I have three rules in my relationship coaching world, and they are non-negotiable.
Rule 1: I will only see a client up to four times. If I unable to help them in four sessions, I am not worth their time or money.
Rule 2: I will only meet in a public place – no exceptions. Most of my clients are women, and I am male. It protects them, and it protects me.
Rule 3: I will not try and salvage a relationship if there has been cheating or physical abuse.
Rules 1 and 2 are not controversial but I am continuously defending my “unrealistic view on relationships” or my “short-sightedness” when it comes to rule 3. I thought a lot about this today, and I asked myself, if someone offered me $1,000,000 to salvage their marriage after cheating, and not salvaging it meant losing my coaching certification, how would I tackle the conversation?
For the sake of this discussion, let’s say that Tom cheated on Grace. What might a conversation with Grace and I look like?
Me: Grace, how did the cheating make you feel?
Grace: Betrayed. Unattractive. Violated. How do you think it made me feel? I can’t trust him anymore!
Me: Did you trust him before he cheated on you?
Grace: Yes, but obviously that was misguided.
Me: Do you think he cheated on you prior to this incident?
Grace: I don’t know but something was awry in our relationship prior to this specific incident. But he did not communicate any concerns. Even if it was for a moment, he shifted his attention to someone else instead of shifting it to address whatever gap in our relationship that led to him cheat.
Me: What would Tom need to do to regain your trust?
Grace: Nothing. We’re done. How do I re-trust someone that fooled me once already? Especially considering how convincing he played the happy, faithful husband?
Me: It may have been only one incident; we don’t know how long this has gone on. People make mistakes and unfortunately, cheating is one of them.
Grace: I would never cheat on him; I’d end it first if it even got to the point where I was thinking about it.
Me: I commend you for that. Some people don’t have your strength. Could you help Tom get there? He truly loves you; and he is sorry.
Grace: I am sorry too. Sorry that his definition of love includes infidelity. I need someone whose definition of love more closely aligns to mine.
(Insert record screech here) Okay, so Tom can keep his $1,000,000 and I will gladly turn in my coaching certification. The “Me” in the dialogue is not in fact me. If I heard someone articulate her rationale for leaving a cheater the way “Grace” did, I would have no solid ground by which to counter or offer other perspectives. There are so many legitimate thoughts in her head.
How long has Tom been unhappy in the relationship?
Why didn’t he communicate with me or direct his energy to working on our relationship instead of cheating?
What happens next time he sees a gap in our relationship? Do we talk about it or does he stray again?
How many times has he committed adultery?
What other things don’t I know?
How does the popular saying go? Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me?
Now, let’s acknowledge that a lot of women are not Grace. A lot of women are willing to try to forgive and work the marriage. In those cases, they can see another relationship coach and I will wish them the best, no harm no foul. But at the end of the day, I will only promote equal and authentic relationships. That starts with me being true to who I am and what I believe.
I guess I’ll just have to make $1,000,000 the honest way; by pitching my own reality show.