TEMPE, AZ—Area couple Tom and Becky Witthauser credited the successful resolution of their ongoing marital conflicts to their mutual hatred of their marriage counselor Monday, describing him as the "jag-off whose prissy, ineffectual demeanor brought us closer than we've been in years."
The Witthausers, married eight years, began visiting Dr. Roger Verbicki, 42, a psychologist and accredited couples counselor, in May after months of strife threatened to end their union. Holding hands and gazing lovingly at each other, they described their first fateful meeting with "the insufferable" Verbicki.
"At the time, we could barely make eye contact," Tom said. "But about halfway through the first session, we started casting these sideways glances, because we just hated this guy. We could both feel it."
"After our first session, I told Becky, 'That guy is so unlikeable, like the way he asked us to call him Dr. Roger,'" Tom said.
"And I said, I hated him too!" Becky said, finishing Tom's sentence. "He was such a putz, like he's Dr. Phil or something. Our buddy. Gonna help us through this. What a loser."
The Witthausers said they can barely maintain their composure during their weekly meetings, due to Verbicki's various mannerisms and affectations. His nasal voice, sallow complexion, stained teeth, elbow-patched corduroy blazers, and affinity for herbal tea are among the traits cited by the Witthausers. Singled out for particular ridicule was Verbicki's tendency to rest his face against his thumb and index finger, and scratch his lower lip.
"I just want to beat the guy up," Tom said.
"And I've really learned to appreciate Tom for that," Becky said.
Tom demonstrated his imitation of Dr. Verbicki, which Becky described as "adorably mean."
"Well, if done in the proper manner, I think it would be very beneficial," said Tom, lampooning Verbicki's frequent use of the phrase "if done in the proper manner" and mispronunciation of the word "beneficial."
The couple laughed and embraced each other.
The Witthausers reported that they started communicating with each other soon after their therapy sessions began, if only to express their revulsion toward their counselor. By spending time together to complain about Verbicki's habits, the couple's romance was rekindled.
"We spent hours walking beside the lake, or drinking wine and listening to music, holding hands, and complaining about the way Dr. Roger's mouth hangs open, or how he taps his knees every time he gets up out of his chair," Becky said, adding that the mutual sentiments helped the couple realize how much they still enjoyed each other's company and how indispensable they were to each other.
"I can't imagine trashing Dr. Roger with any other person, really," Tom said.