Providing a family session to a couple when one of them has been active in their addiction and mental illness is challenging.
I have to watch my counter-transference, especially when I know that if I were in this woman’s shoes, I would have kicked this guy to the curb so hard and fast his head would still be spinning. BUT….
The man is my client, not the wife. I’m there for him, not her. And while as a woman I can certainly understand wanting to get a little of your own back and punishing, at some point enough needs to be enough. Either follow through on the threat of a divorce, or start working on saving the marriage. Beating up on someone over and over for past mistakes which can’t be changed helps nobody; this was the third session of this behavior. Apologies have been made repeatedly, and actions taken to prove sincerity and commitment to recovery, change, and the relationship. Everything that could be done is being done by this man, and the rest is going to take time. If you truly think it’s over and you can’t trust again, then say goodbye and move on for everyone’s sake. There are children involved. It’s time to heal and move forward, either together or apart.
But you can’t really tell the spouse of a client to shit or get off the pot.
Not in so many words at any rate.
Instead, I suggested that the guest start creating and maintaining healthy boundaries for his continued recovery efforts. Miracle of miracles he has decided that he no longer deserves to be treated like a punching bag, and is on board with boundary-setting and enforcing, for all of their sakes.