Trying to Be a Better Man

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Question

Dear Patrick: I was unfaithful to my wife. It was a stupid affair that I deeply regret. My wife suggested that we go to marriage counseling. I was relieved and happy to do anything to salvage my marriage. A friend of hers recommended somebody, and we have been seeing this woman for a couple of months.

            The problem is that I think the marriage counselor is trying to seduce me. She seems a lot more interested in my motivation for having an affair than she is in how my wife feels about me now. When we try to ask what we can do to forgive each other and move on, she is awfully vague. My wife felt very uncomfortable when the marriage counselor suggested that I start meeting with her one-on-one.

            The last straw is that this woman has sent me some photographs of herself. Some of them are suggestive. I did not ask for this material, and I deleted it at once. I would like to see somebody else, but I am afraid my wife will blow up if I tell her what is going on. Since this woman is a friend of one of her friends, I don’t know if she will doubt my word.

            Help!

 

Answer

Okay. This is what you say to your wife. “Honey, you know that I got into trouble a while ago. I did something that really hurt you. I hope you will believe me when I tell you that I would do anything to take it back. I know that one of the mistakes I made was to stop talking to you. I was having issues and I tried to deal with them on my own. I don’t want to make that mistake again so I need to tell you about something that has happened even though I am afraid it may undo all the progress we have made.” Then tell her about the photographs. Ask her if you can see somebody else.

            The fact is that your wife was right to be nervous when the marriage counselor suggested one-on-one meetings. If she believed that you needed individual therapy, she should have referred you to somebody else. Couples counseling can be damaged when the therapist has two different clients—a couple and an individual—who may need different things. Having separate therapists for individual and relationship counseling is usually the best solution for everybody.

            Sending you any kind of personal information, much less a photograph, is a breach of professional ethics that could cost your therapist her license. If you chose to file a complaint against her with the licensing board in your area, she would at the very least receive a reprimand. She might be forced to take classes in professional ethics or be placed under the supervision of another counselor.

            If you ignore her behavior, she will assume that her advances are welcome. Sadly, there are people who become therapists despite the fact that they are unable to follow the boundaries that keep their clients safe and guarantee that the therapy will be even-handed. Someone who is attracted to one member of a couple will not be fair to both parties, nor will they be objective. I hope your wife can see that you are doing the right thing. I doubt she will object to seeing somebody else.