My Weird Fear Is Hurting My Marriage

I have a unique drinking problem. I won't share a glass of anything with my own wife. Swapping spit during a kiss presents no problem, since I am in love. Yet the champagne switch toast? Gross!

I didn't really understand my phobia until last year, when my sister -- who, unlike me, is not otherwise crazy -- explained that she won't share a glass with her husband, either. When we were toddlers, apparently, our stereotypically overprotective Jewish mother warned us how much sickness and death would result from this act of germ-spreading outlandishness.

And so, here we are, in our 40s and, ahem, not sick at all. (To be fair, Mom was merely a victim of her own dysfunctional upbringing. So I forgive her. However, that doesn't solve the problem.)


How I found the one woman on earth willing to put up with this nonsense is beyond me, but I did. Jo Ann constantly negotiates the tightrope between following a long list of rules to sidestep my triggers, and becoming a slave to both me and my Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. She will give me tons of shit, both privately and publicly. But she will eggshell it around my sensitive issues. Last month, I almost drank from her glass by accident. "No!" she screamed, as if saving me from some rational danger.

At Jo Ann's insistence, I'm in therapy. She attends most sessions -- both to get a better handle on my problems and because my memory is not good enough to recall all the times I piss her off. Marriage is like a tape recorder for everything the husband does and says wrong, with no erase function.

At least once during our monthly really bad fight, Jo Ann will express doubt about my progress. After three years of therapy, she wonders if I've plateaued. My shrink doesn't agree -- an opinion I would trust more if she didn't enjoy being paid on a regular basis. But I'm worried. Frankly, I have never seen the payday in our relationship for Jo Ann. As difficult as you might find this to believe, I am not a laugh a minute to live with.

So tonight, I prescribed myself a dose of what is known as exposure therapy. No longer would I be phobia's inmate. I waited for the woman I love to set her water glass down between bites of her Greek salad and prepared for a new life of freedom. My eyes closed as her glass approached my lips. I imagined sauntering down a city street, grabbing half-finished drinks of God-knows-what off vacated restaurant tables and downing them with mother-ignoring abandon.

I gulped and… Gross!

OK, well, baby steps.


Image via Juan Antonio Capo/Flickr

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