Last Tuesday, my husband and I began couples counselling, almost 3 months after I discovered his affair.
Neither of us knew what to expect but our therapist put us at ease as she began asking family tree questions to work out where we were coming from. Children, parents, siblings…it seemed like we were never going to get passed this very elementary information. And at $220 AN HOUR ($360 for a 1.5hrs couples session), I wasn’t keen to dwell on this. I came here for guidance, woman! Reassurance. Hope. Something!
On and on we went filling in names and relationships until finally we’d finished.
Then she asked my husband what had brought him to couples counselling.
Was he trying to come up with a delicate way of saying “I cheated on my wife”?
The silence was deafening. And then he spoke.
He said there were two reasons he was in her office. The first was inappropriate sexual conversations he’d had online about a year earlier. And the second was that he’d cheated on me.
Just hearing him say it made the tears start rolling down my face uncontrollably.
My. Husband. Cheated. On. Me.
I write those words, I read those words, I SAY those words and none of it makes sense. Did my husband really cheat on me? Cheat. On. Me.
Yes, I just heard HIM say it to our therapist.
The therapist listened and she turned to ask me if I would use those words to describe what he did. I nodded. It’s too painful for me to think along the lines of “he had an affair”, or “he fucked around”, or “he betrayed me and his children”. So, “he cheated on me”, it is.
The therapist made us turn to face each other and we did the next part of the session with him looking at me. I couldn’t stand to meet his gaze.
The therapist asked him if there was anything he’d like to apologise for.
He said a few things, but the one that sticks in my mind was this: “I’m sorry for causing what may be irreparable damage to our marriage.”
Irreparable damage. The phrase still rings in my ears.
I couldn’t speak.
The therapist asked how long I was going to punish him for. I had no answer, but in my head I was screaming “FOREVER! I WILL PUNISH HIM UNTIL THE DAY I TAKE MY LAST BREATH. I WILL PUNISH HIM UNTIL HE UNDERSTANDS HE BROKE MY FUCKING HEART. I WILL PUNISH HIM UNTIL HE UNDERSTANDS OUR RELATIONSHIP WILL NEVER BE THE SAME. I WILL PUNISH HIM UNTIL HE UNDERSTAND HIS ACTIONS HAVE PERHAPS TORN OUR FAMILY APART.”
“I don’t know,” I mumbled.
The therapist tapped her head. “You do too much thinking up here,” she said.
Well, THAT much I know!
She turned to my husband and told him that he better get used to apologising. A LOT. Several times a day, if necessary. And if I ‘shut down’ and he didn’t know how to get through to me, he should come up to me and apologise. Over and over, until I got sick of hearing it.
The rest of the session is a blur. As the session was coming to a close, our therapist made a startling observation. She looked at me and she said: “He loves you, you know.” I looked back at her with what obviously must have been a stunned look on my face. She went on: “He does.” And she nodded her head.
And then a little more hope. “I think you guys have enough glue there to make this marriage work,” she said. “And your marriage will be stronger, better.”
Hope. It was the reason I came. And I got it.
Until the next session…