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Navy wife finds a new man-nequin

With husband serving overseas, woman finds a unique way to fill the void
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One Navy wife wasn't quite sure how she'd pass the time while her real husband is serving overseas, so she acquired a stand-in, look alike mannequin.

"I was surfing eBay.  And I saw a sailor for sale one day.  He was used for a photo shoot in Washington.  And I was the high bidder," said Suzy Walker, the woman who carries around a wooden version of her husband. "It helps me pass the time while he's gone and knowing that I'm making him a photo album so he really know where I've been, it gives me a good feeling." 

On Tuesday, Walker joined MSNBC's Rita Cosby on her 'Live and Direct' program to further discuss her fill-in husband. Cosby also talked with psychologist Bethany Marshall about the relationship.

To read an excerpt of the conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the video, continue to the text below.

RITA COSBY:  Our next guest has a unique relationship.  Her husband never talks back and she calls all the shots.  It sounds pretty good to me.  And she says he's quite a doll. 
... You nicknamed him B.D., right, like Boy David? 

SUZY WALKER:  Yes, I did. 

COSBY:  Where did you get the nickname from?  How did you come up with that nickname, Suzy? 

WALKER:  I reversed my husband.  His initials are D.B., so I just reversed his initials. 

COSBY:  Now, why did you do this?  Why did you come up with this idea of the mannequin? 

WALKER:  Because ... (we) we're recently married.  And he felt bad that he was leaving me behind.  And he was wondering what I was going to do while he was gone.  So I was just on eBay.  And my mind started to go when I saw the sailor. 

COSBY:  Now, you were saying earlier, we saw that you got the highest bid.  How much did you have to pay for him?  And why did you think to even look on eBay and look for this? 

WALKER:  I'm making a Navy room.  My husband's been in the Navy for 23 years.  So, once in awhile, I surf eBay for Navy things and memorabilia, and the sailor just happened to pop up.  So I thought, "What a great idea." 

COSBY:  And how much was he?  How much was the sailor when you bought him? 

WALKER:  He was $200. 

COSBY:  Now, where does he sleep?  We saw some pictures.  I see you're holding hands with him.  Looks like a very romantic moment here. ... Where does he stay?  I saw some pictures of him sleeping in the bed with you.  Do you bring him with you, spend time with him everywhere? 

WALKER:  No.  I do spend a lot of time with him, just like it is my husband, because it reminds me of him, but he sleeps on the couch.  I live alone, so I want people to think that I'm here.  But I only slept with him one night. 

COSBY:  What's the funniest thing that's happened to him?  Because we see that you've taken him out shopping.  Someone said that you also took him out to the movies, is that right? 

WALKER:  We frequently go to the movies.  I think the biggest is I took him to do my Christmas shopping.  So I took him to all the stores that I wanted to go to. 

COSBY:  And what's the reaction from other people, like people at the stores?  What do they say to you?  And do they stare at you? 

WALKER:  They do.  They come up-most of the people come up and ask me.  The elderly and the vets, they just want to talk and talk and talk.  They absolutely love the idea. 

COSBY:  Do you think that this is a healthy way to celebrate your husband's departure, his void at this point? 

WALKER:  I do for myself.  And I think, once my husband sees the album that I'm making him, he's going to feel so good to know that I cared enough to show him what I've been doing, because we're keeping a journal for each other while he's gone. 

COSBY:  And what does your husband think about the whole thing?  ...

WALKER:  I haven't really discussed it with him.  It was in the newspaper.  And the crew sent it to him.  So he found out through the other sailors on base. 

COSBY:  All right.  Well, Suzy Walker, we thank you very much.  And thank B.D., also, if you could for being with us there by your side.  Thank you very much.  ...

Well, this may not be, of course, the most conventional way of coping with missing a loved one, but is it at least a suitable way to deal with the separation from someone that you love so much.

.... Bethany, what's your reaction to Suzy and B.D.? 

BETHANY MARSHALL, PSYCHOANALYST:  Well, here's my reaction:  I think that the loss of her husband going overseas felt catastrophic for her and that she confused temporary separation with a permanent loss.  And I would imagine, if you look back over her life, that perhaps there was another loss or series of losses that was traumatic for her. 

So what she did was she found a love substitute, OK?  And she has found a love substitute that's in her husband's likeness, and she invests all of her love energy in the love substitute. 

And the interesting thing about this love substitute is that it won't hurt her as she has felt hurt by her husband with him going, you know, overseas.  It's interesting because, in my mind, this is very regressed child-like behavior with very small kids when they go off to school for the first time.  They can't handle being separate from their mommies.  So usually the parents sends a memento, a picture in the likeness of the parents, right? 

COSBY:  So, Bethany, are you suggesting that she ditch the mannequin, that she ditch B.D.? 

MARSHALL:  She may not be able to.  I mean, if this is her coping mechanism, it may be useful.  What concerns me is that I saw her on another show earlier today where her husband came in over a phone line and she seemed quite confused and unsure how to relate to him, that she was more related to and interested in the mannequin than her husband.  And this is what I see in clinical practice when people find love substitutes...

COSBY:  Oh, that's interesting.  Do you think, Bethany, that she's going to have a problem when her husband actually gets back? 

MARSHALL:  Yes, I do.  I think what's going to happen is she's going to have a period where she has a very difficult time attaching to him.  She's going to have stranger anxiety, like little kids have. 

And eventually, she'll warm back up to him and then she'll reattach, but she needs to work on issues of separation and loss because, you know, one of the tasks of adulthood is that we learn to be separate from the ones we love and hold onto the idea of being loved, even when separated from loved ones. 

COSBY:  So, Bethany, what do you suggest for her now? 

MARSHALL:  Well, I think she's doing a really good thing in that her neighbor goes with her and they take the mannequin shopping.  It would be nice if she ditched the love substitute at some point and then attach to neighbors and family and friends. 

The reason I think she needs the love substitute is she feels, as I said earlier, traumatized by what she perceives to be a catastrophic loss with her husband going overseas, so human relationships feel scary and frightening.  Why a mannequin...

COSBY:  You know, Bethany, what do you suggest to folks, who are going through, on a serious note, too, because, there are so many... I just came back from Afghanistan. 


COSBY:  And you see so many of these young men and women away from their loved ones, especially as we go into the holiday season.  What do you say?  What advice do you give to folks who are going through some of that separation anxiety? 

MARSHALL:  I think that they have to remember that they're loved even when outside the presence of the one who loves them.  They have to hold onto the idea of being loved. 

And they need to pick substitutes that point towards the real relationship.  Put a picture on the refrigerator of your husband, OK?  Maybe wear a favorite t-shirt of his to bed.  Spend time with his family. 

Do something that's more oriented to the real relationship. 

Watch 'Rita Cosby Live & Direct' each night at 9 p.m. ET on MSNBC.