As happy as the memories of that trip made her, she couldn’t keep other memories out. Namely their second round of counseling. She had instigated it because there was a morning when she actually considered a more dramatic out. If she took her life, then maybe she would feel peace. The thought was brief but it was enough to scare her into action. At first, she attended counseling herself. But after several sessions, it became clear that in order to truly progress, Chadwick needed to join her.
She was a bit older and wiser since the first round of their counseling. This time she told him clearly that if he did not join her she would divorce him. He hated ultimatums but he knew if he didn’t at least put in an appearance of effort their friends and family would judge him. Why should they judge him when this was her fault? So, he joined her.
Each session he would sit with folded arms and slouched in the chair with his legs extended. He wouldn’t move the entire hour.
His objective was to turn and twist everything said into his innocence and her blame. Surely, the counselor would side with him and see how ridiculous his wife was in making them come. He wasn’t naïve enough to say any marriage was perfect but theirs was pretty close.
The session after his company’s Christmas party she brought it up.
“I didn’t want to go,” she whined. “He made me.”
“Like I could make you do anything,” he mumbled.
She nodded. “I chose to go to keep peace.”
“Ha!” he snorted. “You went to make me miserable. You just sat there the whole time.”
“I sat there because you were flirting with your secretary the whole time,” she said letting anger color her tone.
“Oh, please,” he shook his head. “You were determined to have a miserable time. You get what you put in,” he said looking at the counselor for approval. That was a line the counselor had used many times in their sessions.
The counselor didn’t react. She never did. But she did speak, “Yes, you do get out what you put it. But what were you trying to put in by interacting with your secretary that evening instead of with your wife?”
Of course she would side with his wife. That always seemed to be the case. Women always stick together. There was no way he was going to get a fair shake out of this experience.
“I interacted,” he mimicked the counselor, “with my secretary because my wife refused to have a good time. It was a party. A party. I work hard all week, I deserve to have some fun.”
His wife let out an audible scoff. “You work hard?” she asked. “At what? Avoiding work?”
“Hey,” he said defensively, “my work has let you and the kids live pretty comfortably. So yes, I stand by my statement.” He looked at the counselor to back him up.
“Remember,” the counselor said, “we are not here to attack, we are here to communicate.”
He smiled smugly. Point for him.
The counselor continued, “How did it make you feel to see your husband flirt…”
“Hey!” he said sitting up.
“Interact,” the counselor corrected herself, “with his secretary all evening?”
His wife thought about it. “Honestly, I don’t think I felt much of anything. Certainly, I wasn’t surprised because I am used to it.” She looked at the counselor. “This isn’t our first secretary.”
He threw his hands up in the air then looked at her. “I have never been unfaithful. Marriage means something to me.” His words were low and slow.
“Oh, I know,” his wife said. “You always color within the lines.”
He nodded and resumed his normal sitting position.
“What?” she asked her voice raised slightly. “You think you just got a point?”
He rolled his eyes. Of course he just got that point.
She studied him. “You do like to trace the lines a bit, don’t you?”
He looked at her. “I am a friendly guy. I am a people person. That’s why I am so successful at work.”
It was her turn to look straight ahead and not make eye contact.
“I can’t help it if my secretaries are more engaging than my wife. They appreciate me. That’s more than what I can say about you.”
She nodded. “They appreciate you,” she repeated his words. “That’s why more than one has gone to human resources with complaints?”
He waved her statement off. “Some of them have been overly-sensitive,” he looked at the counselor to explain, “no sense of humor. But when I am aware of the line, I never cross it.”
The room was silent except for the clock ticking.
She looked at the counselor and said very calmly, “To answer your question, I was more angry with myself for being in the same old position.”
He rolled his eyes.
“I think that is the moment I knew I needed something different. I deserve something more.”
“Don’t we all?” he asked sarcastically. “You think I want to be pigeonholed into taking care of two kids and a wife? Do you know how much more money I would have without you? Do you have any idea how much I have lost out on? You have no understanding of such loss.”
“I don’t know loss?” she asked slowly. Tears filled her eyes as she thought of that word. She had experienced loss. Great loss. Loss of an education. Loss of a career. Loss of loved ones. Her mind continued to tally the losses. The most regrettable one was she lost out on a promising future. She did her best to control her voice. “I know loss.”
He waved his hand at her. “Please, you have everything a woman could need. Haven’t I provided you all the luxuries of life? You have no idea what it means to go without.”
“What about my great-aunt Carol?” she asked. “I didn’t even get to go to her funeral. I didn’t get to say goodbye.”
“FOR CRYING OUT LOUD,” he stood up, “I AM NOT THE BAD GUY. I AM NOT THE VILLAIN IN YOUR STORY.”
Her eyes grew wide. “I never said you were.”
“Well,” he sat back down and folded his arms again. “You sure make me feel that way. Maybe I’m just trying to live up to the role you assigned to me.”
“You’re saying this is my fault?” she asked without emotion.
He shrugged his shoulders. “I just feel like I’m doing all the work and it would be nice if you met me at least halfway.”
She had nothing more to say.
The session ended shortly after. That was the last time they attended counseling together.