I hated the idea of spending the next hour with a therapist, bearing all of my concerns as if she could somehow relate enough to help me. What I loathed more was knowing that it was the first sunny day in two weeks, and the woman was relentless about closing the blinds during her sessions. It was as if she wanted her patients to be depressed so that they’d keep coming. I’d gotten into a habit of nitpicking lately. I suppose it came from being so miserable. They say it loves company, misery that is, not that I was asking for friends to hang out with and compare notes on our failed experiences. I peered down at my jeans and Chucks, feeling as if I should have cared more about my appearance, especially since this woman clearly went all out. It didn’t matter what the temperature was, Dr. Ellis was always in a skirt-suit. With her auburn hair full of curls, she sat with crossed legs and my file strewn over her lap. While the friendly doctor flicked her pen, pretending to listen to me, I stared effortlessly at the rapid speed it repelled. I wondered if it made little dots on the paper each time. Then I imagined it falling apart from being handled so roughly. I imagined the tiny spring shooting into her hair and becoming tangled the instant it made contact. Anything was better than admitting where I was and why I was there. “How would you say your relationship with your husband has been in the past week?” I rubbed my hands on the thighs of my jeans while proceeding to come up with a lie to make it seem as if we were making progress. “Fine, I guess. We haven’t killed each other.” I found my answer to be amusing, while she kept the same resting-bitch face. “Since last week, how many times have you had intercourse?” She would ask me this. It was the reason I hated coming to these meetings. Every week she asked the same questions. I guess she assumed that one time I’d provide her with a different answer. This wasn’t going to be the epic appointment where I made progress, not after the week I’d had. Besides, who would want to know that I had frequent sex in bed alone, while imagining being tied up by a stranger, or blindfolded and seduced by someone who only set out to please me. Flynn was always there in my dreams, watching and envying what I wouldn’t let him have. It was like I was punishing him in my mind, while getting off to my little bullet vibrator in the bed we should be sharing together. Flynn and I were supposed to be working on things. Instead, we were still in the same place as when we started this – headed for divorce. “That would be a big fat zero.” “I see,” she said while jotting down something. “Have either of you put forth an effort?” I leaned forward, putting my elbows on my knees while rubbing my hands together. I suppose I should have held my posture like a proper lady, but my give-a-damn had been busted for years. “It’s kind of hard to try something when being in the same room together makes me want to strangle him, hypothetically of course. It’s also impossible when your husband sleeps on the couch, and trust me, you’d be the first to know if I was getting it from someone else, because I wouldn’t need to keep up this charade.” “Charade? I would hardly call these sessions that. I’m here to get to the bottom of your problems and help you overcome them. You came to me for help. I know at times it seems worthless, but in order to change you’ll have to put forth an effort, which I’m not seeing from either of you. I’d hate for you to waste your time if this isn’t what you want, Aria.” I hated the way this woman looked at me. She wasn’t fooling me with her professionalism. I knew she found Flynn attractive. She probably went home at night and turned on her vibrator to get off on pretending to fuck my husband, and apparently she wasn’t the only one. The older we got, the better looking he became. I wondered if she was waiting for me to admit we were through so she could make her move. I grinded my teeth together to keep from spatting out something I’d regret later. Had we not promised each other that we’d try, I didn’t know where I’d be. With a daughter, it wasn’t feasible to go out and prey on single men for attention. Sure, I missed being touched. I longed to feel desired again, but I didn’t see it happening, so I kept my deepest thoughts buried where not even this doctor would be able to pry them out of me. If she only knew what I fantasized about when I was all alone she’d think I was a crazy voyeur nymphomaniac who didn’t deserve to be in a loving commitment to just one person. In my defense it wasn’t like I’d always dreamed of being with multiple partners, but when I had little experience aside from my husband, my curiosity got the best of me. Maybe if I didn’t feel like my body was scarred from stretch marks, I would be open to exploring different things with Flynn. I just felt ugly – ALL. THE. TIME. It was as if he was becoming more attractive while I was constantly aging. Why would he ever want to try to be turned on by me after seeing my vagina doubled in size during labor? I think he referred to it as the Cumberland Gap. And yes, that is exactly how he described it. “I want to feel beautiful about myself. I want to be appreciated. I want to know without a doubt that Flynn is making love to me and not imagining someone else. I want HIM to be the person who can fulfill my needs, leaving me feeling completely and utterly satisfied.” The last part wasn’t supposed to come out, but now I was becoming overemotional, letting my fears and frustrations dictate what flew out of my mouth. “I think you’re not giving Flynn enough credit. It’s obvious your husband desires you. He’s said as much during our sessions. Perhaps your self-esteem struggles are keeping you from seeing that.” Of course she’d blame me. If she only knew what it was like to see Flynn looking at other women, or to talk until I was blue in the face with no response from him. If she could prepare all of his meals only to have him refuse to come to the table to eat because he was watching something on television. If she could be on the end of the phone call when he was out with his friends instead of being at home with his daughter. Flynn was terrible with priorities. He came first in his mind, and we were just leftovers, hoping to have a millisecond of his precious time. They say marriage is a two-way commitment. What is it called when only one person gives one-hundred percent of their time and energy? That was my marriage. I gave, and he took. That was the gist of it. Flynn could construe his stories to this doctor as many times as he wanted, but the truth would never change. The moment he left her office he went back to being a douche, a part time father, and a shitty excuse for a husband. “I agree that my body issues prevent me from feeling sexy enough to want to be intimate, but that’s not our only problem. Just because I’m not willing to seduce my husband, doesn’t mean I’m ready to throw in the towel.” “Intimacy is an important factor in any marriage. I’m afraid if you’re unwilling to be physical with each other there’s nothing more I can do for you. It may sound absurd to someone in your situation, but you have to be willing to at least try to be with your husband. Part of being a marriage counselor is to help you get through this. I’ve met with both of you together, and now separately. While your husband shows empathy for your marriage, I get the sense that you no longer feel the same.” If she only knew that he was full of shit when he met with her. Of course he’d lead her to believe he was this great guy who was suffering because his wife wouldn’t screw him. It only made me want to choke him more. I played with my hands. This was our eighth session. Once a month we met with her separately. I was supposed to be making an effort, but it’s impossible when you don’t feel good enough about yourself. “It’s not that I don’t love Flynn. I do – that’s the only thing I’m sure of right now. We just can’t find a common ground. It’s hopeless. He doesn’t make me feel wanted, even when he’s trying to get laid. Why should I give in when I know it’s all an act. I want to feel needed. I want to see his eyes light up when I walk in the room. It’s the little things that are missing in our relationship. It’s like he’s gotten comfortable and forgotten that I also have desires. We’re not in this together anymore. I feel alone even when he’s near.” She started aggressively writing something down on a separate pad of paper then ripped it, and reached across the wooden coffee table to hand it to me. I looked down at it. “What’s this?” I half expected it to be the number of a furniture company where Flynn could purchase a new comfortable couch for his lazy ass to sleep better on. It was obvious she enjoyed his private sessions more than mine. All I did was complain about Flynn. It wasn’t getting me anywhere. My sessions were a joke. Flynn’s last two private appointments he’d come out acting all happy, as if he’d gotten head or possibly more. Ever since then, I’d been reluctant to even continue my sessions. At this point I couldn’t figure out what were misconceptions in my head, or actual reality. I was so messed up and didn’t know where to turn. Behind closed doors my husband was someone who never tried, yet when he spoke to other people everything was honky-dory. It made me resent him all the more. Dr. Ellis’ reply wasn’t what I’d expected. It actually made me question if she’d been listening to me at all. “That is the address of a bed and breakfast near the beach. It’s run by a young couple. This time of year is pretty slow. If any part of you wants to save your marriage, I suggest you spend some one-on-one time together, out of your normal routine. You don’t have to go there, but go somewhere. Spend time communicating. The two of you need to get know one another again. You need to remember why you fell in love, and how to figure out how get it back. I can’t make the decision for you, or tell you what you should be feeling. I can only suggest a solution I think you’d both benefit from.” “I’ve known him for years. In fact, I know him better than anyone,” I corrected her. I didn’t need a life lesson on Flynn. I also didn’t need to take a trip with him to get to know him better. What I needed was to go away alone and get my head on straight. What I wanted was to be desired by someone who didn’t ignore me on a daily basis. She shook her head with a smirk across her face. It made me feel as if she were questioning my statement. The jealous side of me wanted to slap it right off. Then I had to rationalize about how I could be assuming things that weren’t even happening. “That’s not what I’m referring to. Couples change. You can grow together, or in your case, because you were so young, apart. The only way to fix things is to start over, as if it were your first date.” “What if I don’t want to date my husband?” I began to count how many times, while during a heated argument, I’d told Flynn if I had to do it all over again I’d never look in his direction. “Just give my advice some thought. We’ll meet again next week, if you’re still interested in making this work. I have hopes that some quality time together could start repairing what’s been lost. You both need to relearn how to communicate with one another again. I know it seems tedious, but I can promise it’s not. You can never know too much about the person you’re married to. An open line of communication could do wonders for your self esteem issues as well.” So what if I had problems with feeling beautiful. Didn’t every woman stand in the check-out line at the grocery and wish she could look like the model on the magazines? I was envious they could keep their figures after having children. It wasn’t until I reached my car that I took in what Dr. Ellis suggested, and then I wondered if I was even willing to give it a go. If I had a choice, would I do it all over again? This question was something I thought I’d known the answer to, yet the idea of giving up on Flynn was painful. As much as I couldn’t stand how he was, a part of me assumed that without him I’d have nothing. Then there was the lingering fact that I still loved the man, even with all his flaws. My drive home brought everything back into perspective. I started imagining our failures. Yes, we’d made a beautiful little girl, but was it worth it to stay together for her? I knew some couples did, though I couldn’t fathom it myself. I was at a point where I hated Flynn. My love for him still existed, but I despised the person he’d become; the one that popped open a beer after work every night leaving his dirty boots on and track mud all over the floor I’d just vacuumed. The same man who didn’t care about his actions or how they affected other people. The person who stopped caring about me and everything else that mattered, because he was too consumed in himself to notice. Everyone told us we were fools. They said no two people should marry as young as we were; that it was doomed to fail, because we were kids ourselves. In so many ways I wished we would have listened. Had I known then what an up road battle into a clusterfuck of a life it would turn out to be, perhaps we could have saved a lot of people grief, and probably money. It’s amazing how as little girls we dream of finding our Prince Charming and to live happily ever after. It doesn’t take a genius to see the disappointment in my parent’s eyes when I call them upset, or even in some cases show up at their door with bags full of my things, swearing I’m done playing Flynn’s head games. I suppose they’re used to the fighting since we’ve been doing it from day one. At seventeen I thought I was lucky. He wasn’t only handsome, but smart, and brave as well. Flynn Roberts was the good boy with the bad reputation. He was able to have any girl he wanted back then, and probably still could to this day. For all I know he could have been screwing around on me this whole time. Maybe that’s why we’ve never been able to really communicate. Maybe he hides behind a wall of secrets. It’s easy to sit back and point fingers at someone else, rather than admit I’m the one at fault. I can’t help it. When that alarm goes off in the morning I cringe, not because he’s going to try and touch me, God forbid that happen, but rather that I know I’m going to have a repeat of the day before it. He’ll expect me to help him out the door. If he’s sick I’ll have to call into his job, and nurse him back to health, because let’s face it, he’s a freaking child when he doesn’t feel good. Give him a runny nose and he can’t get out of bed. How pathetic is that? Is it all men, or just the one I’m married to? I’ve asked my therapist- she claims that I’m nitpicking. To be honest I don’t even know if I care anymore. I look forward to the moment he leaves, and try to avoid him when he steps back in the door. You’re probably wondering why we married, or how we got this way. I asked the same question each time he turns to walk away from me. I question what I saw in him back then. Apparently love is blind. I married a man who’s only ever put himself first. If he doesn’t get his way I’m a bitch, or a terrible wife. For seven years I’ve listened to this, and for those seven years, I’ve let it happen. I can’t even count the amount of times I’ve cried myself to sleep at night, praying, pleading for God to help me. I asked why I couldn’t be a better person. Why couldn’t he love me more? I honestly let him brainwash me into thinking I was the whole problem in our marriage. I felt as if I wasn’t what he wanted in a woman, and eventually a mother. We had our first child when I turned nineteen. At the time he’d gone off to college, leaving me behind to live with his parents. He’d come home on weekends to his knocked up wife, which I honestly believed he’d hid from most all of his classmates. At first his parents were in charge of our relationship. Since he’d gotten a scholarship, they weren’t going to allow him to give it up for me or a new baby. Yes, I’m dead serious. This really happened. My mom and dad wanted me to have an abortion, but I refused. They begged me to reconsider being with Flynn. They told me it would never work. I ran away, well just to his parent’s home. When they found out about the pregnancy they questioned our relationship, and then pretty much forced us to marry. God forbid they have an illegitimate grandchild. From the get-go, their animosity toward me was pretty well-known. Nothing I did was good enough for Flynn’s mother. She’d pick at the littlest of things, making sure to put me down until I felt incapable. She caused so many fights between us, especially when Flynn wasn’t home. I couldn’t even begin to count how many nights I called him at school, bawling my eyes and begging for some sort of resolution. During my pregnancy I focused on our future, promising my unborn child a good life. It was evident how important it was to provide our child with a stable home. In order to do that, I needed to respect how a college education could give us that opportunity. I’d like to say I tried my best to be patient and understanding, but as the months passed I saw Flynn less and less. He started staying on campus, attending parties, and doing other activities that didn’t involve me. Not only was I jealous, but over-emotional as well. Combine the two of those together and I was a mess. I’d call his phone until he either picked up or turned it off. He’d call me every name in the book, and I’d return the same language right back. Then, when I felt as if nothing could repair the damage, he’d show up. The makeup sex was always the best, and for a while I was content. One night, on a Friday he wasn’t due to come home, I awoke from a terrible nightmare. It upset me so much that I knew I wouldn’t calm down unless I spoke to him to be sure he was okay. When a female voice answered the phone, I felt like my whole future had ended. Being sick wasn’t even the half of it. In the background I could hear him talking, calling her baby, and asking who she was talking to. At the time I didn’t know he’d been drinking, though I also didn’t give him a chance to explain. In a pair of pajamas, with a huge belly, I took his mother’s keys to her vehicle and drove to the college, determined to look him in the eyes and let him know we were over. To this day I still don’t know what happened in that dorm room. After someone let me inside, I climbed the stairs and knocked on the door until he opened it. Sitting in a chair off to the side was a blonde female. She was in a bra and a pair of jeans. At first she looked at me like I was in the wrong place, but when Flynn acknowledged me she quickly exited the room. That was the night that could have changed our future. Maybe I was wrong to give him an ultimatum. Perhaps I didn’t have a right to control his life, but I did it anyway. I made Flynn choose me over going to the university, because I knew I’d never trust him if he stayed. At the time I didn’t see it as being selfish. Now, seven years later, I feel as if it was the biggest mistake of my life. I almost wish he would have found the love of his life at that school, because it was quite clear it wasn’t me. While sitting in front of our small ranch style home, I peered down at the address of the bed and breakfast the therapist had given me. Did I want to even bring it up to Flynn? Could the two of us be alone for a whole weekend without wanting to strangle one another? Did I want to know what it felt like to have him touch me without cringing? Was there any kind of sexual chemistry even left between us? Could Flynn ever learn how to please a woman first instead of being so damn selfish? I hated even considering how bad it could turn out, but I was tired of living like this. I knew there was so much neither of us had ever experienced. We were naïve and curious, so much that we couldn’t find a happy medium. Was it so wrong to want to experience hot, unadulterated sex with someone who could appreciate me the way I was? I hated the idea of being with someone else. I didn’t want my family to break up, but this wasn’t healthy. Before exiting my vehicle, I crumpled the small note and shoved it in my pocket. My marriage was over, and the sooner I came to grips with it the faster I could plan the divorce.
Jennifer Foor is an award winning Contemporary Romance Author. She's best known for the Mitchell Family Series, which includes ten books.
She is married with two children and spends most of her time behind a keyboard, writing stories that come from her heart.