Turning Down the Temperature

Turning Down the Temperature

Handling One of Marriage's Most Explosive Crises

By Leo Fay

September/October 1994

EVERY THERAPIST KNOWS THAT THE DISCLOSURE OF AN extramarital affair can create an explosive crisis undermining the foundation of trust necessary to sustain a relationship. In the midst of that turbulence, our job is to help couples find a pathway to a new understanding of themselves and their marriage. But how is the therapist to maintain his or her bearings in such stormy cases? I have found a standard protocol, first developed at the Center for Family Learning, extremely helpful in providing a therapeutic structure for couples facing the crisis of infidelity. The protocol serves to keep the anxiety in the therapy room both the couple's and my own in check and makes sure that I don't get distracted from important issues either by the couple's emotional process or my own moral judgments.

ED AND LINDA GREEN'S MARRIAGE WAS IN BIG TROUBLE. Linda had just found out about Ed's nine-month affair with Nadine an affair that ended when Nadine aborted a pregnancy. The couple had brought their problem to Ed's aunt, a physician whom both of them liked and admired, and she referred them to me. When they came for their first appointment, both Ed and Linda looked scared and told me I was the "last hope" for their marriage.

Before asking them anything about the affair, I began, as I always do, by taking a genogram. Calming down the system is my initial goal with couples caught up in the crisis of infidelity, and instead of making the crisis itself the first subject discussed,…

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Topic: Couples

Tags: affairs | couples

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