Programme helps couple to rebuild marriage

Posed photograph of a woman putting her hand over a man's hand. PHOTO: NEW PAPER FILE

After trying to have a child for over five years and going through several rounds of fertility treatments, Carol was over the moon when she conceived naturally.

But her joy was short-lived.

When she was two months pregnant, a woman from China told Carol that she has a six-month-old son with her husband.

It was a bolt from out of the blue.

But Carol, 40, (not her real name) decided to give her marriage a second chance for the sake of their unborn child - who is now a year old. Her husband Eric (not his real name), 42, also decided to end his two-year-long affair with the woman from China.

The couple, both professionals, attended Torn Asunder, a programme that helps couples to rebuild their marriage after an affair.

Reach Counselling, a charity, started offering the programme in 2010 as it noted that a sizeable number of couples were seeking help as one spouse strayed. Touch Community Services also offers the programme.

Reach Counselling's head Chang-Goh Song Eng said that to get on the programme, the cheating spouse must pledge, among other things, to stop the affair and the couple must want to save the marriage.

The programme helps couples address the pain of betrayal and helps them forgive and rebuild the marriage. Teaching couples to communicate and resolve differences is a key element.

After almost seven months of weekly therapy sessions, Carol and Eric realised what went wrong with their marriage.

He felt she was too preoccupied with fertility treatments and it was a blow to his ego that they could not conceive naturally.

They also had problems communicating. Eric tended to avoid problems rather than talk things through to resolve them. He said: "I found it hard to communicate with Carol. It seemed like she would shoot down whatever I said. So I sought refuge with another woman. She (the other woman) offered me a listening ear and made me feel important."

Things came to a head when his lover gave birth. Eric was in two minds. He could not bring himself to divorce Carol as she had been his "pillar of support", and yet he could not leave his lover and son.

He only found his resolve to end the relationship when he discovered that his wife was pregnant and was willing to give him another chance.

Through Torn Asunder, Carol realised how she had also caused their ties to sour: "I didn't realise I put him down and didn't give him the opportunity to talk, so much so that he felt he didn't have a voice."

She learnt how to listen and in turn, Eric opened up to her more.

"Have I forgiven him completely? Of course not. Forgiveness is a process," she said.

And what of the other woman and son born out of wedlock?

"We are still dealing with that, but I set some boundaries. He has to give the other side up and I don't let him see his son unless he is very sick," she said. "I know it is very difficult for him but we are taking it one step at a time. I'm happy I gave him a second chance or else I would have deprived my son of a father."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 15, 2016, with the headline Programme helps couple to rebuild marriage. Subscribe