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After some rehearsal, Marcos called his mother to tell her that he realized that, while he wanted more than anything to have a good relationship with her, he needed her to respect his space and not use their time on the phone to be critical or complain about what he hadn't done. He told her he was willing to call her once a week, but needed her to stop nagging. After this call, he came to the session with a totally different demeanor, laughing and telling jokes. He told me his mother had been delighted with his directness, and had readily agreed to his terms. In our subsequent joint session, Karina expressed her delight about his new assertiveness, touching him affectionately throughout the hour. After this session Marcos called me at the office and asked for the name of an individual therapist to help Eva deal with their break-up.
In her individual sessions, Karina continued to explore the ways in which she and Marcos had become distant. She recognized that after Mila was born, she'd been overwhelmed and in a "fog." Unintentionally, she'd stopped paying attention to the marriage and had started to experience Marcos as a stranger. I asked if she was willing to take the risk to be more physical and present, and she spontaneously began to dress up and even be flirtatious. Marcos responded. They started going out dancing again, and at some point, they regained their physical comfort and sexual connection. Also, Karina gave Marcos a deadline for leaving his job. Soon after he got his bonus, he accepted a new position with the same company in Brazil, and they left the country.
Six months after our last appointment, I was surprised to get a phone call from Karina asking whether I knew of an individual therapist for her to see in Brazil. Then she gave me an update. On the previous weekend, she'd borrowed Marcos's cell phone to call Mila's doctor and, scrolling through his contacts, she'd come across Eva's name. Then, for the first time in all these years, she was suddenly curious to see if Marcos was still in contact with her. She went into his messages and found several old e-mails that he'd never erased. She was stunned—the affair was all right there in plain sight. That same day, she confronted Marcos and he finally admitted what had happened. She told him she didn't want to know any details, but made it clear that she'd never put up with a situation like that again.