouth, or passion in his eyes, or lust in his hands… was me. And ‘me’ hasn’t worked in a long time. I’m feeling more and more like the requirements have changed. Like I’m not enough. Like I’m out of the loop. I’m here to find out if my husband still loves me, and to figure out what’s next… if he doesn’t,” I replied. Rich turned back, looking scared, and I knew that my honesty had hurt him as well. But it was too late now. Whitney took some more notes, and then put her pad and pen down. She leaned forward in her seat.
“I know that was hard. I’m proud of you both for doing it anyway. So now… we get to work.”
“My goodness, that sounds intense, Sha,” Kaya said as we ate chicken wings and I recounted the therapy session for her and Grace.
“It was. I was in tears by the time it was over, and Rich was just… annoyed, and frustrated, and uncomfortable. That shit was hard. We didn’t talk the whole night. He just ordered us some dinner, we ate it, and went to bed.”
“Maybe you should try talking to him today, since things have calmed down. He’s the one you should be confronting your feelings with. Therapy has to work outside of the session too. Telling us won’t get you anything. And I can’t help but feel like we’re violating Richie’s privacy. Therapy is closed door for a reason, Sha,” Grace said, attacking a platter of chili cheese tater tots. I sighed.
“I’m not going to play-by-play every session, Gracie. I know it’s supposed to be private. But it was so powerful I needed to talk it out. I hope all the sessions won’t be like that. I don’t know if I can take it.”
“You have to take it, Sha. You’re fighting for something. It’s going to take energy. Confrontations are never easy. But you and Richie can do this,” Kaya said. I grabbed a perfectly fried wing and took a huge bite.
“I just don’t want Rich to resent me, or something. And I know I’m there to figure out the truth, no matter what it is, but honestly, I want my husband back. That’s the result I’m hoping for. I just have to hope that’s the result he’s hoping for too. I mean, when did making each other happy get so hard? When did the requirements change?”
“I don’t know, babe. But you keep going. All of that emotion you and Richie showed in the first session tells me neither of you are ready to give up yet. That’s good news. You just have to see it through. And hopefully, at the end of the journey, you’re holding hands,” Grace said. Kaya nodded. I smiled at them.
“I hope so too,” I said, but inside, I was still afraid.
Love, I don’t know when or why my husband’s needs changed, or why I didn’t know, but I’m hoping you can give me some clues. Guide us back to each other, please. Help us love better. Help us see you better. Or at least, see that you’re gone. I’m counting on you.