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Coming to Terms with an Affair

This client, a 28 year old woman, was attending for her first session following her

assessment last week. She had sought counselling after discovering that her husband had

been having a relationship with his secretary. The client is seven months pregnant with her

fourth child and was feeling overwhelmed by her emotions and feelings about the

discovery.


A bad week


She arrived on time and as she sat down, she began to cry and said that she was having an

awful week. I commented that she looked very upset and asked her what had been

happening since our last meeting.

The client went on to speak about her husband and how she suspected that he had not

ended the relationship with his secretary, even though he had told her this was the case.

She said that since she had found out about his affair, he had been attentive and had

brought her flowers and a diamond necklace, but that she felt this was to divert her

attention away from his behavior and not a heartfelt apology.


How they met


I asked the client about how she had met her husband and she began to speak about the

relationship.

She described meeting him in a bar. Although he was a lot older than her (he is now 53),

she found him very attractive and was impressed by his confidence and apparent wealth.

She spoke about being seduced by the lifestyle he led and was flattered when he pursued

her and showered her with expensive gifts and weekends away. They had been together for

four months when he proposed to her and she had accepted.


After a short engagement, they had married in a lavish hotel and had enjoyed a

honeymoon in the Maldives. She had given up her rented house and had moved in with

him to his large home where he had continued to be attentive and loving. At his request,

she had given up her job as a legal secretary and had busied herself with home making.


The relationship changed


Within a year, she had had her first baby which they were both delighted about. She said

that she felt it was at this point that their relationship had started to change.

As the years had gone by, she had had more children and felt that she was being pushed

into a stereotypical role of wife and mother while he worked longer and longer hours and

continued to party at the weekends. Each time she had tried to discuss the subject, he had

been dismissive of her views and had brought her expensive gifts instead.

This pattern had continued, with her husband becoming more and more dismissive of her

requests to address the situation as each year passed.


Children


I asked her when it was that she began to feel that the relationship had started to change

and she felt that as soon as she was married to him, he had viewed her as his property and

not as an equal and that it had all gone down hill from there.

I was curious to understand why she had allowed herself to become pregnant if she felt this

way and she explained about how she felt it might bring them closer together as a couple

and that each time she had felt the relationship was at breaking point, she would become

pregnant to avoid divorce and try to rekindle his love for her.

As she talked, it became apparent that they had never had an honest conversation about

their feelings, boundaries and wishes within the relationship, either before they married or

since. She had gone along with his wishes, being swept up in the glamorous lifestyle and

had discounted her emotional needs.


Her counselling goals


I asked her what she wanted the counselling to do, what her goals were and where,

emotionally, she wanted to get to. Although I am sure of the direction I would take if I were

in her position, it is not for me to suggest courses of action as I am not her and don't have

her experiences and feelings. I ask the client what it is that they want and can then work

with them to achieve their goals rather than goals that I think they should be aiming for.


The client said she wanted to make her husband stop his affair and treat her the way that

she felt she should be treated. Essentially, she wanted her husband to love her.

Quite an understandable wish in her situation, however, my counselling her cannot make

her husband behave in a certain way. I can work with the client to build her self esteem and

communication so that she can address the situation more confidently. I can also provide a

safe and secure place for her to speak about her feelings and emotions, providing support. I

explained this to her, and she started to cry again.


She said she had realized, in that moment, the enormity of the situation and that

unconsciously, she had thought that if she sought counselling, that it might make it all

okay again. Now she was facing the situation, she was scared as she knew that deep down,

her marriage was over unless she was prepared to turn a blind eye to her husband's affair.


Her self esteem had plummeted over the years as she had become ever increasingly

dependent on her husband not just for financial support but also for validation of her self.

Without this, her future looked bleak.


The end of our session for today was approaching and I asked her if she felt that she was

able to drive home or whether she needed a drink of water and a minute to gather herself

together. She accepted the water and regained her composure.


The client asked if I would be able to see her the following day as she felt that she really

needed to talk some more. Normally I see clients on a weekly basis but in extreme cases, I

can provide more frequent sessions if it is in the client's best interests. As I had a free

appointment time the following morning, I agreed to see her again to continue with our

discussion.

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