Tara and William have been married for 12 years. They met while attending graduate school in Detroit, Michigan. They both secured excellent employment in Detroit and decided to remain in the area. Tara was an account executive and William was a certified public accountant. The couple had one son who was eight years-old.
The couple contacted my office to schedule an appointment to address a martial issue. William and Tara arrived in a timely manner and were very polite. The couple was escorted to my private office where William began to share their concerns with me.
William stated that he found out that Tara was having an emotional affair with a man she met on a dating site. William asked his wife ” Why were you on a dating site in the first place?”
Crossing the Line
Tara sat there in shock because she had no idea that William knew she was on the site. William shared in the session that a client for whom he was preparing taxes showed him the site. He told William that he had met a wonderful woman and had been talking to her for five months. They had not be physical but he was anticipating them crossing that line.
William never told his client that the woman in his pictures was his own wife. Nor did William even let on that anything was wrong. He finished the taxes, left his office and sat in his car crying and trying to pray.
Tara and William were both Christians and faithful followers of Christ. William would have never suspected that his wife could do this because of their love for God and for one another.
Tip of the Ice Burg
During the session Tara was asked to take down her profile page from the dating site, but she was not just on that site, she revealed she was on four other sites. William lowered his head and cried.
Tara tried to extend herself to him but William stood up to pull himself together and stood there looking at her with so much hurt. He finally returned to his seat, but could barely control his emotions. William stated that he felt Tara always had barriers between them and he felt her lack of commitment within their relationship. However, he focused on caring and loving for her hoping that his concerns would soon pass.
Tara shared that her father was an emotional cheater. When her mother found out, she decided to remain in the marriage though it caused such pain. She didn’t want to separate her family. Therefore, she tolerated his behavior for 45 years, praying for his life to change. He finally gave his life to Christ, Tara said. “My mother’s prayers were answered,” she said, and my parents are still married and doing well.”
William asked Tara “Why didn’t you ever tell me about your father?” Tara explained she was ashamed and it was their past hurt and now this negative behavior had become her present situation. She apologized to William and promised him that she would never do anything to undermine God’s will for their marriage again. William told her he didn’t trust her and needed more time and counseling.
Tara’s family origin and her father’s negative behavior had transferred to her development, and her pattern of thinking. It made a lasting impression on her life, and led her to experiment with his former lifestyle.
I explained to the couple that Tara may be experiencing Attachment Disorder in her life. Attachment Disorder is defined as the condition in which individuals have difficulty forming lasting relationships. They often show nearly a complete lack of ability to be genuinely affectionate with others. They typically fail to develop a conscience and do not learn to trust.
An emotional affair is sometimes referred to as an affair of the heart. An emotional affair may emerge from a friendship and progress toward greater levels of personal intimacy and attachment. What distinguishes an emotional affair from a friendship is the assumption of emotional roles between the two participants that mimic of those of an actual relationship – with regards to confiding personal information, and turning to the other person during moments of vulnerability or need.
Four main styles of attachment have been identified in adults:
Tara exhibits all four attachment styles. She feels secure within her relationship with William, but feels overwhelmed and anxious if he becomes to close to her. Unfortunately, she avoided and dismissed her husband’s concerns about her behavior when he confronted her, and therefore would become fearful and avoid him. She seeks other attention from other men from whom she is already detached. As long as she is not committed she feels safe within her own space. As the therapist it is important that the treatment plan address attachment disorder, trust, rebuilding the levels of communication with God and with one another.
Being the Bigger Person
Before the session concluded, William shared that he understands what his wife was going through. He reminded Tara that when he was a child, his mother was unfaithful to his father. But, William said, he wanted to be a man that would hold his relationship with God and his family in high regards.
He turned to Tara and said “Just a reminder that I personally choose not to entertain or consider any female offers, invitations, or wallow in flirtatious or ego-stroking actions. I am confident and at peace with who I am, how God has wondrously and uniquely made me. [I am confident in] the joy and happiness that I can bring into your life, physically, emotionally and romantically. My life is what it is, hopefully to only get better. My heart, feelings and love is to you and you alone. I am totally committed in my efforts–and with God on my side–to winning your heart, your love, your trust, your attraction to me and your friendship. This is what I want to do, trusting the outcome to God. Love always finds a way. “He who finds a wife, he finds a good thing” (Proverbs 18:22).
William told Tara that he loved her and is willing to trust God and move forward. He looked her in her eyes, kissed her as she was crying and said, “I forgive you, now forgive yourself.”
Tara and William continue their counseling and Tara has not engaged with any outside interests and they both continue to hold themselves accountable to God and one another.