Where Did You Go, Joe?

Joe (not his real name) walked sheepishly into my office and sat on the sofa. He looked down at the floor and mumbled that he was a bit nervous because he needed to tell me what had happened since our meeting two weeks ago.

In our last session, he explained why he decided to end his present romantic entanglement. He realized he did not trust his girlfriend’s level of commitment or honesty. Today, however, he told me that he had decided to get back together with her. He uttered the exact words and thoughts I had heard previously in relation to the woman he lived with before being with his present girlfriend. These feelings, compromises, and rationalizations go something like this: I want her to be happy; I want her to know I am supportive and respectful of her needs; I am surprised that someone like her wants to be with me; I am ready to agree to concessions for her well-being and trust.

Joe was unconsciously repeating the almost identical behavior pattern of his previous relationship. He had promised many things to that woman, yet after several months he revealed that he’d had an epiphany. He allowed himself to know that he did not want the same things as she did, although he had come into the relationship believing that he did.

I attempted to conceal my concern and frustration. In a softened tone I asked, “Where did you go, Joe?” Just like before, he gave himself away, making a bargain with the devil that he could not keep. As Joe reacted to my inquiry, he relaxed and exhaled. He said,

Joan, you are right. I think it must have to do with the twin relationship. Growing up I was always happy to stay out of the limelight. I wanted Jake to shine. I complied in all sorts of way to make sure he was happy. I did whatever it took to avoid conflict. I must be doing the same thing again.

Ironically, Joe loves to be in the limelight as an actor. In character, he can safely and spontaneously take center stage with joy and abandonment. I am confident that our ongoing work together will enhance his authentic self, enabling him to develop intimate relationships that reflect his sensibilities and his separateness.

Photo by Austin Human on Unsplash

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