Dr. West





Forgiving Our Transgressions


E-mail From a husband


" I had found out about the affair by accident, and at the end of the session he said, 'So if hadn't been for your finding out, I guess things would be continuing as they always have -- so what's really the issue here?' "


         Not too long ago I learned that my wife had been having an affair -- for almost two years!

The problem was -- if it is a problem -- during this entire time I didn't notice anything different in our marriage.

      >>   I'm not the kind of guy that does things until I have all the facts, so I just collected evidence. It wasn't hard. After all that time she had gotten a bit careless about hiding the affair.

I figured when I did confront her, things could move pretty fast, so before I did I decided to schedule time with a psychologist I had heard about so I could bounce my options off him.

         Let my digress for just a little bit to tell you about my situation.

I'm a well-established professional and we have a good life. Whenever I get time, my wife and I go places together; but, time-wise, my work is pretty demanding.

I've been married to "Sarah" for eight years and she's nine years younger than me. She doesn't work, but she's involved with different groups and charities.

Since these things seem to keep her busy and happy, I figured I didn't have to worry about her.

" I chose this psychologist because I heard that he was sharp, didn't drag things out for months, and he's 'brutal' in getting to the bottom of things."


         After he heard what's mostly above, he gave me a 12-question quiz which he called "The Care and Feeding of Wives."

I flunked.

In my defense I kept emphasizing the "good life" I was giving Sarah.

But he interrupting me with, "You flunked."

Finally, I gave up trying to defend myself and he said, "Now maybe we can get somewhere."

         He asked a lot of questions and was particularly interested in the fact that in all the time she had been carrying on this affair I had never noticed anything different in our marriage.

He said either I was pretty dense and unobserving or she had been damn good at hiding it.

I told him I had only recently found out about the affair by accident.  I could see him processing that. At the end of the session he said that if it hadn't been for that, I guess things would be continuing, "as good as always -- so what's really the issue here?"

As I was leaving his office he added, "I wouldn't do anything, until we talk again."

But his last question stuck with me.

         I was doing a lot more thinking about Sarah after that, which I guess meant that I was moving up on the Doc's "Care and Feeding Quiz."

         During the next session he came right out and asked me if I had ever had an affair. I told him, no, that would complicate my life too much.

He said, "It would seem that your wife's priorities in life are more advanced than yours."

With that I jumped up and got ready to stomp out, but he just said, "I needed to find out something."

(You like quotes, and the following session is hard to forget, so here goes.)

He asked, "Is she happy?"

"Most of the time, I guess."

"And you?"



"When I put in a good day."

"At work?"


"But not with your wife."

"Well, sure, sometimes."

" What's more important to you, your work or your wife? "


"Without my work I couldn't give my wife the things she wants."

"Does she ask you for things?"

"Not generally; in fact, she's generally after me to buy things for myself."

He nodded as if that was no surprise. He closed his little notebook and looked at me. "You know what needs to be done; we don't have to meet again."

"But what about divorce?"

"You don't want a divorce; neither does she -- she's had something like two years to bring that up."

"So just let her continue with the affair?"

"Has it hurt anything?"

"But it's wrong!"

"As defined by who...you?"

"This isn't right!"

He shrugged. "If you really feel that way, then I guess you will have to do something about it."

"What the hell kind of advice is this!?"

"The kind that can keep your marriage together, which, unless I miss my guess, is something, you both want."

As I was about to leave he said, "Have you considered that your finding out about the affair wasn't an accident -- that she wanted you to find out so you both could get it out in the open? I think she has a lot of guilt about it."

I hadn't thought of that. He went on, "If I were you, I'd focus on what the conversation might be like if she confesses to the affair -- your priorities, and, of course, your ego.

Drop me a note and tell me how it comes out." He nodded toward the door.

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