“Hello Mr. Fulsom.  I’m pleased to make your acquaintance.  Where’s your significant other?”

“At home.  She wouldn’t come today.”

“I’m sorry but I only work with couples who need help in their relationships.”

“I understand, Dr. Jeffords, but if she won’t come than won’t you at least help me work through some of our issues.  Maybe I can relay some of the information back to her and she might eventually… I don’t know… come.” 

“That’s a highly irregular proposition.  If one party doesn’t come to the sessions than that shows a real lack of commitment on that person’s part.  The chances for a successful outcome are thus greatly reduced.”

“I’ll pay double your hourly rate.”

“Please, have a seat Mr. Fulsom.”

“Call me Jim.”

“Sure.  Whatever you like. So, Jim, where are things going wrong in your relationship; that is, as you see it.”

“We get along really well. We rarely fight and even then it’s over small things that are quickly resolved. We have a lot in common and there’s plenty of romance.”

“Is your sex life active and healthy?”

“Oh, yes.”

“Good. So what brings you here?”

“I’m concerned about a growing problem in our relationship.”

“So this problem has been a long-standing one?”


“How long have you and… I’m sorry, what is your wife’s name?”

“Her name is Sarah and she’s my girlfriend.”

“I see.  Well, how long have you and Sarah been together and when did you first notice this problem?”

“Wouldn’t it be better if I describe the problem first?”

“If you like.”

“Here’s the problem:  she can’t believe how great I am.”

“Excuse me?”

“You heard me.  She can’t believe how great I am.”

“She told you this?”


“Then how do you know?”

“Because she told me.”

“You just said that she didn’t!”

“She did, just not in the words that you used.”

“What words DID she use?”

“I’m sorry, Doctor Jeffords.  Your voice is becoming louder.  Did I say something to offend you?”

“No, not at all. Continue, please.”

“OK… um… she has a notion that I shouldn’t be interested in her, in a romantic way, that is.  She feels that because I’m a very good-looking man and let’s face it, I am; then I could not be truly interested in her.  But here is the kicker:  she is a very good-looking woman.”

“So what does she give as her reason?”

“Reason for what?”

“That you shouldn’t be interested in her!”

“Now I do know that I said something wrong, Dr. Jeffords.  You’re red-faced!”

“No… no… no… I’m just a little fatigued after a long day, that’s all.  Please, what was her reason why you shouldn’t be attracted to her?  After all, she sounds like a wonderful woman.”

“She is somewhat older than I am.  However, that does not factor at all in the way that we care about each other.  If it weren’t for that ONE fact then everything would be great.”

“Maybe it’s because of that fact that everything is great.”

“I’m sorry.  I don’t follow you.”

“Well, if you two were closer in age would it make things better, from a relationship standpoint?”

“I don’t see how that could be if we are so great together with an age difference.”

“That’s my point: with the age difference things work.  Without the age difference, who knows?  I half suspect that it wouldn’t work.  Right now you both have to relate on a more foundational level.  You don’t have things such as generational commonalities to be confused with compatibility.”

“That’s a very good point.”

“Thank you.  Now, Jim, have you tried to reassure… uh… Sarah?”

“Of course I have. I’ve told here how beautiful I find her and that no woman has touched or held me the way that she has.  I’ve told her that I don’t leap at a woman because she might be young and pretty.  There’s a lot more to it than that.  To prove the point, I even compared a beautiful woman who is ugly on the inside to a gold ring in the snout of a pig.”

“No room for misinterpretation there.”

“Yeah, but Sarah is herself very attractive both inwardly and outwardly.  She’s a rare find. I feel like the lucky one to have such a great woman in my life and I wish that she would realize that.”

“Sometimes, Jim, a person needs time to internalize a new thought process.  Maybe she just came out of a relationship where she wasn’t fully valued as a woman. She would need to be here for me to determine that.  How long have you been together, anyway?”

“About a year.”

“And you feel that this problem is getting worse?”

“Not worse, just persistent.  I think that it should be more or less dissolved at this point.”

“Don’t you mean resolved?”

“That’s what I said.”

“No, you didn’t.  I clearly heard you say dissolved.”

“And I clearly remember saying resolved.”

“Whatever, Mr. Fulsom.  So, it’s not a “growing” problem after all?”

“Who said ‘growing problem?’”

“You did; initially.”

“Oh. Well, I’m genuinely concerned that if she can’t get over these feelings that she might become unhappy or anxious in our relationship and even start finding fault with me.”

“Why would she find fault with you?”

“Well, you know, subconsciously trying to sabotage the relationship.”

“That’s always a possibility.  But she’s come this far with you.  That must mean that up until now, at least, she has feelings for you too.”


“In fact, is it possible that Sarah is probably getting more comfortable with the situation as time goes on?”

“Yes, certainly.  I pursued her over a period of time before she even agreed to see me.”

“And she has been actively participating in the relationship ever since?”


“That’s encouraging.”

“I suppose that I just find it paradoxical that in our culture men are ‘allowed’ to date younger women but not older ones.  And while I don’t care what our culture thinks… wait a minute… can a culture think?”

“No, people do.”

“Hmm… well, as I was saying, I don’t really care what people think whether for good or bad but it might affect her.”

“Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t.  Cultural views are changing rapidly as people live longer and traditional roles break down into more individualistic ones.  Tradition hasn’t always served people well.  As I see it, relationships come back to the same ingredients every time:  love, empathy, caring, and, personal compatibility. All of the other cultural elements such as religion, politics, nationality, race, and age (among others) are only side points that don’t have to be a factor if you and Sarah don’t want them to be.”

“But what if some people find our situation odd?”

“Are you only willing to stake out positions that please everybody?  Because if that’s the case then one of two things will happen:  1) You won’t find a position that makes everyone happy and so you’ll take none at all or 2) the only position you find will make you unhappy.  Either way, you lose.”

“Yes, I can see that now.  So you think that we may have something pretty good?”

“Time will tell.”

“Thanks a lot, Doctor.”

“I do think one thing is odd though.”

“What’s that?”

“Why it is that you’re sitting here talking to yourself.”


 There’s a knock at the door.

  Enter an overweight black woman wearing purple scrubs with teddy bear prints on them.

“Jim, have you been talking to ‘Dr. Jeffords’ again?”

“Yes, he’s right… here… Dr. Jeffords!”

“Sweetie, it’s 3 o’clock; time for group therapy.  You can tell your real doctor, Dr. Stern, all about it.  Please finish making your bed and I’ll be back in five minutes.”

“But he was helping me with Sarah.”

“Sarah, huh?  Well, I’ll tell you what:  if you’re ready to go to group therapy when I get back, I’ll make sure that you get extra applesauce with your dinner.  Would you like that?”

“I like applesauce.”