The 3 C’s

?If my husband treated me as if it was Valentine?s Day every day I would be a much happier person,? pronounced Mrs. Beck after throwing a derisive glance in the direction of her husband who was sitting on the opposite end of the couch. 

?Do you not agree with me young lady?? she said looking squarely at me.  I looked instead at her husband, and both of us shared a look of embarrassment and discomfort. 

It was the end of the psychotherapy session and I had asked Mr. Beck what plans he had for Valentine?s Day.  Instead Mrs. Beck replied. Mrs. Beck was in her early 40s, a married housewife with two kids.  I was a trainee sitting in on a psychotherapy session with Dr. Prabhakar, a psychiatrist.  This was my second meeting with her and I was amused by her theatrics in the last session.

In the past few months, Mrs. Beck had been feeling quite ?depressed? with the state of her marriage.  Hence the reason for psychotherapy.  During her last session, she had complained of her husband?s coldness, his lack of response, the lack of romance and the lack of initiative he showed with respect to anything.  Mrs. Beck had told us her version of their history in the past session.  They were highschool sweethearts and were ?so much in love?.  When they had gotten married in their early twenties, they were passionately in love and could talk about anything and everything.  It was hard for them to be without each other.  Everything was good for about ten years but then as Mrs. Beck puts it ?my husband began to change?.  He became busy in his work.  He would be ?curt? with her.  Somewhere along the way they ?lost each other?.  Now she feels that they ?hardly say two words to each other? and if they do anything together it is only ?for the sake of the children?.  At the last session, she even said that once the kids go off to college in a couple of years, she doesn?t know even if she wants to continue with the relationship.  She had cried at the end of the session, throwing her hands up in the air, she sobbed, ?What happened to us?!??  At the last session, we had asked her to bring her husband in for a chat the next time around. 

I don?t know what I was expecting when I met Mr. Beck, but I guess from her description of him I had expected someone less reasonable to talk with, someone who you could instantaneously dislike because they were being arrogant and dismissive.  Someone who was not keen on listening.  But he was none of those things.  He appeared quite reasonable, attentive and seemed like an intelligent man. But Mrs. Beck was right about one thing.  He didn?t talk much.  When Dr. Prabhakar had asked him, if he had any concerns about the marriage or about his wife, he said simply, ?No?.   When he had further questioned him about his commitment to the marriage, Mr. Beck responded with a simple ?I don?t want it to end.? He had not interrupted his wife when she started her litany of complaints and had not even protested when she brought up the topic of divorce upon the children?s departure.  In no time, the hour session had come to an end and we had heard plenty from Mrs. Beck, complete with melodramatics that included exasperated language, a few tears here and there and an exclamation that ?life would be better if she was dead?.  But there was hardly anything from Mr. Beck except for a few answers to questions directed at him.  We had to reschedule another appointment in a week for the couple so that we could continue where we left off.

When they had left the room, Dr. Prabhakar turned to me and said, ?Do you know what makes a successful lasting relationship?  It doesn?t matter if you are 17 and in a relationship or if you are 40 years old and in a relationship.  This is the only thing that matters. Do you know what it is??

He didn?t wait for my response.  ?It?s the 3 C?s!  Communication, Compromise and Caring!? he said grinning at me.  ?Now tell me do you think this couple adheres to the 3 C?s??

I thought about the way Mr. Beck behaved with us.  His lack of response to any of our questions.  No doubt he was just as talkative with Mrs. Beck at home, perhaps even less so. I thought about Mrs. Beck?s propensity to view life from only her perspective, discounting challenging opinions and options.  And I thought of the way she verbally attacked Mr. Beck?s behaviour even in his presence.  ?No, there are no 3 C?s in their marriage,? I concluded.

?She?s right you know.  If her husband did treat her like everyday was Valentine?s Day, she wouldn?t be here.  If he cared for her, talked to her about what was bothering him and came to an understanding with her, if he gave her an indication of her importance in his life, she wouldn?t be here.  And of course vice versa,? he said winking at him.  ?We can?t put every blame on him.  It usually takes two to make a complicated mess of things,? he continued. 

?We are going to have to drill the 3 C?s into their heads the next time they come in!!? he said enthusiastically.  ?They do want to make it work, they are here aren?t they?  That?s their first positive step!? he said smilingly.

Just then the phone rang.  The next patient was in the waiting room.  We had to leave Mrs. Beck aside for now.  Mr. Beck had never said what he planned for Valentine?s Day.  He wasn?t given a chance to.  Whatever it is, I hope it is in the spirit of the 3 C?s.

Author: Tanya Pinto- Canada