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Those discussions eventually allowed the client to realize that, for her part, she would not necessarily have worried very much about marital status had the same situation occurred after she had lost her parents, or in the alternative, if her parents had never expressed such acute concern about it.

During that discussion, the therapist was careful to steer the client away from the conclusion that she caused Carlos to start taking drugs and to deal with the problem in the relationship by withdrawing entirely. On the other hand, the therapist assisted the client to understand that marriage "by ultimatum" is never conducive to happiness and that continual arguments in that regard often result in the breakup of a relationship or in the progression of a relationship to marriage despite the fact that at least one partner does not genuinely desire to be married or to be married yet. The outcome of that series of discussions was that the client came to understand that: (1) it is inappropriate for parents to control the lives or decisions of adult children by implying or by actually threatening to withdraw their emotional support and love; (2) the anxiety the client experienced as the result of parental expectations about out-of-wedlock children caused her to exert so much pressure on her partner that he chose to escape; and (3) the fact that her partner chose to escape in the manner that he did was not the client's responsibility.

The other main area of focus was the incongruence between the patient's intellectual desire to forgive her current boyfriend for his infidelity with her emotional response. More specifically, the therapist employed the same techniques as employed in the previous issue and steered the discussions in a direction that enable the client to: (1) recognize that she was still much more angry with Lenny that could allow herself to acknowledge; (2) that her resistance to that reality (incongruence) was a direct function of her fear of losing him; (3) that part of her attachment to Lenny also pertained to her fears about her parents' reaction to her becoming a single mother and having to find a husband who would accept another man's child as his own; determine whether or not, in reality, Lenny exhibited the qualities (such as the capacity to be trusted to be faithful in the future) and the other qualities that the client needed and had the right to expect in her life partner; and (4) that facing the reality of the situation would require the client to evaluate Lenny objectively without fear of the consequences of leaving him if leaving him was the best decision for the client and her son in the long run.

Toward that end, the therapist shared several personal anecdotes about being attached to a partner for the wrong reasons, resistance to acknowledging the truth and to responding genuinely to situations because of the fear of potential consequences, and (especially) the rightness of the decision to terminate certain relationships from a retrospective life view.


The client originally presented with the inability to recognize that her profound fear of parental disapproval had dictated reactions to her pregnancy on her part that substantially contributed to the deterioration of her relationship with her child's father. Given the client's predisposition toward low self-regard and responsibility for not being able to "keep a man in [her] life," the therapist had to be extremely careful to point out the conceptual difference between understanding situations and assigning blame. In that regard, the therapist also suggested and supported the idea that something fundamental was wrong with Carlos as a candidate for long-term partnership (i.e. marriage) simply by virtue of his resistance to the idea after becoming a father in the fourth year of an intimate relationship that had been mutually fulfilling up to that point. The client ultimately came to understand that while she might have reacted differently absent the oppressing fear of parental disapproval, it was not her fault that Carlos was not interested in marriage.

The client also came to recognize that while she has already chosen to forgive Lenny for his infidelity, that decision was also motivated by fear of losing him and by the fear of parental response to her being alone again as the mother of a child. She realized that she was not emotionally ready to forgive Lenny. More importantly, she came to understand that once she confronted the incongruence between her intellectual choice and her emotional response (or state) and the incongruence between her hopes about Lenny and the possible reality he presented as a person, she would have to spend more time considering whether or not she could, indeed, forgive him from the perspective of re-establishing trust based on his deserving that renewed trust. The client left therapy with a personal commitment to maintain a positive self-regard that was as independent as possible of parental approval, and a commitment to re-evaluate her decision to spend her life with a man who had already been unfaithful to her once.


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