Female: What do you think Mrs. Crane would like for dinner?
Male: You have free reign. Just bear in mind she can’t have shellfish, poultry, red meat, saturated fats, nitrates, wheat, starch, sulfides, MSG or dairy.
Dr. Kenner: That’s from Fraiser, and that’s like going out to eat with me, I’m sorry to say. I don’t have garlic. I don’t have red or green peppers and I don’t have onions and so when I sit down at an Italian restaurant, it’s very awkward. I have to say to them, “What’s on your menu that doesn’t have garlic or onions or peppers?” Finally my husband gave me this little square that just says, “No garlic, no onions, no peppers” and I just hand it to them and say, “Could you prepare my meal like this without this?” I feel a little less high maintenance. I’m Dr. Ellen Kenner and my show is The Rational Basis of Happiness. If you’re dealing with somebody who has problems with eating, maybe they’re eating too much and they don’t know how to shed the pounds, or maybe they’re eating too little, trying to look beautiful and it’s not healthy, or they’re eating the wrong things. You can pick up the phone and give me a call. I’m not a nutritionist. I am a psychologist. I’m a clinical psychologist and that means you can also call me with any concerns you’re having in your personal life, whether it has to do with your hubby or your kids or friends or yourself. Right now I want to turn to the phones and welcome Meredith. Meredith, you’re dealing with a separation?
Meredith: I am. I’m getting ready to unfortunately have to deal with one, and this has been an exceptionally hard day. I have fought this separation for, I don’t know, five or six months now, and don’t think that what I’ve been doing is working, considering the fact that I’m probably getting ready to start packing as I hang up the phone with you.
Dr. Kenner: So just give me a little more background information. Are you separating from a marriage?
Meredith: Yes, 13 years.
Dr. Kenner: Kids?
Dr. Kenner: How old?
Dr. Kenner: A 14-year-old girl or boy?
Dr. Kenner: Okay, and it sounds like you’re not the one that’s initiating the separation?
Meredith: No, I’m not. Long story short, and it sounds so ridiculously silly, but my husband and I were arguing one day and really didn’t argue that much, but we were arguing that particular day and I was just very angry and said something that I probably should not have said. He really took this personally and I really didn’t mean it personally. I think I was saying it out of anger and also said it just basically to get the attention that I felt, any attention at that point would have been better than none, and said it out of anger and out of an attention-getting moment. Boy did I ever mess up. His words were, “I don’t know why you would say that to me. Look at all that we’ve been through and all that I’ve done for you and I think that just about does it for me.” And he meant it. He meant it. I have begged and I have pleaded and I feel like I don’t even have any self-esteem left. I’ve done everything wrong instead of probably giving him the space that he probably needs. I’ve dug in and said, “I’m not leaving. If you want a separation you go get one,” but we just built a new home and we’ve got the lake house that we always wanted and we have a child that depends on her mother and father being together and I’m not going anywhere. He is just really getting to the point to where I am going to have to leave, or somebody is. I’m just not handling it well at all.
Dr. Kenner: Understandably. Was that just the tip of the iceberg, when you let go? I’m not sure if you want to share what you said or the ballpark of what you said?
Meredith: I don’t think I mind at this point. It was really ugly. My words were, “How does it make you feel to know that your wife hates you?”
Dr. Kenner: So you told him you hated him?
Meredith: I did.
Dr. Kenner: I would like to just do a little sidebar – I once went to a conference on love and one of the speakers talked about marital hatred. He said, “When I bring up the topic of marital hatred, nobody in my audience has ever come up to me and said, ‘Why do you say hatred?’” Because so many people feel such a range of emotion in a close relationship like that, especially for 13 years, that it’s a rare couple that doesn’t experience some hurt, some anger, some intense feelings of “it’s not fair” and if they don’t have communication skills, if they don’t know how to express that and they hold it in, it can build, and it’s very common for people to feel that. However he took it, it sounds like it was very profound, very cutting for him. Was it the tip of the iceberg? Were there a lot of things going on between you?
Meredith: I think that was just kind of the breaking point really. I feel like I’m married to someone who wants a business partner.
Dr. Kenner: How so?
Meredith: And I have never been that for him. I’m an educated person, but I have never been what he feels like he needs. He has an expectation level that is very hard for me to meet, in any aspect of our marriage, whether it be housecleaning appearance, just any day-to-day thing, he’s a very … I don’t really know what the word is. He’s not necessarily a perfectionist, but he sees things the way he wants them done, and even when he finds himself falling short and he’s not able to fulfill his own goals, he’s very difficult. And he’s very driven, and I’m not. I like nice things, fun things, but I also enjoy my family as well and it’s not been near as important to me to be that partner that he wants. His idea, to me, is in a marriage, when he says, “I need some help financially,” I don’t feel like I could ever really give him financially what he really feels like he expects. That’s been a very big issue in our marriage. He has a mother that is a wonderful, wonderful person, but she’s everything that I’m not. I think that he does, maybe a subconscious thing, but I think he holds me to that level and I just don’t meet it.
Dr. Kenner: So it sounds like you’re wanting a divorce? It sounds like, if you look at it from his perspective, you’re going to feel very inadequate. It sounds like you both have a different pacing to life, different goals, and you’ve been chronically living with somebody who mirrors you back as, “You’re not good enough. Meredith, you’re not good enough. You’re kind of okay, you do some nice things around the house, but they’re not good enough.”
Meredith: That’s exactly the way I feel.
Dr. Kenner: If that’s the way you feel, then it may not be so much hatred of him but not having the emotional intimacy that you want in a partner because the fundamental quality that you want in a dynamite romantic relationship – where you don’t hate one another – is that you feel valued and visible and cherished and cared for, for the things you value most in yourself. And it’s not that you don’t see where you can both grow, but you’re friends supporting one another. Not looking down, trying to say, “Not good enough,” and be that critical judge or that critical parent. It’s sounding like you’re wanting a separation?
Meredith: I sure don’t feel that way.
Dr. Kenner: I know it doesn’t feel it. The skill is to reframe, and cognitive therapy, it’s called cognitive reframing. You want to look at it from your perspective, was I happy in the relationship? What do I wish had changed? What could have been better? You can look at what you could have done better. You could have communicated better, maybe earlier. You learn from that. You can’t go back in time. Just prepare. You talked about giving him some space – I think that’s proper too. Listen, I want to talk to you a little bit more when we get off for a second. I’m Dr. Ellen Kenner on The Rational Basis of Happiness. Be back with you after this. Toll free, 1-877-DR-KENNER.