LOVE CHOICES: LOYALTY TO FATHER VS SELF
The main focus of this phase of treatment (encompassing the past year and a half) was her involvement's with a series of boyfriends, the first of which was a man she admired for his artistic talents and experience. What she really wanted from him was mentorship in her work and art; what she felt obligated to offer him was sexand protestations of love. It took about 3 months for her to acknowledge what she had been telling me in bits and pieces from the beginningthat she disliked intensely the romantic and sexual aspects of the relationship with this man. She experienced his sexual interest in her as corrupt and lascivious; she felt pawed over and her body parts objectified much as she had with her mother. She struggled for some time, debating within herself whether his accusations were correctthat she was a frigid, unloving woman for not wanting this kind of lewd attention. I repeatedly interpreted this relationship as a replay of her parent's bankrupt attitude toward sex. In one particular hour, she responded that, in actuality, the kind of sexuality they and her boyfriend were prescribing for her did not feel good. She began to weep freely and explained that to admit this made her feel terriblethat she couldn't bear to think these thoughts, they would be so damaging to her parents; "I'm blowing the whistle on them;" "I'm calling them sex addicts." Following several sessions in which she continued to deepen her memories of her parents sexual inappropriateness, accompanied by grief, she was able to extricate herself from the relationship with that boyfriend.
Now at the 3 and a half year mark , boyfriend #4, Eric, has broken up with her, and she feels certain that he was "the love of her life", the catch of the century", phrases her motherused about her father repeatedly. This relationship has brought even more squarely to the fore her inner debate about whether she "wants too much from men" both present and past? Was she to blame for the failure of the relationship with Eric? Was she responsible for her parents' mistreatment of her or for their feeling that parenting was burdensome?
To answer these burning questions of hers, we retraced the unfolding of this relationship step by step numerous times. She and Eric fell madly in love, quickly promised to marry and never abandon each other. By the end of the third week, she began telling me that he was becoming depressed and withdrawn, but that it was probably because he was out of a job, and she should try to be supportive of him. As she had before in previous relationships she revealed a number of complaints about Eric, but minimized their importance. In the 3rd month of the relationship, on her birthday, she took him to dinner with her aunt and uncle, who were in town for a week, during which he was exceedingly withdrawn and cold, not only to her, but to everyone. Coming home in the car, she complained to him about this; he got angry and blamed her for being so anxious: she fought back; and he broke up with her the next day, saying she was "too angry". She was focused for the subsequent 4 months on whether she drove him away with her neediness and anxiety. She punished herself with daily accusations, that the failure of this relationship was proof that her parents were right: she does have trouble being close, she is selfcentered and selfish, and just as her father predicted, she will never be happy with anyone.
Although she remain tortured by depression and self hatred with regard to this boyfriend, I felt reassured that we were on the right track, in part, from noticing the successful resolution of this central issuediminution in her tendency to prop up insecure intimate othersin two different relationshipswith her sponsor and with her old therapist. Although Caroline used her sponsor less and less over time, it was not until the fourth year, during the hardest part of her breakup with Eric that she moved to change the basis of this relationship. The interesting thing about this was that she moved quickly and boldly, without discussing her decision with me; within one week she meet several times with the sponsor, to address in a very friendly and kind way, the fact that she, Caroline, had learned a great deal, valued the friendship immensely and wanted to continue it, but that she no longer needed her as a sponsor. I heard at the end of the week, that Caroline felt the sponsor could no longer be of use to her as a sponsor because of her limitations, which Caroline spoke about with great clarity and certainty, but that they had established a good basis for an ongoing friendship. Furthermore, during this same session, Caroline gave an incisive critique of her previous therapist's mistakes. All the while, reporting feeling suicidal and confused about whether Eric had any emotional limitations.
The termination phase was relatively calm. Caroline seemed to test me by presenting me with many bouts of anxiety, experienced by her as signals that she was failing or destroying relationships . The test involved her trying to convince me that she was not competent, hadn't made a good choice, etc. Occasionally I experienced concern that she was making a mistake, but in general it was relatively easy to recognize. these as both transference and passive into active tests.
She continued to make steady progress in testing and disproving these beliefs; she blossomed in every major area of her life. She continued with NA once a week for 6 months of this two year phase then stopped. She continued to see me twice a week. She continued to be happy with her work making a shift in focus to a more creative and imaginative department, where she has gotten glowing feedback on her work. She consolidated friendships with several women friends and pursued painting as a hobby with surprise and satisfaction in her ability.. A visit home was accomplished with minor tensions.; she managed her parents well. During this period Caroline had serious relationships with two men who were increasingly better choices., in which the same Eric pattern repeated itself, resulting over time in an increasing understanding and determination to find a better and healthier match At termination she was dating a man who seemed an excellent choice, and she sent me an invitation to their wedding 6 months ago. I am confident that she is enjoying the rich and happy life she was after.