A Promiscuous Husband

As I had so many clients to see today, I had scheduled an early start and at 9.30am, my

first client arrived. I had seen this client last week for an initial assessment with his wife

and he was returning this week for an individual session to explore his emotional

attachments and promiscuous behaviour with other women.

Meeting women

After he had arrived and we had discussed the boundary issues again, I asked him about

where he would like to start. He said that his wife was now wanting a divorce after finding

further evidence of his behaviour over the weekend.

He went on to explain that he had been messaging and meeting women on an internet

dating site for the past few years and had been having sexual relationships with most of


I asked him why he felt the need to behave in this way and he said that he wasn't able to

help himself and that he 'just enjoyed having sex with women'.

During the discussion, he made constant eye contact and several flirtatious comments to

me. I asked him whether he felt it was appropriate to make these comments and whether

he would act in this way if I were a male counsellor. He replied again that he couldn’t help

himself and that 'it came naturally'.

Defence mechanism

I was beginning to feel as if he wasn't taking the counselling seriously and engaging with

the therapy and I was interested to understand if this was a defence mechanism that he

employed in order to avoid talking about emotional issues.

After a while, he began to talk about his feelings towards women and as we talked, he

described how he felt that all women would leave and that relationships were temporary. I

asked him about this further and during the conversation, he disclosed that his mother had

left the family when he was a child and that this had had a profound effect on him.

His father had gone on to have numerous girlfriends, with each relationship ending when

his father's promiscuous behaviour had been discovered by his partner.

Although this client had been married for over ten years to his wife who had never given

him reason to believe she would leave him, he was engaging in behaviour that was

destroying their relationship and would cause the breakdown of the marriage. In wanting

to protect himself from the pain of someone close leaving him, he was engaging in

destructive behaviour to engineer a self-fulfilling prophecy and emulating his father's

behaviour in doing so.

Health scare

Further discussion revealed that his behaviour had begun following his wife's health scare

seven years previously. She had been diagnosed with cancer of the cervix and although

treatment had been completely successful, this had been an extremely upsetting time for

them both. When he had believed that his wife might leave him through illness and death,

he had resorted to protecting himself emotionally and behaving in the way his father had

done years before.

The client said that he found the session enlightening and it was good to see him connect

with his emotions and engage with the counselling. It is only by understanding what has

shaped us as people and what causes us to behave in a certain way that we can then start to make changes in the present.

The client had been very brave in talking about these issues and looking at his own

behaviour in this way.

Future appointments

After the session, he agreed to further appointments starting the following week and

thanked me for not judging him.

I was surprised by today's session as on first meeting this man, I was a more than a little

sceptical about his motives for attending counselling sessions. By remaining non-judgemental and working from the client's point of reference, even though his behaviour

was not something that I would personally agree with, we achieved some good work today

and this session has taught me that as a counsellor, you never stop learning how powerful

empathy and unconditional positive regard is in therapy.


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