“So you don’t think you are a sex addict?”
“No it’s not the sex, I’m sure of that?” the patient said as she continued staring at the blank ceiling above her head, seemingly more interested in the ceiling than in the conversation.
“What?” the patient seemed a bit absent-minded in the last few sessions, and today’s was no different.
“How do you know it’s not the sex?” the doctor exercised some patience.
“Oh…it’s not like I’m sleeping with every guy I’m involved with.” She said rather nonchalantly.
“And how many guys are you involved with?”
“Uhmmm…four?” she held four fingers in front of her face and studied them as if trying to make sense of them. This amused the doctor somewhat.
“So you are not certain?” she asked with a condescending smile on her face, fortunately the patient missed it.
“No I am. It’s my boyfriend,” she added a thumb to the four fingers in front of her face, “and four other guys. Ja. Five in total.” She concluded and removed the hand from her face.
“So not all of them are your boyfriends?” the doctor continued.
“No.” She looked at the doctor as if she was crazy.
“What’s the difference?” she asked genuinely confused.
“My boyfriend is the one I spent most of my time with.”
“Okay, so the other guys?”
“Three of them are all in different cities, the other one doesn’t seem to give a damn about spending time with me?” the bitterness in her voice was felt by the doctor.
“Would it be fair to suggest that you spend most of your time with your boyfriend by default?”
“No. I do want to spend time with him.” She said in protest. She was being a bit too defensive, the doctor noted.
“Let me put it this way: if this other guy who doesn’t give a damn give a damn, would you still spend most of your time with your current boyfriend?”
The patient went silent for a while. It seemed as if the doctor was getting to her, she thought hard about it for the first time, she had asked herself the same question before but had been too afraid to face the truth.
“That’ll never happen,”
“This guy,” she swallowed hard, “he’ll never give a damn.” Her eyes were a bit teary. The doctor gave her some space to digest it all. From what the doctor had gathered it seemed as if there were deeper issues at play here. Whether it was just a question of age and experience with relationships, or some insecurities or a weakness in her, the doctor couldn’t really put her finger on it.
“So why don’t you just cut ties with him?”
“I don’t know.” She was still down in spirit. “I thought I had but then he just popped up out of nowhere then disappeared. Just like that. No call no nothing. Then I decided to take initiative to spend some time but it was one-sided. It felt as if I was throwing myself at him. I hate being made a fool.”
“Who’s making you a fool?”
“He is!” she shouted, taking out her anger on the doctor.
“Just him?” the doctor remained calm.
“What are you trying to say doc?” she regained her composure.
“Maybe you should try and look at your own complicity?”
“Are you saying I’m the one who’s making a fool out of me?”
“I’m saying think about it.”
“And what about the other guys?”
“What about them?”
“What’s your relationship with them? Your boyfriend for instance.”
“Oh that one,” she sat up, “he’s a sweetheart. So kind, caring, loving. Gives me all the attention I need. Sometimes I feel sorry for him, he is in too deep. I…”
“In too deep?” the doctor cut her off.
“Ja. As in in love. I’m afraid that I’m going to hurt him but what can I do? But I do care about him.”
“But you don’t love him?”
“I do, don’t get me wrong I do, just that…”
“I think you love the idea of being loved by him.” The doctor cut her off again. She just kept quiet, again deep in thought. The doctor continued, “Matter of fact, I think you would rather if it was the other guy who had all this love for you.”
Again the patient found no words to utter; she lied down on the couch again and stared at the ceiling. It was all becoming too heavy for her. She regretted coming here.
“Tell me something about one of the out of town guys.”
“Okay,” she fell silent trying to decide which of the three she should talk about, the doctor let her be. “Okay,” she sighed and then smiled, “there’s this other one, I think he is the one, he is a God-sent, my soul mate. It’s just a question of time and space with him and me.”
“I get that, but what is your relationship with him?”
“How do you mean?” she left the ceiling for a moment to look at the doctor.
“How often do you communicate, what…”
“Not as often as we should,” she cut off the doctor, “it’s like he only remembers that we are lovers when I call him or when we are together.” She was getting a bit emotional again.
“Does he ever call?”
“Once in a blue moon!” this time a tear actually dropped from her left eye, but the doctor missed it as she was on her right side.
“And still you find no reason to cut ties?” she asked with pity in her voice. The patient didn’t even attempt a response. She felt like crying but was trying successfully to hold her tears back, except for the one that escaped her left eye. She also managed to stabilise her breathing. She was not going to waste tears on any man.
“And the other two?”
“They are no better!” now she was finding it difficult to keep herself composed.
“Can you say no to a guy?” the doctor asked after a few minutes.
“Of course I can.”
“Let me rephrase. Can you resist a guy that has the attributes you look for and is persistent in pursuing you?”
“Doc what’s that got to do with anything?”
“I think this first guy, the one you say does not give a damn, is like that precisely because he saw that you would never say no to him. And the third guy, the one you say is your soul mate, also saw that in you. Let me also hazard a guess and say it is so with the other two guys as well. That is why they make no effort to keep any sort of communication with you; they know that should they ever want anything from you, one call would be enough. You seem to have a problem letting go. And this other guy you say is your boyfriend maybe he has also noticed this, but clearly wants to offer you more or maybe can’t or won’t take advantage. Or is just bidding his time. But what is also clear is that even though you knew that you had no interest in him, you could not resist him because he had the attributes and was persistent. Now you need to learn how to say no, your first step should be with this first guy as he seems to have the most power over you. And then the boyfriend, because he could be the most dangerous if he really is in too deep as you claim. The other three guys are not much of a problem in the short term, deal with these two near you first.”
Tears quietly rolled down the patient’s face, “What’s wrong with me doc?” she asked.
“That’s what we are trying to find out, but you need to do what I told you first.” The doctor was cold and distant despite the patient’s tears. “Then in the next session I want us to talk about your relationship with men in general, we will start with your father.”
“Okay,” she sat up and wiped the tears off her face, “can I go now?”
“Yes.” If there’s one thing she has learnt in all her years of practice, was that sympathy is a tool to be used with caution.