Our Marriage Therapist Told Me To Be More Affectionate With My Abusive Husband

His love language was physical touch, but mine was definitely not.

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We were given the assignment of reading The Five Love Languages.

Our marriage therapist, a young woman whose master’s degree was as fresh as the ink on her diploma, believed the solution to our marital strife would be found in the book’s pages.

"Your homework for next week is to figure out what your love language is," she told us at the end of another session, after which I felt more hopeless than ever.


At that point, fifteen years of marriage in, it all felt like a movie playing out in front of me, as if I wasn’t even a part of it.

The characters:

Therapist: Pretty woman in her thirties with the voice of a kindergarten teacher; listens to wife bumble through her feelings; leans into husband as charm oozes out of his pores.


Husband: Soon-to-be diagnosed narcissist who could fool any therapist without experience in personality disorders; especially a woman.

Wife: Woman in her mid-forties whose face gives away her exhaustion; has no idea what gaslighting is, the silent treatment, or that she’s a victim of narcissistic abuse.

But it wasn’t a movie. There was no director to call Cut! that would save me from what was to come.

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So, in an effort to save my marriage while believing I was largely responsible for our problems, I did as I was told. I did my homework.

The excitement coming from my husband over our assignment was evident before we even left the therapist’s office. Within only a couple of days, he had finished the book and came to me with the results.


"My love language is definitely physical touch," he declared in a tone that sounded more like an order.

I didn’t know what to do. Should I reach out and touch him? Stroke his arm? Give him a hug?

I hadn’t been affectionate with him for a long time. I couldn’t. Not after his constant put-downs, the way he stood over me with a smirk on his face whenever I begged him to stop hurting me.

Not to mention the young girls he’d taken a rabid interest in (old enough to not land him in jail but young enough he needed to buy their alcohol).

I wavered between fear and disgust anytime I looked at him. Now I was supposed to touch him?

Plus, reaching out with affection was dangerous, like trying to pet a rattlesnake. I never knew when he would strike.


And I didn’t want to touch him. Especially when I already had to.

Like whenever he woke me up in the middle of the night to have sex — even if he’d ignored me for days. Even if we’d fought earlier. Even if I begged him to please let me sleep. Nothing stopped him.

Or when he put his hands on me as a reminder of his ownership of my body. Like when he would suddenly pinch my nipples so hard I winced in pain, after which he’d say, "Those are mine, don’t forget."

Don’t touch me! I wanted to scream.

My skin crawled at the thought of having to touch him more.

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"Have you figured out your love language yet?" he asked me a few days before our next counseling session.


I shook my head. I didn’t tell him I hadn’t started reading yet.

Something scared me about what was in that book.

But I was used to being scared — of him, of the truth, of the stranger in the mirror who confirmed that I was definitely going crazy.

So, I read it.

And I figured out my love language.

At our next session, the therapist asked if we’d done our homework in her kindergarten teacher's voice.

Then I felt like I was back in that movie.

Husband: "I read the whole book! And I knew right away my love language is physical touch. I’m Latin, so I’m naturally a very affectionate person. And I’m very passionate. Very."

Wife: Stares straight ahead; grits teeth at the thought of being ordered to touch her husband right there and then.


Therapist: (Blushing) "I’m so proud of you! You know what? You deserve a gold star!"

Wife: Surely she’s talking figuratively…

Therapist: (Rummages through desk drawer) "Here! You earned it!"

As she hands him the gold star sticker, I realize this isn’t a movie after all.

This is a nightmare.

I watch as he takes the tiny sticker, their fingers touching, then places it on his shirt, just above his heart.

Both the therapist and I are looking at him. He’s looking at her. I’m watching his profile as he continues to talk — and lie — about what’s going on in our home and our marriage.

Man, he’s good. Though I’m the one living behind closed doors with him, even I can’t help but start feeling sorry for the guy for having to live with me.


I sound like a real piece of work.

I catch the therapist out of the corner of my eye, whose attention — and pity — is being reeled in by the fishing line he threw her way.

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He always did have irresistible bait.

Though my own days of taking it were long gone.

"Thank you for sharing that," she told him. I wondered if she forgot I was there.

We were almost out of time. In the minutes remaining, I lacked any desire to contradict my husband’s version of our story.

I didn’t want to defend myself or present the evidence to prove his many lies.

What was the point?


He had been fooling people for years by then, while I took up my role as the silent partner who slapped on a fake smile whenever someone looked my way.

Plus, I was tired. My heartache was an unbearable weight that had started to affect me physically.

I didn’t want to go to therapy anymore. At least not with her. Not with him.


Not with them.

So I decided to turn in my homework and drop out of class.

"And how about you, Suzanna? Did you read the book? Did you figure out what your love language is?"

While she waited for me to answer, I got out my checkbook and wrote her a check for the session, as I had been doing since the beginning after my husband demanded I pay for it out of my monthly allowance.

I stood up. "Here," I said, handing the check to her. "This will be the last check I write to you and the last session I’ll be attending."

Then I looked at him and said the only words that came. "You’re a liar."

I started to leave but stopped at the door.

Then I turned around.


"Oh and by the way, I did figure out what my love language is."

I looked at the therapist, then at my soon-to-be-ex husband.

"It’s stop hurting me."

I’d like my gold star now.

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Suzanna Quintana is a writer, recovery coach, and founder of The Narcissist Relationship Recovery Program. She is a certified holistic health counselor and holds bachelor’s degrees in History and in Women & Gender Studies.