1. Sorry is Not Enough - RonaldMah

Ronald Mah, M.A., Ph.D.
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist,
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1. Sorry is Not Enough

Therapist Resources > Therapy Books > SorryNotEnough- Infidelity-Cpl

Sorry is not Enough, Infidelity and Betrayal in Couples and Couple Therapy
by Ronald Mah

**Author’s Note: Other than public figures or people identified in the media, all other persons in this book are either composites of individuals the author has worked with and/or have been given different names and had their personal identifying information altered to protect and respect their confidentiality.

Cathy found the e-mail trail.  The arrangements for liaisons, the hotel reservations, and the flirtatious messages were exactly what and where she had known they would be.  Surprised but not surprised.  It did not make sense, yet there was some sense to it.  Something had not felt quite like it was supposed to be.  Not for a long time.  Cathy sensed it a couple of years ago, but she was going through so much at the time physically and at work.  Aidan was the CEO of his mother’s family non-profit foundation.  She had been with him all the way as he managed the corporate career turmoil, changes, organizational battles, and community politics from his graduate studies through shifting from the corporate world and becoming the CEO of the foundation.  They were a team, but Cathy had always consciously subordinated her career to his career needs.  It made sense to her from her family and cultural background.  She had no resentment about it.  It was part of the family plan as much as having two children, choosing to live in a diverse politically progressive urban community, and picking their spiritual community.   Cathy had done her part and definitely did not think or feel she deserved to be cheated on.

Aidan was an overachiever and workaholic because of his passion for his work.  Both his parents were high achievers.  His father was the CEO of a publishing company and his mother while a Vassar College graduate was the housewife in a traditional sense.  In actuality, Aidan’s mother ran the philanthropic foundation for educational and cultural opportunities for disadvantaged girls that her mother and father had founded.  She was from a time and place where wives did not work, but could be dedicated to charitable ventures along with managing household affairs.  Basically, she was a CEO as well of the foundation in function, though initially not in title.  Aidan had gotten his MBA and worked the corporate world for several years before eventually returning to work for the family foundation.  He had started by helping organizing fundraising functions, where his gift for gab and considerable charm was well received.  The foundation was his passion and it became clear early on that he was destined to become the official CEO.  At fifty-two years of age, he had been with the foundation for twenty plus years, and the CEO for ten years.  He was the face of the foundation and deeply involved in fundraising among the well-to-do community and corporate donators.  He was a pillar of the community- an affluent suburb near a financial and information technology metropolitan center.  For everything Cathy knew him to be, she was stunned to find that he was an adulterer.  Based on everything Aidan held himself to be, he was just as much at a loss to explain why he violated their marriage vows.

Aidan had a two-year affair with Tina, the head of a city department that the foundation worked with through several programs.  The city department and Tina as its head interfaced with both of their work worlds.  She was a professional colleague and friend who had shared their social, political, and community spheres of activity.  Aidan, Cathy, Tina, and Tina’s first husband had been undergraduates in different colleges at the same time in Boston together.  They first met volunteering for community and political functions.  The families, including Tina’s second husband and children had socialized together over the years as they found themselves settling in the same area.  One of each family’s children went to the same prestigious independent school overlapping a couple of years.  Aidan and Cathy were aware of Tina’s personal relationships over the years.  They knew that Tina had some relationship issues previously, but none of it had affected them.  Cathy had never considered her to be a threat to her and Aidan’s relationship.  Tina was just a mutual friend… a professional community friend, and not even a particularly close friend.  Aidan had never shown any particular interest in Tina or did anything to indicate that he thought her attractive.  Having an affair was bad enough, but Aidan having an affair with Tina was just crazy to Cathy.

Raising children, careers, work politics, and more stress swirled around Aidan and Cathy.  A quick look could attribute life stresses for causing what they had managed successfully individually, as a couple, and as a family to break down.  Yet, there was nothing that they individually and collectively had not handled before.  In the mix somehow, Aidan had an affair… an affair with a friend.  When Aidan and Cathy arrived in therapy, they wanted help to see if they could stay together.  Aidan was deeply remorseful and wanted to do anything to keep the marriage.  He said immediately upon Cathy confronting him about the affair, he knew that keeping his marriage with Cathy was the most important thing in the world for him.  Cathy had heard this, but could not understand how staying faithful to her was not important enough just the minute before revelation, much less the two years before- the duration of the affair.  Aidan admitted that if undiscovered, he would have continued the affair.  He had no plans to end the affair, but now being with anyone but Cathy was out of the question.  Adam apologized profusely to Cathy.  Cathy could only say, “Sorry is not enough.”

Cathy as the offended partner wanted to understand these seemingly nonsensical assertions.  She wanted to know the cause of infidelity.  The unfaithful partner often knows some of the feelings and thoughts, but has trouble identifying and articulating them.  He or she has particular trouble expressing them clearly enough and often becomes more stressed and confused under the pressure of the relationship’s continuation at stake.  Sometimes, the unfaithful partner truly does not understand his or her feelings, thoughts, choices, and behaviors leading up to and then subsequent to the affair.  This was true of Aidan.  The therapist is tasked to uncover the reasons and then, proceed use them to facilitate the partners’ process.  The pressure therapeutically lays heavy upon the therapist as the couple asks him or her to save their relationship.  Or, at least to help them figure out if their relationship can continue.  

3056 Castro Valley Blvd., #82
Castro Valley, CA 94546
Ronald Mah, M.A., Ph.D.
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, MFT32136
office: (510) 582-5788
fax: (510) 889-6553
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