A Deeply Conflicted Relationship.
Evie and Jon had known each other for over 7 years and their off-and-on relationship had been demanding and rather toxic. They were not married, but Jon was the father of their child Katherine, who was one year-old. Both adults were staying with their respective parents and had little contact with each other at the time, when Jon’s parents referred them for counselling. Evie was resistant to therapy as she did not expect Jon to make changes to his lifestyle. Jon had wanted Evie to move into his parent’s home, so his parents could help look after Katherine, but she had demurred, and was not prepared to commit herself to a precarious relationship.
Jon was 35 years old at the time, and was doing quite well in the events management industry. However, due to the intense nature of his job, managing several events especially over weekends, he became addicted to illegally available stimulants. His evenings were taken up with entertaining clients in various nightclubs into the wee hours of the mornings, and sleeping around with different women thereafter was his usual practice. That infuriated Evie. Since, he never once promised to marry her, she had doubts whether she was special to him, and not like one of his other one night stands. Jon had no time for Evie or Katherine. When he did appear, he would often become violent and demanding under the influence of alcohol. Jon’s father was a minister in a local congregation.
Evie came from a broken home, where her maternal grandmother brought her up, since her mother divorced her father when she was in her early teens. Her father had been physically abusive to family members, and had also sexually abused her on several occasions. She told no one about the latter. She mentioned these abusive incidents when we were in separate individual sessions that were conducted in between conjoint sessions. Mid-way through one of our individual therapy sessions, when we were talking about her father’s abuses, Evie suddenly shut down and remained silent for over a minute. Her gaze transfixed onto the floor. I called out to her in an attempt to have her continue the discussion, but she did not respond. Then suddenly, she looked up, staring past me, and with fear etched all over her face, screamed, jumped out of her seat and ran behind a large chair in the room, begging for mercy. She had dissociated. After a minute had passed, I said in as reassuring tone as I could,
“I have not met you before, but I know you are terribly afraid of your dad, and that is why you are hiding from him. I understand your fears. However, I am not your dad, and you are quite safe in my office. Your dad cannot hurt you here, as long as you are with me. Now, can I speak with Evie, please.”
It took about another minute before Evie peeked out from the back of the chair and when she saw me, it took her a while to recollect where she was, before she got up and walked back to where she had been seated earlier. When I probed her, Evie had a vague recollection of what just happened to her, but it was all very hazy. She complained of a splitting headache; not uncommon for those returning from a dissociated state.
During a subsequent conjoint debriefing session, Jon freaked out after discovering Evie’s dissociated state, and he wanted to terminate counselling immediately. Evie, however, realising her predicament, now wanted more sessions to help her towards her own recovery.
Jon and Evie’s deeply conflicted relationship had been one of the more complex ones I had encountered.