Donna came to me deciding whether to continue her marriage. She was very unhappy the last few years and suspected that her husband Chris was having an affair. Another woman was secretly emailing him and Chris would occasionally call out another women’s name when he was talking in his sleep. Donna felt Chris would never change and decided she would leave.

The next session Chris was unexpectedly in the waiting room with Donna. He was distraught about Donna’s desire for a divorce and insisted that they work on the marriage in marriage counseling.

When Donna brought up the infidelity issue in the session, Chris was initially defensive and minimized the issues. Donna didn’t feel heard and Chris’ reaction appeared as if he had something to hide.

Rather than respond defensively, I asked Chris to share his story. He acknowledged that he knew this woman musician who he saw when he would go out and play music. He never really talked to her besides saying hi. Somehow she got his email, and she would email jokes to a group of people, which now included Chris.

He didn’t have an explanation for calling out a woman’s name in his sleep, but talked about how shy he was in high school, generally afraid to talk to girls. I could hear the pain in his voice that Donna would even think that he was capable of having an affair.

Chris initially appeared to be having an affair due to his poor response style. When he learned to become more effective in his communication style, his innocence became more apparent.