A Violent Massage- Marriage Counseling & More

In case you are wondering here are the last five songs on my iPod:

Don Mclean
Without You
Harry Nilsson
What I Have Done
Linkin Park
Lux Aeterna
Clint Mansell
Hard Hearted Hannah
Ray Charles

Sunday evening. I am recovering from a busy, busy week and a very rough fast. I have a pinched nerve in my neck that acts up periodically, most often it is noticed during stress. Or should I say that when I am stressed out it is one of three physical signs of my stress. For the past several weeks I have tried to power through it. More often than not I am successful, but not today.

Today it got to be too much and I went and got a massage. Due to poor planning I had to a different vendor. The man who did it was nice, but I swear that he beat me up. It was like a sick scene from a sitcom. He turned me upside down and inside out. My muscles were battered…relentlessly. This experience taught me a valuable lesson. I need to learn how to cry in Chinese in as many dialects as possible. I am pretty sure that I stammered a sentence that included pain…ani bocheh, crying, fuck, damn, ouch, crap and hey that tickles.

It is entirely possible that I might have even begun speaking in tongues. It wouldn’t surprise me. Fortunately there is a happy ending. My pinched nerve was beaten into submission and I feel substantially better…physically. Mentally is a different story.

A short time ago my friend Tom asked if he could speak to me about something of a personal nature. Which I always take as code for making some stupid crack about bodily functions. It is an old joke between the two of us, but from the look on his face it became apparent that this was not something funny. The look on his face alarmed me. For a moment I was certain that he was going to tell me that he is dying. And that is something that I have heard too many times in my life. Somewhere in the archives you can find a post where I speak about the two people I know who are dying. You’ll notice that I don’t write about them very often. Eventually I will, but right now it is too hard.

Anyway Tom relates to me that he is having what he calls severe marital problems and asks for my counsel on this. Over the course of several pots of coffee and hours of conversation he relates a very sad tale and one that I find very troubling. Excuse me while I take a moment to relate the next five songs on my iPod. I need a moment to think.

In the Ghetto
Elvis Presley
Have You Ever Seen The Rain
Steppin Out With My Baby
Tony Bennett
Tougher Than The Rest
Bruce Springsteen
Dr. Feelgood
Motley Crue

Tom and his wife have been married for ten years now. He and I have known each other for more than a couple of decades so FWIW I can say that I know what he was like in various relationships as well as the marriage. From an outsider’s perspective it looked alright. I never thought about them being madly in love, but that is not a prerequisite for being married, not to mention that it is not my place to judge.

Anyhoo, old Tom tells me that for a number of years he has been very unhappy. For a while he kind of just went along with it. To quote him “I thought that somehow we’d find a way to work it out.” For one reason or another it didn’t happen. He wanted to go to counseling and she didn’t. Time passed and he grew more discontent, more upset and less interested in trying to save a love that seemed to be dead.

Gradually their relationship evolved from man and wife into something that was closer to roommates who just happened to share a room. At some point in time he met someone online. They became fast friends and found that they had quite a bit in common including unfulfilling marriages.

Since they lived in different parts of the country their friendship was limited to email and the occasional telephone call. But over time they fell in love and for the past two years they have tried to figure out a way to be together. As I understand it the major dilemma has been their respective children as neither one of them wants them to be hurt.

Are you following along? Good.

Last Tuesday night Tom showed up on my doorstep and asked me to get some more coffee. He looked like hell. Tom said that they are convinced that they have found their besheret and asked me what I thought. I told him that I didn’t think that every relationship was meant to last and he nodded his head.

With something that sounded like a muffled sob he asked me how long he had to subjugate his own happiness for that of his children. I took my time answering. If ever there was a pregnant pause, this was it, but I felt the weight of the question. It deserved an honest answer.

I said that I didn’t know what to tell him. I can’t yell at him and say that he did the wrong thing. I am not in the marriage and frankly to the best of my knowledge he tried to make it work and she didn’t. Anyway, I asked him if he wanted to save his marriage and he said no, but at the same time he is afraid for his children.


That is how he describes himself. It is an awful thing to hear. He is fully cognizant of how he get to this place. Now he is at a loss for how to get out of it. You can understand why his story made me think of Unetanah tokef especially this line:

Who shall be at peace and who shall be pursued,

Who shall be at rest and who shall be tormented,

Yesterday as I davened I thought of him. During my shmoneh esreh I pulled my tallis over my head and asked for a solution for Tom. Some challenges are easily overcome and others are more complex. This particular one perplexes me. I keep seeing the look of anguish on his face. So to quote Hebrew National I went looking for help from a higher source.

Conversations like this remind me that I am closer to middle age then teen age. Sometimes I miss the simplicity of those days.

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  1. Jack's Shack September 25, 2007 at 6:25 am


    That is the plan.


    Mostly I just listen. I suspect that you are right.I am not convinced that he wants to fix things. Maybe he once did, but now…


    That is important. You can never tell your children that you love them too many times.


    I am the king of no win situations, but that is a post for later date.

  2. Kol Ra'ash Gadol September 25, 2007 at 1:21 am

    First, you should know ahead of time that no matter what you do, you can’t help him. Really.
    What he’s coming to you for is acceptance of his actions. You can choose to give it, refrain from giving it, or remain neutral, but I guarantee you he’s already decided what to do and is testing the waters.

    Second, whatever his marital problems are, I guarantee you that his having an online affair for a couple of years exacerbated them. If he really wanted to fix things, he had to pack up the affair first, and then work on the marriage. Tha’ts still true now – my guess is that he is continuing to be miserable in his marriage at least in part because he wants out. You can’t change the direction of the horse while you’re jumping off it.
    He probably doesn’t want to hear that though. I wouldn’t recommend telling him either – if you give him advice that he doesn’t take, he’ll resent you later. And if you give him advice that he does take, he’ll resent you later.
    This is a really no win situation for you. If it were me, I would avoid getting involved in the situation as much as possible. ALthough you could recommend a good therapist. It could never hurt.

  3. The Misanthrope September 24, 2007 at 10:20 pm

    children are far more understanding and flexible than we think they are. I think it’s important to always let the kids know they are loved, above all else.

  4. ~~Silk September 24, 2007 at 4:51 pm

    A further thought – sometimes we don’t completely level with a partner because we are afraid the partner will then make a real effort to fix things – and we don’t really want that. It’s a kind of “gotcha”.


  5. ~~Silk September 24, 2007 at 4:46 pm

    All you can or should do is listen, and ask questions.

    Is his wife fully aware of his feelings? A friend of mine went through something similar a few years ago, and when it was over (divorce) I was horrified to find that his wife was completely unaware he was unhappy. He talked to everyone BUT her.


  6. Guilty Secret September 24, 2007 at 2:44 pm

    Oh dear, that is hard. I think all you can do is be there and listen to him like you have already and eventually he will work out what to do on his own.

    It is sad that his wife wasn’t as willing to work at it as he was.

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