They walked in drenched to the bone, and apologized for being a half hour late for their appointment. In fact, they were twenty-four-and-a-half hours late; somehow they'd misunderstood or forgotten that our appointment had been scheduled for the day before, a fine, sunny, storm-free day. So here they stood, dripping and breathless from their sprint through the violent thunder storm. And, luckily for all of us, my scheduled appointments for that afternoon had cancelled.

A few minutes to catch their breath, and then they began to talk. Or, rather, she began to speak while he incessantly interrupted to correct her. About everything. They'd married less than a year ago; a meticulously arranged wedding celebration followed seven months of story-book courtship.

Not exactly, he said, the wedding was actually terribly arranged, nothing worked out as planned. OK, she said, that's not the point now.

He'd just landed a very comfortable position with an up-and-coming architectural firm; she was just entering graduate school to pursue a degree in nutrition. Only because he insisted that she continue her schooling, he interjected. Yes, she sighed.

They clicked at their very first meeting at a mutual friend's Shabbat table, and from the first they both knew this would be no casual friendship. Wait one minute, he insisted. From the very beginning I had a feeling there'd be trouble. She looked at him, and continued. They'd discussed everything; disagreed on was a match made in Heaven. Hell, I heard him mutter.

At this point I suggested that they toss a coin to determine who gets to speak without being interrupted. No, he said, let her speak since it was her idea that we come to see you. And he retreated. Quite emphatically—he crossed his arms, slid down in his chair, with chin on chest, he closed his eyes. Go on, he said.

The wedding was magnificent, she continued. The week following was pure joy; they were giddy in each other's presence. And then off to work and school. And now her gaze downward, no longer meeting my own, she lowered her voice and described the decline in their happiness. At first he'd called her almost hourly, then gradually his calls decreased to sometimes just once a day until, at some point, he'd not call at all during the day. And while he'd come home straight from work, and they'd enjoy a long and leisurely dinner now he'd often come late, and eat quickly, citing job related obligations. Until, finally, here they were. On the brink of total collapse, this was their last ditch attempt to reclaim what they'd once had. Or so she said.

By now the hour had long passed, but I was reluctant to interrupt the flow, and having been freed by the storm of my other commitments, I encouraged him to continue in his own words.

Bursts of thunder, brilliant streaks of lightening and the lights went out. But it wasn't so dark that I couldn't find the candles, and by the light of my Shabbat candelabra, he talked.

Ok, he allowed, we were great together. For the times it wasn't about her mother, it was great.

Her mother? First I hear about her mother; what has she to do with this? And slowly, painfully, it emerges. Her mother, confined to a psychiatric facility for the last fifteen years, had shown up at the wedding. Each, fearful of the other's rejection, had rejected proactively. And suddenly the bride, so composed and poised and deeply happy was thrown into a panic. For all the planning, this was to react? What role did her mother play? Did the rabbi know? Would her mother now have to be the one to walk her to the chuppah? Through the jumble of emotions, it had all somehow worked out, but something had been shattered. By the time the band was packing up, her mother had disappeared again, leaving the daughter confused and off-balance.

But she recovered, the next few weeks were wonderful, until the phone call from her mother. Let's meet for lunch while he's at work. And so it was, the appearance and disappearance of a woman she'd never known except for some difficult childhood memories. He kept telling her this wasn't healthy; she kept saying, it's my mother. So she'd avoid his phone calls so as not to lie about her afternoon plans with her mother. And he, sensing her withdrawal, battling hard any subtle suspicions, began to withdraw as well. It was a quiet, non-violent retreat of each from the other.

Deep breath for all of us, and then we talked about her need to find some way to define her relationship with her mother. We talked about how this exploration could be painful, and how valuable would be her husband's support, if not understanding. And we talked about her fear of losing him, mirrored by his own fear of losing his beloved wife. Each, fearful of the other's rejection, had rejected proactively.

The lights came back on, diminishing the glow of the candles. By now they looked exhausted, but a heaviness seemed lifted. We agreed to a plan for the next month. Recognizing her mother's precarious mental health, she would meet with her not more than one afternoon a week, for a clearly defined time frame—an hour, or two hours, to be very strictly adhered to. She would, as well, contact her own therapist, someone who'd helped her in the past, for guidance and support during this process. We talked about her need to build very strong boundaries in her relationships, and to recognize that of paramount importance was the home she was newly establishing with her husband. He agreed to be supportive. Although he would have preferred not to have had his life disrupted in this way, he acknowledged it was an important process for his wife. So the plan for meetings was constructed, a schedule set up for both calls during the day, and at least two full evenings devoted exclusively with each other.

His arms uncrossed and sitting straighter but comfortably now in his chair, he asked for a cup of tea.

The pounding of rain on the roof and windows had somewhat abated; together holding the shaft of an umbrella they ran, under its protection, to their car.