The Problem

Part of the problem was that there was no problem at all, she just liked to think there was. Every day she would rant on about nothing in particular, knowing full well that he was not listening. It was not his job to listen. If it was, he wasn’t being paid enough. She didn’t know why exactly, but she liked talking in a raised voice. It somehow made her feel taller. She wasn’t an especially short person, but she was as obsessed about her lack of inches as the next person.

They waited in the reception of the world renowned marriage guidance councillor, David Beige. He was currently busy talking to a couple that had gotten married by accident and couldn’t agree on who should ask for a divorce first. The answer to that was simple: get both of them to ask at the same time. For this wisdom, he charged them £200 an hour. David was good at his job. Most people were good at his job, they just didn’t realise it at the time. He’d set the business up when he was just 8 years old and talked his aunt and uncle out of a divorce. 20 years later, a young couple called Mr. John Pardon and Mrs. Eliza Pardon sat outside his office waiting to receive his wisdom in order to save their marriage.

“Put that magazine down.” Eliza growled at him, “We’re here to sort our marriage out, not have a read.”
“Yes dear.” He replied.
She wasn’t happy with his unquestioning submission, so she goaded him further.
“Why were you looking at that magazine anyway? Were there photos of naked women in it?” She asked.
“No dear. It’s a fishing magazine.” He replied.
“I don’t know why you’re reading fishing magazines, there’s no ponds in here.” She grumbled.

Before they could argue any further, the door to David Beige’s office opened and a smiling couple came out into the reception, followed by the man himself. The couple thanked him again for his help and scuttled off, grinning and giggling as they did so. They would get up to some fun stuff that night. But now it was the turn of the Pardon couple to visit David. He invited them in with a warm gesture. As they entered his office, they immediately felt a breeze of calm and positivity brush over them. David apologised for it and turned the air conditioning off. The office was spacious, with a few inspirational photos of animals on the walls, some potted plants in the corners and a little water feature by the back wall. At the front was a big desk and two red chairs that looked very comfortable. They were very comfortable, and Mr. Pardon commented on this as he sat down in one of them.

“Firstly, what is your name sir?” Asked David in his most professional voice.
“Pardon.” Replied John.
“I said what’s your name.”
“I know, that is my name, John Pardon.”
“Oh I see,” said David, “I’m sorry about that confusion. You must get it all the time.”
“If I were I wouldn’t be coming to see a marriage councillor would I!” Chuckled John.
“You see, he’s always making jokes!” Argued Eliza.
“That’s no way to talk about your only son.” John joked again.
“Can’t you do something doc.” Begged Eliza.

David Beige sat and looked at them both. He was sizing them up. John, he reckoned, was about 6 foot something. Eliza was noticeably shorter. David knew what the problem was. He always did, that’s why they paid him so much. But rather than cut the session short by revealing the problem (and its solution) straight away, he allowed them to bicker and argue for another 29 minutes. Finally, he called them to attention.

“Now look here you two.” he said, “I’ve been in this business a long time and I’ve never seen a couple as irritating as you pair.”
John and Eliza were stunned by his honesty, but they let him continue. He must know what he’s talking about, they thought, or why would he be so highly revered?
“I can see what the problem is.” David continued, “You’re both afraid. Eliza, you’re afraid that John is too good for you, so you assume he might be cheating on you with another woman. John, you’re afraid of Eliza, and I don’t blame you because she’s bloody crazy. What you both need to do is confront your fears. You need to tell each other what you are feeling, do a bit of role play, have a nice candlelit lunch together and get everything off your chest. If you do, you’ll feel much better.”

John and Eliza Pardon sat in the red chairs, amazed at David Beige’s analysis.

“Rubbish!” shouted John.
“Poppycock!” shouted Eliza.
“Twaddle!” shouted the receptionist outside.

“I’m not afraid.” said John.
“I’m not scary.” said Eliza.
“I’m not really a receptionist.” said the receptionist.

It was now David’s turn to be stunned. His words of wisdom had never failed him before. Why were the couple acting like this? He feared for his water feature. The couple further ridiculed David’s methods, before getting up and leaving. David didn’t know what to do. He sat, staring at his hands, wondering what had gone wrong. He questioned his abilities and whether he should even be in the business of marriage guidance counselling.

On the bus, John turned to Eliza.
“That was fun.” he said.
“Yes,” she agreed, “Whose time shall we waste tomorrow?”