A Problem in the Ethics of Relationship/Marriage Counseling

When I was studying philosophy, I became interested in the ethics of counseling, marriage and relationship counseling in particular. This problem applies equally well to either party in both hetero and gay relationships.

One partner has revealed to you in private that they have had an affair that the other party is unaware of. S/he wants to reveal it to the other partner.

I'll throw out two considerations, and leave the rest to you for now:

1. By unburdening him/herself, is the unfaithful partner transferring his pain to his partner.

2. Does the other partner have the right to know they have been exposed to the sex life of the partner(s) of the unfaithful partner.

What should the counselor consider in helping this person?

I think you'll quickly find yourself involved in some very thorny issues.

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A good counselor never gives "advice" but asks the right questions to help the person to discover the answer for themselves.

That describes some schools of treatment, but if you're not giving counsel (e.g., advice), you're not a counselor. What you're describing is a facilitator, not a counselor.

Advice can be indirect. I had a friend who was involved with a married person they were hoping would leave their marriage partner, and got this "advice" from the counselor: "They (the unfaithful partner) almost never leave the marriage for the person they're having the affair with." Is that advice or simply stating an observation? An observation can function as advice.

My ex told me about her affair. To be honest I would have been better off not knowing because I could never trust her completely after that (which makes a long distance relationship especially hard). Not all secrets need to be shared, some times it's better to let sleeping dogs lie.

Also, I'm fairly sure you've asked this before. :)

So you'd rather not know the truth Arcus?....You know, I think cheating and LYING about it is worse than cheating and admitting it. With the first it means you really don't care about the other person. With the later it means you do care about the other person but made a mistake. The implications if she had cheated and lied to you are much worse....I think....

Besides...we're really not meant to be monogamous creatures. I LOVE the idea of being in a stable committed relationship with one person, but let's be real, even in the best of worlds, we're both going to still be attracted to other people. It all depends on whether you act on it. I've been attracted to MANY men....but never acted on it except maybe with my vibrator, lol

Lying and not telling are two completely different things. If asked I would expect an honest answer... but some questions you do not want the answers to. 

I'm meant to be a monogamous creature. Looking causes no harm; beauty is attractive- but acting on those urges are what separates us from animals.

....but we are animals. And let me tell you, not everyone has the same level of restraint. Some people have very real impulse control issues and if they have never addressed it and dealt with it....they....become like my biological mother and grandmother.....lol. It's the truth. My grandmother was literally a prostitute.

Yes, but society can't be designed around "some people", it has to be designed around "most people". And while we may be human animals, we don't need to act the part. 

My biological grandmother may not have been a prostitute, but she had to adopt away my father because she was unwed in the 40ies. I hardly see the relevance. 

I think it also depends on your relationship. If you have both committed to being anonymous then yes. It's very very wrong to cheat. But many couples choose to have "open relationships...." it's all dependent on your expectations of each other I think.

"sleeping dogs lie" hahahaha ;)

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