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Registered Play Therapist,

          Certified by the Association for Play Therapy

Family Therapy Session

Silent Heroes

Mature adults who suffer from difficult lives and have failed in their interpersonal relationships are often very depressed especially since they do not have anyone with whom to share their lives.  This population has often endured abuse and the consequences of not terminating destructive affiliations leaving them in a lonely position since they did not build healthy social supports.  Therefore, in order to help them come to terms with a painful life, therapy must help them find some meaning and purpose in their turbulent past.
 Joan was a 70 year old woman who was depressed since she felt trapped in a loveless marriage with a philandering husband 15 years her senior.  Joan refused to take care of him especially since he did not exhibit any concern or try to assist her when she was battling breast cancer; therefore, she committed him to an assisted living home with a 24 hour home health aide and refused to visit him.  The women in the community were critical of her despite the emotional abuse she endured since it was their belief that a woman should remain devoted to her husband despite his faults.  However, Joan remained adamant; her children were grown with families of their own and she no longer cared to continue living in a farce of a marriage.  

    Her therapist explored the benefits of her marriage; she managed to raise three successful children who are sensitive to the needs of their spouses and children.  Her husband was an attentive father and Joan managed the business with her husband; she was determined to know his finances and would not allow him to behave miserly with the family.  Therefore, she was in a better financial position being married to him rather than raising her three children as a destitute single mother.  In addition, she made certain that her children attend a religious school despite her husband’s protests since religion was important to her.  Joan was able to recognize that she did not behave weakly but manipulated the situation to her advantage.  Nevertheless, she mourned the years of emotional abuse since she was robbed of interpersonal relationships as a direct result of her husband’s escapades; a friend would either be uncomfortable when her husband would proposition her privately or her new acquaintance would have an affair with her husband.  

    Joan found herself in a lonely predicament that was exacerbated by feeling shunned in her community; feelings of loneliness triggered disturbing thoughts of having led a meaningless life.  These emotions were explored in session; her therapist challenged Joan’s concept of being a pariah.

    Joan’s clinician explored her position as a woman trapped in a loveless marriage; she tolerated her husband as long as she was dependent on him financially but refused to care for him when he was elderly.  She did not buckle under the social pressure of her community to remain with him since his sadistic behavior during their marriage and his lack of emotional support in conjunction with his cruel behavior toward her when she was sick with breast cancer made it imperative for her to leave since it would demonstrate to her children that a wife is not a door mat.  Joan instinctively felt that committing her husband to an assisted living despite his protests was the just decision; she chose to enjoy her remaining years traveling and socializing with new friends and relatives.

  Psychotherapy helped her realize that she protested emotional abuse and demonstrated to her sons that their wives will not be dependent upon them forever, what goes around comes around.  If they want their wives to be loyal to them in sickness and in health they must treat their spouses with love and respect.  In addition, Joan’s clinician explored the underlying feelings of the women in her community; infidelity and emotional abuse is not uncommon, yet few women have the courage to protest.  They prefer enduring the indignity of caring for an abusive spouse rather than taking a stand against this injustice.  However, Joan has sought counseling through her trying times and as a direct result of women like Joan a domestic violence unit was formed in the community.  She raised an awareness of a problem which many women fear addressing since they do not want to jeopardize their social status.  Furthermore, she broke the cycle of abuse by demonstrating that she has the last laugh, she enjoys the assets of the marriage and will no longer tolerate her husband’s ridicule.   Joan is a silent heroin; she instituted change in the community and broke the cycle of abuse in her family despite the negative ramifications.