Joe arrived in therapy because he feared his wife would “cheat on him.” That fear was ruining his marriage. He admitted that he had no reason to think his wife would cheat on him. She had always been faithful, and she promised to remain faithful. Still, Joe feared the worst. After some exploration, Joe recalled a woman he had been engaged to prior to his wife. His engagement to this woman had ended when she had an “affair” with a man she met at work. Now Joe feared his wife would meet someone at her work as well. His unresolved past emotional injury had crept into his present relationship…and he knew it. Awareness is the first step in resolving this type of emotional injury and relegating it to its proper place—the past.
Another step involved Joe verbalizing his fear to his wife. Doing so accomplished the important objectives of communicating his fear and eliciting his wife’s support.
- Communicating his fear and the underlying experience that contributed to that fear brought it into the light. Fears always grow stronger in the darkness of secrecy. Bringing the fear into the light weakens its power. It will also allow Joe to begin addressing his sense of self.
- Communicating his fear also allowed his wife to know him better. It gave her the opportunity to understand him and his struggle better. That growing knowledge also provides the opportunity for greater intimacy with one another.
- Now that his wife understands Joe’s struggle, she can offer support to help alleviate his fear. Rather than expressing anger and frustration at his unfounded fear, she can express empathy and affirm her faithfulness.
- With the impact of this past experience on their present marriage “on the table,” Joe and his wife can problem-solve. They can develop a plan to increase the security ad intimacy of their marriage.
All in all, openly discussing Joe’s jealousy, the past that contributed to that jealousy, and how to manage it as a couple brought Joe and his wife closer together. They learned more about one another on a deeper level and so grew in more intimate. They could work together to build a marriage in which they both felt safe and secure. They could grow stronger as a couple.
You can, too, when you reveal the secret, elicit support, and work together like Joe and his wife.