The relationship triangle of Pusscat, Tiger and Paul
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Charlotte Thomas, BACP Accredited Counsellor/Psychotherapist & Supervisor
4th March, 2013
If you are one of almost 5 million people who listen to the Archers (BBC Radio 4) you will be familiar with the current storyline involving ‘Pusscat’ (Lilian), ‘Tiger’ (Matt) and Paul.
‘Tiger’ has been carrying on as normal: doing dodgy deals, ‘sailing close to the wind’, and taking risks to get what he wants. But, these qualities, even though they are the ones that first attracted Pusscat to Tiger, are now the ones that are driving her away. She needs support, attention and respect and she finds this in her relationship with Paul, Matt’s half-brother.
But, whilst Lilian enjoys her time with Paul, she feels uncomfortable with what she is doing and she is also worried that Tiger will find out. She has come to counselling because she realises that she needs some help to fully understand her feelings and to resolve the situation. This is an account of Lilian’s first session with her Counsellor.
Lilian bursts in, laughing nervously and, as she takes in the scene, she says:
‘I’ve done plenty of retail therapy in my time darling, but this is a bit of a first for me!’
She looks at the counsellor briefly and then her eyes scan the bookshelves that line the room and the black leather sofas that have been arranged ready for the session. The sofas are opposite each other, but not quite square-on; the sharp angles avoided in order to dispel the idea of anything too direct.
Lilian’s eyes return to the counsellor who invites her, with what is intended to be an inclusive cupped gesture of the hand, to take a seat on the sofa that is reserved for clients.
‘So,’ says the therapist, ‘you have not had counselling before?’
Lilian chuckles again, this time a deep, earthy, more confident laugh, and says:
‘….never had to darling, I usually get through it with a couple of stiff G&Ts and a ticking off from Jenny; Jenny is my sister..’ she pauses and adds in a more serious voice ‘…but not this time darling, I need a bit of help with this one.’
She has quickly dropped the rather superficial façade and is straight down to ‘business’, bringing the counsellor ‘up to speed’ with her situation.
Lilian’s expression is thoughtful and questioning, as if she is sorting through a heavy case-file of life events looking for an entry point. ‘Where to start' she mutters before taking a deep breath and beginning:
‘I have had an eventful life; been married and widowed twice and I have a son; James, who lives in London. I came back to Ambridge from Guernsey… oooh… must be about 12 years ago now, and then I met my ‘Tiger’ – he is both my romantic and business partner, Matt, Matt Crawford’.
‘Matt and I have been through some difficult times,’ she continues, ‘but I have stuck with him, even when he was in prison’ she ended the sentence in an exaggerated whisper, ‘paying his debt to society darling, for his dodgy business dealings’.
‘Anyway,’ she continues returning to full volume again ’that is another story, but you see darling, it was when he was in prison that I met Paul, Matt’s half-brother and, well, we are seeing each other, if you know what I mean, and it is all getting rather tricky.’
Lilian pauses for breath and then looks straight at the counsellor as if searching for some answers and says:
‘Paul makes me feel so special you see, and Matt, he is just Matt and sometimes I don’t know who he is and why I’m with him. But we have just put so much money into a new exciting property venture…… Of course Jenny thinks it’s far too risky but she has never liked Matt; but I know she is worried for me and I don’t know what to think anymore….. So you see, I have got myself into a real mess and I don’t know what to do…’
She stops and, taking a deep breath, she reaches for her bag and pulls out a folded tissue. This gives the counsellor an opportunity to show how carefully she has been listening by reflecting back what she has heard, including Lilian's obvious distress and anxiety. The counsellor reassures Lilian and says that she is here to help her untangle her thoughts and feelings and give her support. She says that she will not make judgments and adds that, in her experience, people often make these choices because some important need is not being met in their current relationship.
This immediately reassures Lilian and she is ready to engage again:
‘But you see darling, I am 65 years old and should be way beyond this. But I am not, and here I am behaving like a teenager and lying to Matt. I don’t like lying to Matt and I’m not very good at it and sometimes I think he has already guessed what is going on. Matt is not stupid and always gets what he wants – he will not be taken for a fool! I suppose that’s why I fell for him in the first place.’
A nostalgic smile appears on Lilian’s face as she goes on to describe what first attracted her to ‘Tiger’ and those early days when most of the residents of Ambridge had dismissed him as something of a rogue and a bully.
‘I think that was it’ continues Lilian, ‘I loved the way he let nothing stand in his way, didn't care what people thought and how proud he was of his success in life.'
Lilian continues to share her thoughts until the counsellor says that they are are coming to the end of their first session.
Lilian says: 'It is so great to be able to talk freely without feeling criticised or judged for once. If I talk to Jenny she will just lecture me, tell me what to do and how she never liked Matt in the first place...But this is different and it is just what I need right now. So...I'll see you again next week then darling.'
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