This article summarizes the initial stage of an Online Marriage Counseling process.
Recently I was contacted by N. that told me she had been in what she thought was a great marriage for several years. During those years her husband regularly spent usually 3 nights out every week that were “work related”. Eventually after several years N. grew suspicious of this behavior but was never able to catch him doing anything herself. Finally N. hired an investigator to follow him. The findings were that he would drive around all night and talk to many different women.
N. confronted her husband about his behavior and he confessed “I had been an exhibitionist for 20 years.” N. was shocked by her husband’s revelation. She decided to stay in her marriage until she recently felt like she had done everything she could to try to hold it together.
During the year since she confronted her husband they had tried very hard, together in the beginning, to make it work; they had attended local Marriage Counseling. However, after a few counseling sessions and support meetings her husband had quit going to the counseling session. “Dealing only with my problem cured me”, he said. Since the end of their Marriage Counseling sessions together there had been a few very suspicious occasions. The husband of course denied anything happened each time.
In a state of despair N. came to me and advised me: “I feel like he is a pervert.” This was eventually followed by her question: “Am I crazy to consider trying to go on with him at this point? Everyone in my life seems to think so”.
As a Psychologist I started thinking objectively. “What are the real issues occurring here?” N. of course was agitated and feeling despair about the whole situation but what was the underlying cause for it all. After a little more counseling time with N. it became obvious to me that the biggest issue for HER was the issue of trust. It seemed she felt she couldn’t truly trust her partner anymore. Trust is of course key in any relationship. But what was HIS issue?
It is my habit to finalize the initial Online Marriage Counseling session with a clear expression of my opinion at this particular time: it seems to me that his behavior is more of a Marriage issue than a Sexual deviant counseling topic. I further explained that what they really both needed was renewed Marriage Counseling; not just individual sex counseling for him. Actually, by keeping his behavior hidden, I suggested, he tried to save your marriage… Could it be that your husband did not trust you as a good listener for his relationship, erotic and sexual needs? This was indeed a suggestion and a way of understanding the issue that she never took it as worthwhile to consider.
The other theme that I advised to look at was the ‘motivation factor’: you need to let HIM make the effort of trying to rebuild the relationship, by dealing with his needs and sexual aspirations with you, I suggested. Either he agrees to start intensive and serious marriage counseling - or send him out of this marriage. I advised N. that she should not be the one putting forth all the effort.
The last issue in our initial session was the reservations due to the past attempt to solve the difficulty. They have tried Marriage Counseling in the past. I therefore explained that the previous effort went to a wrong direction – HIS deviance, and not THEIR relationships, communication and sexuality. That is why, I said, Marriage Counseling processes could be beneficial.