When Mark and Eva came to see me, Eva had already admitted that the relationship was probably beyond repair. After ten years of being a full-time mum she had decided to apply for a position in a soul-driven leadership organization offering seminars around the world.
She was extremely passionate about this opportunity. To Eva, it was a miracle and a dream come true for her to get this position. While Eva was talking, Mark left his black baseball cap on and his eyes were set on a point in the far distance. The intensity of her enthusiasm seemed to drive his gaze even further away from the moment.
‘Ever since I got this job Mark is punishing me for it. He is sulking, snapping and always criticizing me. I feel all he wants is for me to fail and go back to where I was for the last 10 years… in my PJ’s and depressed’, Eva said.
At this point, Mark’s gaze moved up to the ceiling. I asked him how he was feeling about the changes in his life. He looked down before answering.
Then he said, in a slow quiet voice, almost as if we weren’t in the room, ‘I don’t know when I became the enemy’.
Mark expressed that he felt like he was in a war zone and under attack. His hand reached to his forehead and he covered one eye, ‘I’m so tired of this,’ he said. ‘I have no idea what she is talking about. I wish I knew then maybe I could fix it. It’s as if we live in two different realities. It’s as if she does not know who I am. How can she think this about me?’
Eva interrupted him, ‘Me?… Me?! It’s all about you and how amazing you are. What I’m doing to you. Yes, we are living in two separate universes because you are stuck in the universe where it is all about you and I feel like you’ll never come out of it.’
Mark asked, ‘When did I ever limit you or show you in any way that I didn’t support you? What have I been doing for the last 10 years? All I ever did was to support you! Every course you wanted, every fricking online training, any retreat that came along.’
‘Yes,’ she said. ‘But you never planned for it to work for me. To me it felt like as long as you were saving me, the hopeless little depressed and wounded me, it worked for you and filled you up. You didn’t do it for me! You did it for YOU! It made you feel great, so big and powerful,’ Eva said, through her tears.
I took a deep breath and allowed the residue of their words to settle.
‘Let’s discuss why you are here?’ I said. ‘Is it for help to separate or are you here to see if this wall you have hit can turn in to a bridge for the next phase of your marriage?’
Eva said, ‘The pain is so unbearable! Every time I get dressed to go out I feel like I have betrayed Mark. I feel like a traitor, a selfish self-centred egotistic, narcissistic bitch. I hate myself. I hate who I am through his eyes. I hate feeling guilty for being happy.’
‘How do you feel when you hear Eva saying this is how she feels?’ I turned to Mark.
‘I feel sad,’ he said.
‘Tell me more,’ I gently probed.
‘I feel like I’m disappointing her. I feel like she has invented a caricature and like she doesn’t see the real me anymore. I feel like I’m being accused and judged for things I haven’t done. She doesn’t let me near her. She always has her teeth ready to bite. I feel like I’ve lost her. I don’t know where she went. I have given up believing she will ever return.’
Mark and Eva are both struggling with how they feel their partner had made them feel about themselves more than about the external situation. It’s like they interpreted who they had become in the eyes of the other. Eva feels she is a selfish self-centred egotistic, narcissistic bitch for meeting her need to express herself in the world. Mark feels that he is being perceived as a disappointment and is therefore not worthy of her love.
The reason they are sitting in my office is because they know that what they really want is not to go their own ways. What they really want is to be able to love who they are in the presence of each other. They are after something much deeper than just an approval from the other. They want to experience the full capacity of aliveness while being in connection.