Tony and Emma faced the counselor. Uncomfortable, they shifted nervously. Emma’s fears coursed through her mind. Palms sweaty, she rubbed them against her pants.
Glancing at Tony, she realized he, too, felt awkward. Clearing his throat, he asked, “So, what’s the plan here?”
The counselor started with a few questions about why they scheduled this visit. Both Tony and Emma couldn’t shake their nervousness.
Eventually, the counselor remarked, “Tony, to Emma, watching porn feels like having an affair. What does it mean to you for her to heal and become whole?” He waited and observed Tony and Emma.
Tony tried to get some moisture in his mouth at this shocking discovery.
The counselor’s statement echoed, “Watching porn feels like having an affair?”
He’d always believed that watching porn didn’t hurt anyone. After all, he’d never gone to a strip joint or hired a prostitute. He’d carefully hidden this secret, ensuring he only looked at the stuff when alone. Sure, his eyes often strayed to any beautiful woman that crossed his path, but that was normal for a guy. He and his buddies at the office often compared notes about some of their female coworkers.
But one look at Emma’s tears cascading down her face, and Tony was starting to recognize the pain he’d caused without meaning to. He was filled with shame and guilt, so he couldn’t look at Emma or the counselor.
What had he done? How could he fix this?
Tony stuttered at this shocking discovery.
“I never meant to hurt Emma. I love her. But sometimes she’s so busy with the kids I feel left out. Like I don’t matter anymore. Looking at this stuff helps numb the separation I feel from her. I didn’t think it affected anyone but me. My buddies tell me all men look at this, and it’s no big deal. I believed them.”
Tony listened as the counselor turned to Emma. “Emma,” he queried, “What do you think it will take to heal your relationship and reconnect with Tony?”
Emma paused at this shocking discovery. What would it take?
“I feel like I don’t know who I am or who Tony is. We used to talk about everything, and now we barely co-exist. What did I do to drive him to look at this stuff? We have children to consider, and I don’t want them exposed to this filth.” The words seemed to flow like a raging river. “How could he trade our relationship and me for . . . what? I guess I’m not enough for him. I’ve failed at being a good wife. Where did I go wrong?”
Sobbing now, Emma’s words stopped. Horrified at what she revealed, she believed Tony would walk away now that he knew the depth of her thoughts and fears.
She was unlovable.
Lost in thoughts that ricocheted, Emma almost missed the counselor’s next words: “I’m proud of you both. We’re finally getting to the truth. Do you want to make your marriage work?”
Tony paused. Could they recover?
Emma looked at Tony, his expression challenging to discern. Could they recover?
What would their individual and relational recovery look like?
The counselor’s following words gave them hope. “From listening and observing how you relate to each other, I think you can recover. But it will mean changing, developing new habits, and learning to communicate differently. If you commit to this, there’s hope.
The counselor reviewed their options. With his encouragement, they scheduled their next session before leaving the building.
Sitting in the car, they sat in awkward silence. Eventually, Tony turned to Emma. “I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I had no idea how deeply I hurt you. Can you ever forgive me?”
Emma focused on his eyes. Did he mean it? Was he genuinely sorry for choosing that stuff over her and their relationship?
Searching for something, Emma hesitated. “I want to believe you, but I don’t trust you. What else have you lied about? I feel some hope based on what the counselor said. However, I’m afraid there are things you haven’t told me, and I’m not sure I can handle anything more.
Tony and Emma waver on the pivot point of their relationship.