2. Psychotherapy

"It's the weirdest thing that has ever happened in my twenty years of medical practice," Eric Friedman said to his wife. Dr. Friedman had an unusual practice, in that he combined general medicine with family counseling. It was Friday evening and the Friedmans were having an intimate dinner at one of San Francisco's fine French restaurants. His wife, who was also a physician, smiled: "What's weird about a married couple suddenly finding sex enjoyable again. We've gone through cycles like that many times."

"It's not their finding sex enjoyable that's incredible, it's the whole situation. This couple, in their early forties, come to see me because their marriage is on the rocks -not just their sex life; they hate each other with a passion. I figure that there's nothing that I can do to prevent a break-up and the best that I'll be able to manage is to try to prevent a really messy divorce."

"So a couple learns to like each other again; it's happened before."

"Not this couple; they still hate each other, but their sex life is amazing: they screw in the morning; he comes home for lunch and they screw twice -once before lunch and once after; then once before dinner; several times after dinner, once to fall asleep on and one or two in the middle of the night. Their life is so full of screwing that they don't have time to fight."

"That's the best solution to marital conflict that I've ever heard of," Lois Friedman chuckled.

"I still have trouble believing that it really happened the way that it did. Three weeks ago, they were at each other's throats. Then, two weeks ago, I get a call to come to their house because they're both seriously ill with high fevers and couldn't possibly make it to the office. The symptoms that they described sounded enough like meningitis, so I decided to make one of my rare house calls. I find them both in separate beds, with high fevers, very severe headaches and few of the classic meningitic signs. I figured that it was some virus that produced a mild encephalitis and prescribed aspirin and bed rest. Apparently they made an uneventful recovery because the next thing that I hear about them is when she comes to my office a week later, for some minor complaint, and tells me how great her sex life is and what a great lover that sonofabitch she's married to is. Those were her exact words, that sonofabitch that I'm married to."

"What does she attribute this miraculous change to?"

"Me! She says that it was my wonderful counseling that did it."

"So you're a miracle worker! Don't look a gift horse in the mouth. After all, how many miracles did you perform last year?"

"None; so I must be improving as a healer. Still, I wish I knew how I did it. If I could bottle it, we'd be rich!"

There aren't many old-married couples who haven't looked back with pleasure at the ecstasies of the early days of their marriage, nor with regret at its passing. For Jack and Debbie Filbert, those regrets were amplified, because their courtship and marriage were the idyllic events that most people only imagine. They met at a Saturday night party at the home of a mutual friend and it was Some Enchanted Evening for them. To Debbie, Jack looked like the most attractive man she had ever seen and he thought her the sexiest woman he had ever encountered. They left the party together and made love as soon as they got into the car. Debbie had two orgasms -once when he entered her and once when he had his. They then went to his apartment where it was non-stop sex until the sky began to turn color. Then they slept until the middle of the afternoon.

These were no virgins experiencing sex for the first time. She was twenty nine and he thirty one and they had both been around. Neither had ever experienced the quantity or quality of sex that they had together. It continued to get better as they grew accustomed to one another, so after two months, they married. If anything, marriage made things still better. Neither wanted children, so they devoted themselves to each other. If Debbie asked Jack if he wanted to do something with her it was always "sure." It didn't matter what she wanted to do; if it ended in bed it was okay with Jack. Debbie exhibited Jack as if she had gotten the grand prize in life and it was only proper that she should be envied by every woman in the world; and Jack basked in her adulation.

In the best of marriages, when the excitement of new love diminishes, as it eventually must, a growing friendship develops to fill in the gap; for, while new love may be the best kind, friendships grow better and stronger with time. But the Filberts never developed that friendship -their life revolved around their bed. The excitement of sex diminished very gradually and even at its lowest point, it still seemed so much better than what either had known, that they tolerated the change without much difficulty.

Around the sixth year of their marriage, Debbie began to notice that Jack was not interested in either talking to her or listening to her. He preferred watching football on TV -a sport she detested. Even when she tried to distract him by kissing and fondling him, he would say "Later, honey, when the game's over." By the time "later" came, she had lost interest. Jack saw this loss of interest as her turning cold. That manly odor of tobacco began to smell different to her as she choked over the clouds of cigar smoke in the living room and she began to think of the sexy odor of his body as unhygienic. He was no longer her prize, but her fat slob of a husband who stunk because he never took a bath and dirtied up the house with his filthy cigars. He, in turn, noticed that they had to go to a restaurant to get anything to eat that had any flavor to it at all, and meat that didn't have the consistency of rubber. His socks were mismatched, his shorts inside out and his shirt collars remained dirty.

"They wouldn't be that way," she would say," if you'd take a bath more often."

Jack began to refer to Debbie as "that nagging frigid bitch I'm married to."

When Jack turned forty, he decided that life was too short to spend it in a miserable marriage and, when he told Debbie so, she agreed. They decided to go to a marriage counselor to see if things could be patched up. They picked Dr. Friedman because he was their family doctor, and each in his/her private thought believed that Dr. Friedman was sympathetic to his/her cause.

Friedman searched, in vain, for some common ground. She liked movies and the theater and he didn't; He loved and she hated sports; He loved eating and she hated cooking; she liked to walk, he liked to sit. Dr. Friedman gave up -there was no communication whatever between them and no basis that he could find for a marriage; except sex, and that was all but gone.

But, miracle of miracles, when they recovered from their illness, they immediately made love and, to their intense surprise and pleasure, it was like old times; the same thrill and enjoyment that they had felt during the first year of their marriage -and it didn't stop.

Debbie no longer cared whether his cigars stunk up the living room nor whether he ever took a bath. Jack didn't care whether Debbie could cook or not -restaurants were fine; and he found that he preferred sex to football -except for the Super Bowl. Debbie didn't begrudge him that. After all, it was the only rest she got.

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