5 minute read
Session one: “He makes me feel alive and excited, but there’s so much at stake”
When we first met, Molly* was keener to know about my personal circumstances than my coaching qualifications, and I wondered what was important to her about this. She told me that knowing that I was not a ‘smug married’ (her words!) helped her feel confident that I would not judge her.
Molly had fallen in love with Dan,* a colleague. She was confused and scared but very excited. ‘It began as a friendship. We were collaborating on a project – working late and then grabbing something to eat. He’s funny and kind. I knew I was falling for him and now he has told me that he feels the same way, and we don’t know what to do. We’ve had a few secret meetings but it hasn’t gone any further yet.’
‘So, what’s the issue?’ I asked, suspecting I knew the answer.
‘He’s married and so am I.’ Molly put her head in her hands. ‘I feel alive with him, but I don’t know if it’s real or because we are both dissatisfied in our marriages. There is so much at stake, but I can’t stop thinking about him.’
I asked Molly what she was not getting in her marriage that this relationship was giving her. ‘Attention, conversation, connection and excitement,’ she replied.
I suggested to Molly that we should start by looking at what had led her to this point. She agreed not to make any rash decisions and to think about the following questions: Why did she and her husband get together in the first place? What did they love about each other? What has caused that to change over time?
Session two: Consider the pros and cons
Molly was more reflective. She’d started to weigh up the costs of having an affair. She read out a long list: ‘Dishonesty, lack of integrity, impact on partners, extended family and colleagues. Fallout and gossip if we get found out or if it doesn’t work out. Either way, one of us would have to leave and it would probably be me because Dan is more senior.’ She looked at me, a bit deflated.
Molly had talked to her husband about what had changed between them and she had learned that he was also feeling lonely and unappreciated. They were both ambitious and worked long hours to achieve financial security for their future. ‘But what if we don’t ever get to have that future? What if we are missing the point of life?’ Molly asked.
She talked about how the future would look with Dan, and saw that their relationship could also become stale and predictable. ‘How exciting would it be if I was washing Dan’s socks or listening to him snoring?’ She said she’d begun to think that if she was exciting and playful with her husband, like she was with Dan, her marriage would probably be better. ‘I know there are no guarantees and it takes two, but I’m going to have a go at saving my marriage before I do anything else.’
Further sessions: Know what’s real versus fantasy
Molly had re-established some boundaries with Dan. They agreed not to find opportunities to meet each other in secret and restricted their conversations to work matters. Molly thought that Dan seemed quite relieved. She sensed that he was feeling as out of control as she was. ‘I still have feelings for him, but I need to find out if they are real feelings for a real person or if they are just escapist fantasies.’ I admired Molly for being so courageous and pragmatic.
Molly and her husband had signed up for relationship counselling and she announced that she wouldn’t be seeing me again. She thanked me for having enabled her to get to the point of finding more specialised support. I reminded her that she had done all the hard work and thinking herself, and that I had merely asked her a few questions.
I don’t know how her story ended but I do know that whatever decision she made, she would have done it with consideration, care and integrity.
*Names have been changed