Sophia and I have what I would call a solid, long-term relationship. We’ve attained this state through what we call the Four "Com"s: strong _com_mitment, honest _com_munication, willingness to _com_promise, and separate _com_bs. Still, there have been rough spots, periods when love was not enough and masturbation could not pick up the slack. During those times, times when our love shack was engulfed in flames, we have turned to the therapeutic fire ax known as couples counseling.
We’d only been together a short while, a few months or, possibly, years. Every day, upon returning home from the salt mines (this was before I was put on a low-sodium career path), Sophia would be crying, and whenever I asked why, she would say, “To water the fucking plants, honey.” Young as I was at the time, I didn’t quite pick up on the fury and sarcasm in her voice and instead took her comment at face value, i.e., I became insanely jealous of the love and attention she was showering—literally!—on the sly, conniving plants. Her melancholy and my suspicions festered for weeks before finally erupting into a colossal row that, with time, ratcheted down to a nasty fight, then cooled to a heated argument, which mutated into a frank discussion, which segued into a frothy dialogue that we eventually added a few songs to and took on the road to great reviews. But over the course of those exchanges it became clear to both of us that we’d disconnected somewhere along the way. At first, I blamed myself, but that didn’t feel quite right, so, instead, I started blaming the media, which did. Unwilling to embrace this painless remedy, Sophia asserted that if we were ever to fully regain what we once had we would need the help and guidance of an impartial third party. Again, admittedly, my bad: I fecklessly interpreted her term “third party” to mean a member of the Third Reich. To my credit, though, I was committed enough to the process that I eventually found a Dr. Günther von R—, MSW, LCSW, a retired S.S. colonel who, despite impelling us to express our emotions through the discharge of field artillery and in vile torrents of ethnic loathing, did finally get our differences worked out and put us back on track. Unfortunately, shortly thereafter, he began strategizing about how we could forcibly take over our neighbors’ marriage and we terminated therapy.
Flash forward 0.9 decades later. By this time, Sophia was traveling frequently for her work (at some point, she’d become a very successful fly-someplace, do-something-there person) while I sat, home- and deskbound, stymied in my attempts to write the first novel-length novella. We saw each other rarely, maybe one weekend a month, less on the Jewish calendar. We were like strangers to one another, even asking to see ID before we’d pour each other wine with dinner. One Sunday, as she was packing for yet another long business trip, I told her I felt neglected and alone; she countered that she felt alected and neglone, as well as dyslexic. I admitted to an online affair; she confessed to a dalliance with Google’s board of directors. We began to trade insults and accusations, but, having so repeatedly milled our connubial grist over the years, we soon agreed to skip right to the culminating “Fuck you!”s and allow we’d arrived there organically. Encouraged by this creative (and increasingly rare) concord, we decided to give counseling another try. This time, my cousin Josephine (the “sephine” is silent), a divorced transgender lesbian raised by her parents as a hermaphrodite, who, in the search for her true sexual identity, had left a trail of id-crumbs that wended its way through every mental-health facility within a 50-mile radius, said she knew the perfect therapist for us: Lillian Frockswath. She was right. Lillian held a doctorate in the emotional sciences from the College of William and Mary and Mary’s Stalker Ex-Husband. She was also a pioneer in the field of couples counseling, having started her practice way back in the 1960s, when couples were invented. We could immediately sense she had the intelligence, insight, evenhandedness, and experience to help us eliminate our blah-blah-blah but celebrate our yak-yak-yak. Before long, Sophia started turning down travel, transitioning her career to become a home-based, do-something-here person. I threw out the novella in favor of the more straightforward task of turning Chevy Chase’s oeuvre into a Norse poem. Over the course of two years and countless (122) sessions, Lillian coached us, refereed us, cheered us, and, once, hurled a cup of beer and a half-eaten giant soft pretzel at us while calling us “overpaid bums.” She taught us both how to actively listen and taught Sophia some other stuff I kind of zoned on. Most important, Lillian helped remind the two of us why we fell in love with each other in the first place, then pumped us with megadoses of ginkgo biloba in the hope we’d stop forgetting. At our final session, Lillian congratulated our perseverance, encouraged us to stay focused on our common goals, and assured us we would enjoy success. We took it as a good sign when, after a dinner of Chinese takeout, our fortune cookies echoed her counsel.