Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Archive for October 21st, 2010

Detaching

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on October 21, 2010

   Stuart, fifty-six, says “I feel like slowly each hook is coming undone and I am slowly moving on,” to his girlfriend of twenty years, Lela. “I just can’t accept what is going on here,” Stuart continues. “Lela, you are so connected to your family that you just can’t incorporate me into your emotional life,” Stuart says tearfully. “But I love you,” Lela responds. “And I love you too,” Stuart says, “but I don’t like you any more.” Lela is passive. She does not know what to say. She is sad, but she seems unable to respond to Stuart in a way that is meaningful to him. “How can I help?” I ask, knowing that they have discussed their feelings many times before. “He is not being fair,” Lela says. “Well, actually,” I say, “he is telling you how he feels and that is fair.”

    Stuart and Lela got along pretty well until Lela’s father passed away four months ago. Lela has since engaged in a punishing relationship with her younger sister, such that her sister is physically abusive to her. Stuart says he cannot continue to bear witness to such horrible treatment. “Lela either has to stand up for herself, or I am out of here,” Stuart says. “Lela is paralyzed right now,” I say, trying to help Stuart understand that Lela does not see that she has choices when it comes to her sister. “Maybe so,” Stuart says, but I am not going to wait for her to start moving,” he says, as if he does not mean it, but he wants to appear firm and clear. “This is a hard time,” I say, trying to remind them both that the death of a parent can create a long and hard struggle downstream. “Call me,” I say, “let me know when you want to come back.” “How about tomorrow?” Lela says, “just kidding”.

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