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I hope someday he will also seek counseling

By Sarah R. Bisconte

In 1997, I did two things I never expected to do. I divorced my husband and began psychotherapy. The first gave me back my sanity. The other, a new outlook on life. I didn’t want a divorce. We had been together for three years and married for only four months when what began as an enviable long-distance love affair degenerated into endless shouting matches over financial priorities and responsibilities, control and one of the most despised “M” words known to Latinas: machismo.

I begged Roberto to go to counseling with me, but there was nothing I could say to make him understand that psychotherapy was the only answer to saving our troubled marriage. We slept in separate rooms, ate dinner a la solitaire and had no idea of each other’s whereabouts. Every time I would bring up going to counseling, he would offer me contradictory excuses. “Why should I go to counseling when you’re the problem?” he said. “Okay. I’ll go one time just so you can’t say I never went.” So, at the advice of a good friend, I contacted Dr. Jaime Inclán—a professor of psychology and psychotherapist with more than twenty years of experience counseling Latinos.

Choosing Dr. Inclán instead of a Latina did not sit well with las amigas. My core group of hermanas practically labeled me a traitor for having chosen a man with whom to share my penas. “With so many competent Latinas out there, how could you go to a male therapist?” they balked.

Their myopia only galvanized me. My husband had trouble respecting women; hence he would never consider seeing a female therapist I reasoned. The only way I could get him to attend the sessions would be by choosing otro macho, someone to whom he could relate. In the end, my strategy proved futile. When I informed Roberto of our first appointment, he made it clear to me that he would be there in spirit. So I began therapy.

In the beginning, Dr. Inclán couldn’t get a word in edgewise. I was bitter and wasn’t interested in what anyone had to say, not even the advisor I had hired at $125 an hour to help me find the answers. A warm, compassionate man in his early fifties, Dr. Inclán listened attentively while I bawled about my unrealized plans for a happy life with Roberto, blew my sorrows into tissues and occasionally gasped for air. “Fasten your seatbelt,” he said. “These next few months are going to be a roller coaster ride.” The thought of more mood swings brought on by self-analysis terrified me. There were mornings when I felt invincible and days when I seemed to be drowning in self-pity. Despite my highs and lows, I continued my weekly, 50-minute sessions. Eventually, I began to see the relationship in another light. I stopped blaming myself for the disintegration of the marriage, recognizing that, in fact, I had done everything in my power to save it. I also concluded that someone who would rather walk away from what was supposed to be a life-time commitment, and blame me for everything that went wrong, didn’t deserve my love. ¡Gloria a Dios! I was regaining control of my life.

Self- discovery or, in this case, “self-recovery” is a lonely and difficult process. It can, however, be an empowering one. It worked for me because I kept my appointments, even on those evenings when I would have rather been home running-on with Oprah. With the support of a professional, I was able to search for the answers to questions that had haunted me for years as well as those Dr. Inclán challenged me to explore.

It’s been over a year since I last spoke to Roberto, and often wonder if he’s happy. I hope someday he will also seek counseling. Nothing can be more liberating.

Sarah R. Bisconte’s e-mail:

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