Anthony was unfaithful in his marriage. He initially said the affair went on for two years, and later told his second wife Diane that it went on for four years, which approached the number of years they were married. Diane was struggling emotionally with the betrayal and Anthony was baffled about how to get her past it. She would bring up questions frequently and whatever he said didn’t seem to satisfy her. He’d get so flustered that he would react negatively and defensively. At some point, they just dropped out of couples counseling.
Well, two years later they called to see me again. Their frustrations didn’t go away. Diane thought about the affair daily and Anthony didn’t have a clue how to remedy her distress. This time Anthony was more interested in helping Diane overcome the betrayal. His avoiding it and wishing it away was ineffective.
When Diane tried to understand the reason the affair occurred, Anthony could be dismissive and routinely defensive. He needed a model of how to respond differently. At this point, he didn’t have the skills, so I demonstrated how to be responsive. Diane had questions that needed to be answered and I modeled how to do so. Diane needed her pain to be acknowledged and I modeled how to do that as well. Anthony would defensively say he already said those things, but Diane and I knew he hadn’t done so adequately.
Eventually, Anthony caught on to what I was doing, now wanting to try it himself. Occasionally he would slip back to his old, ineffective ways, but at this point, I could coach him how to be more effective. He was now being responsive to her and Diane was finally feeling heard.
In fact, she distinctly remembered the mile marker on the highway when she first learned about the affair, and always noticed it. Now she reported passing it and realizing it after the fact. Anthony’s newfound skills created healing for Diane—trust was being restored.