The Husband

“I think,” she took a deep breath, “No, I feel like,” she let out an exasperated growl and took a deep breath letting it out audibly before saying, “My husband hates women.”

“That’s interesting,” the therapist said, tilting her head to the right a bit, “you are a woman. Does your husband hate you?”

“No,” she laughed a short, tense laugh, “No, my husband obviously loves me.” She stopped and put her head in her hands for a moment before raising back to a sitting position, head raised, hands and arms at her sides. “You’ve never met my husband so there’s nothing for you that’s ‘obvious’ about his love for me,” she said, using her hands to form air quotes around the word obvious, “I know my husband loves me. This has nothing to do with our marriage. It’s that,” she sighed, unsure how to continue in this new way where she is supposed to state clearly what she needs, wants, and means, rather than asking questions, deflecting and subverting to another, or couching her desires behind feelings that aren’t in fact feelings. “My husband loves me, and hates women, all women, even me, despite loving me at the same time.”

“How does that work?” asked the therapist.

“So, for example, I love my mother. I love her very much. My mother is also toxic, as we’ve discussed repeatedly, and I’ve had to remove her from my life. I still love her, but I can’t be around her. And it’s kind of like that for my husband, only, he actively hates all women, and he doesn’t seem to understand that it’s true. So even though he loves me wholeheartedly, he also hates me just by virtue of my being a woman, and he doesn’t even know it,” she smiled, not because what she’d said had been pleasant, it was anything but; she smiled because she’d just made perfect sense. She’d just said exactly what she was thinking and feeling without excusing herself or apologizing for herself or hiding behind words that made what she had to say sound soft and sweet instead of the harsh reality that it was.

“How do you feel, being married to a man who loves and hates you?” asked the therapist, in what appeared to be a moment of uncertainty.

“It’s odd,” she said honestly, rubbing her hands up and down the outsides of her thighs a couple times, a gesture that both removed the sweat from her palms and massaged the goosebumps that had appeared all over her. “I can’t decide if I’m going to stay with him or not.”

“That’s certainly something we will need to discuss, but you haven’t said how you feel.”

“Right, no, I just,” she licked her lips and her eyes flicked up to meet the therapists eyes before flicking back down, “I feel I married myself,” she was startled by these words, these words that were not feelings but a statement meant to sound better wrapped in the soft cushion of “I feel.”

“Do you hate women?” asked the therapist.

“No, not at all, I mean, I’ve always been a bit afraid of women,” she realized she was lilting so her statement sounded like a question. She cleared her throat and began again, “I’ve always been a bit afraid of women, it seems like we are harsher on one another than men are. And we’re much less predictable and honest, at times. I realize this is all generalization and clearly not fair to all women, myself included, but what I mean is, in my experience with men and women, I always know where I stand with men because they’re so transparent, whereas with a woman I’m always anxious that I’m only seeing what they want me to see.”

“Do you only show people what you want them to see?” asked the therapist, on solid footing again, knowing exactly the answer to the question she’d just asked but unsure whether or not her client knew.

“Yes, I do. And I didn’t even realize I do it until just recently. All these things we’ve been working on, they’ve allowed me to see that I am exactly the women I’m afraid of. I don’t speak my mind for fear of upsetting someone, instead I say things in an offhand way or ask things even when they’re not questions.”

“Have you always thought your husband hates women or is this a new idea born of the work you’ve been doing on yourself?” the therapist asked.

“I’ve always known he was a little afraid of women but it wasn’t until Hillary ran for president that it became clear he actually hates women.”

“How did Hillary running make it clear that your husband hates women?” the therapist asked.

“He was just so angry,” she said, shaking her head at the recollection, “he had no way to explain what he was so angry about and he hid behind things like ’emails’ and ‘liar’ and said things like ‘I’m all for a woman president, just not that woman,'” she said, emphasizing that with a scowl on her face, presumably the scowl her husband wore when saying the quote. “Ugh,” she grimaced and looked back up to meet her therapists gaze, “but now here we are, Elizabeth Warren is running. She’s a prime example of a woman who is calm, intelligent, has a proven track record of doing what she says, has a plan for literally every freaking thing you could ask for, absolutely destroys the other candidates in the debates,” she takes a deep breath knowing that she’s getting a little heated, a little excited in her explanation, “a perfect candidate not only for president but for our first female president, and what does he say?” she asks rhetorically, squinting her eyes a bit before sitting back against the chair and throwing her arms out, “‘she’s too aggressive.'” She throws her arms back down at her side, “how can you, I mean, what about,” she dissolved into a growl before taking yet another deep breath, “no one says Trump is too aggressive and the guy is a batshit crazy bullying asshole. And did you see that interview she did with what’shisname?” she asks.

“Chris Matthews?” the therapist asks.

“Yes!” she nearly yells, “if anyone had a reason to be ‘aggressive’ it was Warren during that interview and yet she didn’t lose her cool once, not once!”

“Is your husbands depiction of Warren as aggressive the reason you say he hates women?” the therapist asks.

“Yes and no,” she bobs her head, “that’s part of it, I mean obviously using words for a woman as a negative that are the exact same words you’d use for a man as a positive is a problem, but it doesn’t necessarily mean hate. No, but it’s all a part of it. Like a symptom of his disease,” she starts laughing, “dis and ease, that’s exactly it, he is uneasy with women and it’s also a sickness. Has there ever been a more perfect word?” she asks, again rhetorically, as she continues, “It makes me sad. And angry. I’m so sad that he hates women, I’m so sorry for whatever happened to him in his life that he hates women. And it makes me angry because how can I not take it personally? And how can I possibly stay with him, knowing that he hates me, even though he doesn’t understand that he does?”

“Do you know what happened to you that you were afraid of women?” the therapist asks.

She leans back against the chair and stares up at the ceiling for a minute before answering, “I’m not exactly sure. I can’t remember any women ever saying or doing anything to me that made me afraid. If anything it was all the warnings I heard from boys and men around me as I grew up, all the warnings they gave one another about women, said within my earshot or directly over my head or sometimes even to my face, a sort of, ‘don’t you grow up like that,’ sort of thing.”

“Would your husband have grown up hearing those same warnings?” asks the therapist.

“Oh, I’m sure of it,” she says without taking a moment to contemplate, the answer immediately on her tongue before the therapist had even finished asking.

“Does knowing that give you any empathy towards him?”

She nods, tears slowly falling down her cheeks, “yes,” she nearly whispers, her voice getting lost in a need to swallow, “I feel very sorry for him, and I do wish he could come to see it, but I also know he has no interest in therapy. I know he doesn’t believe that his problems can be solved by anyone outside of himself. And so,” she spreads her hands in a gesture of letting go, “I think I need to decide if I can live with someone who hates me because I know how much he loves me, or if I need to remove him from my life, like my mom.”

“This is a lot to think about. I wish we could continue talking about it because I think we could get somewhere better with just a bit more time. Unfortunately, I have another client in a few minutes, so we do have to end on time today. I’m going to ask you to promise not to make any major decisions over the next week. I know it may seem like I’m asking a lot, but this is very important. I’m asking that if you notice yourself moving towards a place of finality towards anything major a purchase, a trip, your husband, that you instead stop and consider it an experiment. Say to yourself, ‘what would happen if I pretend I moved forward with this decision,’ and then imagine the possibilities. Go down all the possible roads you can think of, but only in your mind. Is that something you can commit to this week?”

“I think so,” she said, stretching out the word think into multiple syllables.

“Excellent. Really. Excellent. Next week. Same time. No big decision until then,” the therapist said, hand on her shoulder as she guided her out.

~~~That’s one hour~~~

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