Outtakes, Part 2: Infidelity Via the Internet

Click here for the rationale on the “Outtakes” series and to read Part 1.

I believe this piece was written in early 2007, again (in vain) for my first book (which, as we’ve gone over ad infinitum, was never published):

I got a call at 10 AM from a man begging for an appointment as soon as possible. I saw him that day. Upon arriving at the office, David presented as a conservative, upper middle-class Caucasian male in his mid-40’s, clearly agitated and distressed:

Dr. Dobrenski: So David, what brings you in to see me?

David: This is hard to talk about. I had been thinking about asking my wife if she was ready to start a family. We’ve talked about it before, but never really more than in the abstract. This morning, I decided to do some online research about fertility rates of women after 35, because one of my co-workers couldn’t get pregnant for about 3 years, and her doctor told her it was likely due to her age. You can really learn a lot on the internet, some really fascinating things about medicine…

These initial statements by David highlight a difficulty that therapists must deal with on a daily basis. Without guiding the conversation in a productive manner, clients can often ramble ad infinitum without ever revealing what is truly bothering them. However, when people speak, they are essentially “processing,” or making sense of, what is happening in their lives. This is a requisite to positive mental health. A good therapist is responsible for pacing a session so that a client is able to process information while simultaneously leading the conversation in a therapeutic direction. Because this was an initial session, many therapists would let David continue without interrupting, in order to build a good rapport and let David know that he has his therapist’s full and undivided attention. Additionally, it seemed obvious that David had not spoken to anyone about what is on his mind, and is simply trying to make sense of what occurred this morning.

David: While I was online at home, I logged onto her Windows account because I knew that she had been looking for birthday presents for me and, I’m a little embarrassed to say this, but I wanted to see what she might be getting me this year.

I’ve always been a firm believer that you are, invariably, asking for trouble when you start to poke around into someone’s computer account.

David: I noticed, on her History toolbar, a lot of, you know, pornography websites and such.

Dr. Dobrenski: Yes; how do you feel about that discovery?

David: In and of itself that didn’t bother me. In fact, I started to look at some of them myself, thinking that maybe it could spice up our love life, you know, introducing some novelty. It’s been a few years now that we’ve been monogamous, and it’s not always easy to keep the flames going. So I’m surfing around her History a bit, looking at the sites, and they all seem to be targeted toward unhappy housewives. It was pretty upsetting. And then I noticed an ad.

Dr. Dobrenski: An ad?

David: A personal ad. There was this picture of her, dressed in clothes that I’ve never seen her wear before. She was in all black, all that S&M-type clothing. And she had on the glasses she wears when she works at the library. Above the photo was a title that said: Do Me Dewey.

Dr. Dobrenski: Does that title have any significance for you?

David: I think she’s referring to the Dewey Decimal System. The worst part, though, was there were all these testimonials about her. Like, people who had stated that they had already had sex with her, and were encouraging others to do so. They were like Roger Ebert blurbs giving her two thumbs up. So I looked at them carefully, getting down some screen names, and then decided to do some more detective work in her email account.

This is actually painful to hear. What starts as a fleeting curiosity turns into obsessive searching for something that will ultimately hurt tremendously. Completely common and normal, but terribly painful. I know I’d do the same thing in this spot, but part of me is secretly begging for him to stop talking, or to tell me he hasn’t found anything. Wishful thinking:

David: It was awful. I uncovered all these emails from people she had slept with, done things with that she would never do with me! They wrote ‘Oh LibraryBitch, you’re so great and Oh LibraryBitch I must see you again,’ stuff like that. I was floored. One guy even said that he had never done it with a tall woman before and she’s only 5 feet tall! Jesus, the guy must be a pygmy! So, I saw an email in her box yesterday morning, arranging a private tour of “The Return Rack,” as they called it. They’re meeting in a hotel tonight down the street from where I live. I’m going to go there.

Dr. Dobrenski: What do you plan to do when you confront them?

David: That’s exactly why I’m here, because I know I’ll need support after it’s over.

Dr. Dobrenski: Over? After what’s over?

David: After I take care of them.

Dr. Dobrenski: What do you mean, take care of them?

David: I…I’m…thinking of killing them.

What had started as a sad but admittedly fascinating story had just evolved into a legal matter. I knew this woman’s name (or at least her online screen name) and David had just made a direct threat against her life. Tarrasoff’s Law (the mandate that requires I report a crime directly to the potential victim), general ethics, and my own moral code required me to notify his wife that her safety was at risk.

Dr. Dobrenski: David, remember when I explained to you the rules about confidentiality? That they only apply under the assumption that you are not a threat to yourself or someone else? You’re making a threat. That means confidentiality is no longer applicable.

Before spouting some pedantic line from the ethics manual, I should have asked David what he meant when he said “I thought I might kill them.” Therapists with experience in this area, although admittedly agitated by such threats, will initially consider, “is he merely entertaining a fantasy? How does he plan to harm his victims, and is he cognizant of the consequences that would follow?” But while I had plenty of experience dealing with suicide, I had never been part of a homicide plan before. So my first thought was “Oh my God, what if he has a gun?!,” and my inexperience immediately put David on the defensive:

David: I know, Dr. Dobrenski, I know! I don’t want to do this. I’m just so fucking hurt and pissed! I had no idea this was going on behind my back! I want revenge!

Dr. Dobrenski (Jesus Christ, who wouldn’t?): David, I’ve never experienced something like this in my own life, so I can only imagine how much this hurts, but I think you’re here because you want help, maybe to save your marriage. Let’s go another route with this, because you clearly aren’t in the right frame of mind to be making any decisions, especially one that is life-altering.

David: What should we do?

Dr. Dobrenski: First, I want you to call your wife, right now, with me here. Tell her where you are, and tell her to come to the office. Let’s tell her, together, what you’ve learned about her, and what you confessed you might do. You said so yourself that you don’t want to kill her, but I don’t know you well enough to even hazard a guess as to what you might do without professional help. The three of us will talk, make sure everyone is safe, and we’ll take it from there. Okay?

David: Okay.

True to plan, that’s just what happened. LibraryBitch showed up in my office an hour later, confused about why she was there. David told her everything, and you could see her eyes grow wider as the story continued. She didn’t seem nearly as afraid as I would have been when he mentioned his murderous thoughts. In fact, she responded with deadpan defiance.

“Fuck you. I want an open marriage. ”

Where the hell did that come from?! It was the last thing I expected to hear from her. David broke down wailing but his wife just continued prattling on without giving him a glance. “Look,” she said, “don’t take it personally, but one man’s simply not enough for me. I need variety and there’s nothing wrong with that. I don’t want a divorce. I’d even like you to come and watch me with my lovers, the tall and short ones. Participate if you like. But we’re done if you don’t let me breathe in the love of all.”

Breathe in the love of all? Oh, I liked that. Here this woman is ready to screw anything in pants but she’s taking the high road, talking like she’s Gandhi bringing peace and understanding to the troubled multitudes.
David showed all the signs of a massive panic attack, dropping into a chair as his legs went out from under him. He gasped, “That’s it. I want to die. I’ll kill myself instead of her.”

“David, pull it together!!!” I wanted to scream. “She’ll never respect you if you act like this! Assertiveness is attractive, no one wants a doormat. Get the fuck up and tell her off!” And if the LibraryBitch wasn’t here, I probably would have said just that, hopefully empowering him to stand up for himself. But she beat me to the punch, screaming at him to grow up, to be a man and “get a pair.” “My God,” I thought, “this woman is perhaps the cruelest person I’ve ever met.”

I asked a few colleagues what they thought about my “Assertiveness is Attractive” axiom, and it received a positive response. “People have an inherent psychological work ethic,” a former professor told me. “We ultimately don’t want what comes too easily, we want to have to work for it.” That would explain why LibraryBitch lost interest in David; he wasn’t making her work. And she became the female version of the “Bad Boy,” which made him want her even more.

Ultimately, facilitating a relaxed therapeutic environment became impossible. I ended up having to call an ambulance for David. I insisted that LibraryBitch stay in my office until he was gone. I didn’t want either of them chasing each other with butcher knives. And that was about all I could do. Three weeks later, David called to say he was on an anti-depressant and that he had rented a small apartment across town. He and the LB were getting a divorce. “I’m going to continue to work with the psychiatrist,” he told me, “and maybe do a day treatment program. I think I need some heavy duty meds for a long time. The doctor told me that when I’m medically stable, I should come back and see you for individual sessions. In the meantime, I want to thank you for getting me through the roughest day of my life.”

I didn’t see how I deserved any credit but I was glad to hear that he was doing better.

“It’s funny,” he said, “I always pictured my darkest moment would be getting hit by a truck or losing a leg or something, not getting divorced from a women with an online sex ad and a penchant for short people.”

(Visited 93 times, 1 visits today)

21 Responses to “Outtakes, Part 2: Infidelity Via the Internet”

  1. Beth says:

    I have to tell you…….this is now my favorite blog.

  2. Joe says:

    Reminds me of a friend’s voicemail: If this is a medical or psychological emergency, call 911 and go to the hospital. I don’t want to sound mean, this guy was obviously going through quite a bit, but before he found those emails, he had to have been ignoring a lot of stuff as well. Call it, as we say in the law, a reasonable, articulable suspicion.

  3. BL1Y says:

    Great, the stories that aren’t interesting enough to make it into your book is still better than my best stuff. Doesn’t it violate some shrink code of ethics or something to make people depressed?

    Guess it’s a good business model though.

  4. escaperoad says:

    I laughed so hard I almost spit my coffee. You have some really, really entertaining sessions. Although I am not quite sure that was entertaining at the time.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Wow… just wow.
    A depressing story that evolves into a thriller, that then winds up in Adams Family type kooky ending.
    M. Night Shyamalan would be proud.
    “What a twist!”

  6. Rorschach says:

    I love how whenever one partner in a marriage is cheating, the other is immediately assumed to have not been paying attention, or to have been willfully ignorant.

  7. Kate says:

    “Fuck you. I want an open marriage” is my new facebook status update.

  8. Drasko says:

    Wow…if this wasnt good enough to make it to the book, I cant wait to read the stuff actually published!

  9. Amber says:

    Wow

  10. T.J. says:

    Hey Dr. Rob.

    Great post, but just a weird aesthetic thing that bugs me sometimes about your form.

    When you’re going to use a quote that’s a whole block of text (or, as I was told in Wrightin’ Skool) or more than four lines, use a block quote.

    I find that it’s hard to differentiate between what your own, original thoughts on the matter are, and what someone external is saying sometimes.

    Other than that, between this one and the last one, I must say one thing:

    WHY IS NONE OF THIS GOING TO BE IN THE FINAL DRAFT?

    That is all.

  11. Pete says:

    This was well paced, and a good anecdote. Why *did* you scrap it from the final draft? In a different vein, why do you have a tiny smiley at the bottom of this and every page?

  12. Wayland says:

    Holy crap Rob. That’s f*cked up. I guess a serious lack of communication can lead to this kind of thing. They must not have ever talked about having an open relationship or maybe they had and David was in denial of it so LB just decided to do her thing and let him figure out whatever he needed to for himself. How they ever got married is beyond me.

  13. Dr J says:

    It seems that his response to “Fuck you, I want an open marriage” was the turning point. If David had not reacted so extremely (i.e. not suffered a panic attack) they may have been able to work through it. But after (presumably) fearing David’s lack of assertiveness and then witnessing it first hand, LB felt vindicated and there it ended.

    If she had been more honest sooner (“Fuck you, I want an open marriage”) they could both have salvaged something from the marriage.

    Unless he was 6’5″ I guess. And had bad knees.

  14. nikolina says:

    Wow, that’s terrible. You must have a lot of restraint to not say “I see. I’ll help you hide the body then.”

  15. SF says:

    Holy cow. This is hilariously awesome. I can’t wait until the book comes out – these past two posts are like evil teasers!

  16. Rebecca says:

    “They were like Roger Ebert blurbs giving her two thumbs up.”

    Oh god, how do you keep from bursting out laughing when clients say stuff like this? D: Wow. Darn, your blog is so entertaining, I’ve been putting off sleep for hours.

    Just one thing: Does Tarrasoff’s Law require confidentiality be broken for mere thoughts of suicide/homicide? Because at the Florida clinic where I’m a client, you have to have the thoughts, a plan, and the means to carry it out before you can be committed. Maybe it’s different from state to state?
    I know in Germany, even just a passing thought or fantasy of suicide/homicide is enough to get you taken away. This I learned the hard way.

  17. […] « B-Sides, Part 2 […]

  18. […] more from the original source: B-Sides, Part 2 Promote this […]

  19. […] an introduction to the “Outtakes” series click here. Also see Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part […]

  20. JP says:

    You know, I’ve never had a problem dealing with clients with homicidal ideation.

    I guess that’s because I figure that the person they will have a problem with will be the judge, and not me.

  21. Seviah says:

    Although in fairness I guess I should mention that infidelity probably ruined my marriage.

Leave a Reply