Monday, July 30, 2018

The Case of the Reluctant Spinster

In the great therapy wars this only counts as a skirmish. Yet, it proves a point I have been at pains to make, over and over again… so I devote one post to it.

The letter writer, a fiftyish woman whose life has largely been devoid of relationships, asks Carolyn Hax what to do to find love.

She calls herself “Reluctant Spinster” and defines her problem thusly:

It's been a quarter century since my only real adult relationship, which ended in heartbreak, and I'm afraid I may have missed my window for romance. I've never dated much — social anxiety, general anxiety — and now I find myself a middle-aged spinster who hasn't had sex in decades and feels starved for intimacy, both emotional and physical.

And then, in her last paragraph she includes this:

My therapist doesn't seem to have much to suggest after years of talking about this. What do you advise?

We know nothing about her therapist except what matters. They have been talking about this for years. Somehow or other the therapist and her patient both believe that more talk will solve the problem.

To which Hax offers the only sane rejoinder:

“Years of talking about this.” How many of doing something about it?

Yes, indeed. How about going out and doing something. Talk will not do it. Getting in touch with your feelings will not do it. Feeling your feelings will not do it. Hax tells her that she needs to break out of the therapy-induced stupor:

You think you need a man, but what you need more is a shove, emotionally speaking, from the pigeonhole you’ve made for yourself. Not because it’s bad — friends, writing career, favorite pastimes, sly sense of humor . . . it seems objectively enviable to me — but because you want things it can’t give you. Common complaint.

Uncommonly intelligent response.


Sports Care PT said...
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Paul said...

I don't know what she actually said but "How many of doing something about it?" doesn't make sense. How about doing something about it? would, but I'm guessing.

Sam L. said...

Paul, that "many" refers back to the years in "years of talking about this". She needs to get out and do things in the course of which she can meet men, or have friends who can set her up with a man they think she could like. (My neighbors set me up with my second wife.)

Stuart Schneiderman said...

I think she meant-- How many [years] of doing something about it?

Anonymous said...

First impression - This sounds a case of asking "What would Trump do?", because that guy is definitely someone who prioritizes actions over words (which is what drives the commentariat so mad!)

Steven said...

"... what you need more is a shove, emotionally speaking, from the pigeonhole you’ve made for yourself. "

As a younger man my mates were more succinct; "You need to get laid."