Last week we were given the task to find an article or a problem from a problem page and have a think about how it affected us emotionally and physically. This week we discussed the articles we had chosen, and I felt I chose wrong, as I chose an article that didn’t really affect me at all. So I am going to choose one now that truly resonates with me and do the exercise again.

This is the problem I have chosen this time; it is from the Dear Deirdre section of The Sun’s website.

DEAR DEIDRE: AFTER 27 years of marriage, I have fallen in love for the first time. I want to be with my lover full-time but that seems like an impossible dream.

My husband and I are both 51. For the past few years he’s had problems performing in bed. Sex became a chore so we gave up. I realised in time I still wanted intimacy in my life but those sad, sleazy websites for cheats are not for me.

Then my boss sent me on a training course. It included an overnight stay and that’s when my love life fell into place. I went to a bar in the evening and got chatted up by this wonderful man. He’s two years older than me and it was like we had already met in a previous life.

We had sex that night. It was intense and wonderful. We hugged as we parted the next day. He lives up north and I live in London but we still exchanged numbers and hoped for the best. He texted me later that day and every day since.

It’s hard to arrange but we’ve managed to meet up three times. The sex is like nothing I have ever experienced before. It gets better each time and we’ve fallen in love. His wife found out about us but she has a good lifestyle she won’t throw away.

My husband found out but he hates making waves and agreed we could meet now and then. I want to leave him and be with the man that I love. I live on edge, hoping my husband won’t see all the emails I send to my lover, then sometimes wishing he would.

There seems no solution to this. I’ve got two daughters and my lover has sons. They are no longer children but are still young enough to be hurt.

Initially, I considered this from the woman’s point of view. She clearly feels that intimacy is a very important part of a marital relationship, and in this case I think she defines intimacy as sex (physical intimacy), rather than friendship, companionship and kindness (emotional intimacy). The lady does not mention how their relationship is in other ways, for example whether all the physical affection from him has disappeared or whether they still get on well enough.

In this case, I can understand how she feels as I would miss physical intimacy if it disappeared from my relationship, for sure. While I’m not sure I would go to the lengths of finding someone else to have intimacy with, it does seem like the opportunity just kind of fell into her lap. I would like to think I would be able to resist being chatted up in a bar, far away from home by someone that I felt an immediate resonance with – but if there was no physical intimacy at home, well, I don’t know. As I say, I’d like to think I would be able to resist and stay faithful to my wife, but how can a person really know what they’ll do in a certain situation? On one hand I don’t blame her for wanting intimacy, but on the other hand, she should be honest with her husband about how she feels, and if a lack of intimacy is a deal-breaker then she really should consider leaving him.

I think that if this came up in counselling as a client’s problem, I would want to get a feel for as much of the details as possible, such as determining which of the people involved were happy or not happy about the situation. This would also allow my client to understand how the situation is affecting other people. Ultimately though, I would ask her to think about who she really wanted to be with, and whether she was prepared to make the necessary sacrifices. It sounds like her lover is in a similar position with his partner, in that he desires more sex than he is currently having with his wife, but his wife doesn’t want to make waves because she is comfortable with the lifestyle that her husband provides her with. It is a funny kind of irony that they have attracted each other.

There would be a real danger of me siding with her husband if this came up in counselling to be honest, as when I consider this from the husband’s point of view, I feel sick to my stomach. I fill in the blanks with my own feelings. I think that to protect myself I would really have to detach from the scenario and not liken it to my marriage by using the existing mental model of marital relations which already exists in my head. I would have to consciously work with the problem with an open mind, which something I don’t feel I have to try hard to do usually. In most other counselling scenarios I have an open mind by default, but with this bringing up such strong feelings inside me (I mean, no one would like to be cheated on, would they?), I feel I would have to discuss it in supervision and explore my own feelings related to sexual fidelity.

If I was having problems performing in bed then I would do everything in my power to make sure my wife was satisfied. The warm emotional glow of making sure her sexual needs are met gives me greater pleasure than any physical sexual response my body can have. I take “performing” to mean not being able to get an erection, and there are ways around that; without going into too much detail, there are a million other ways to be intimate. Sex does not begin and end with a man’s erection. I think it would be a bit unfair to rule out all physical intimacy just because one partner cannot “perform”. If I were the partner that could not “perform” then I would make sure my partner was sexually and intimately fulfilled, otherwise I think something like this is an inevitability. One partner feels like they are missing out, so unconsciously goes looking for the thing they are missing somewhere else.

I would feel horrified and violated if my wife looked elsewhere for sex, let alone if she actually did it and I found out – and there is no way on Earth I would “not want to make waves” – because as far as I would be concerned, that is a betrayal too far. I would not resolve this issue by allowing it to continue, or encourage my wife to carry on seeing this man. If my wife truly wanted to be with this man, then it would be divorces all round, not just for us, but for the other man and his wife as well, regardless of how comfortable she was with her lifestyle. If she decided she didn’t want to cause all that upheaval and she did want to stay with me then I don’t think I could trust her from that point onwards. Either way, she would have betrayed my trust and thrown our marriage vows out of the window, and I could not forgive her for that. But then, before it got to that point, I would be doing everything I could to make sure she was sexually fulfilled in other ways.

My tutor mentioned in the lesson today that she sometimes thinks that the Level 2 course should come with some kind of warning. I think she may have a point. Not only does the course introduce you to Counselling Skills, but if you really think about the questions asked about your past and the way you are, it also gets inside your mind and expands your personal knowledge, which greatly increases your self-awareness.

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