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She loves me. She loves me not.

Good times come and good times go.  Intimacy can wax and wane. Love can fade away.  But what happens when you discover that the good times never really came, that the intimacy was never there?  In divorce, the question is inevitably asked, "did she ever love me?"  Usually the answer is "yes, absolutely. Once."

But what happens when the answer is an unequivocal "no?"

This is the saga of a different sort of divorce.  This situation defies most of the norms of divorce. For in this kind of divorce, you aren't working with a couple who have a shared history, who have a memory of being very close and the bewilderment of trying to reconstruct what went wrong, you're in the maelstrom of an environment in which every day you further discover that your client has been sleeping with his enemy and never knew it.

The poisonous contempt from the other spouse is not born of anger, is not born of resentment from the promise of life together now gone awry, but is born of absolute disinterest and detachment, a detachment which has been the mainstay in the relationship from day one.  Only now the veil is lifted and Medusa's head is the face staring back at you. Only now do you perceive the icy danger. 

How do you carry on with your life when you make this discovery?  How do you interact with the spouse who made love to you but never felt love?  How can you trust her to care for your children as you come to realize that, for whatever historical or genetic reason, she hasn't the capacity to care, she hasn't the capacity to love, she hasn't the capacity to attach at all?

I'm writing as though this problem is unique to women but it isn't at all.  I've met many a detached man as well.  But right now, in my most prominent case which centers on this problem, it is the wife who suffers from an inability to attach to her husband.  And considering the way she has handled the custodial situation, it is safe to say she has no particular attachment to her child as well, or else she wouldn't sever the child from its father as though the child's needs are irrelevant.

As you can well imagine, clients are devastated when they uncover the truth of the fallacy of their marriage.  The betrayal is tremendous.  The self doubt arising from their slow discovery of complicit self delusion completely undermines any sense of stability and thwarts any security from the notion that the future may hold a brighter day.  

This situation is a matter for a skilled therapist.  Many a qualified psychologist has expertly handled these now fragile souls and helped to rebuild their selves to a firm foundation.

This problem is not as uncommon as we would wish. It has lesser forms. This problem is endemic to humanity.  On a simpler level it is simply telling someone that you love them to gain something you want. Whether its the high school boy coaxing his sweet heart in the backseat of his car or the call girl with the right words to say at the right time, this is an age old situation.  But carried to the extent that the marriage has truly been a lie and a bond was never formed, is a deeper, more sinister and much sadder situation. 

Fortunately, the parents who are attached and seek therapy usually obtain custody of their children and go on to take excellent care of them. Because, as the veil is lifted, the whole world (and the judge) can see the vacuous monster which lies beneath.  And rather than turning to stone (a true tranference if ever there was one) we see that all that lies under that veil is a bunch of hissing snakes.

Michael Manely

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