The affair began when Samantha asked Mark if he was okay while they were working together one day. He surprised himself by sharing some of his problems with her. He initially saw himself as a mentor to her, and rationalized to himself that part of work-life balance was understanding how colleagues managed personal and career challenges.
Samantha being so much younger than Mark helped him feel comfortable defining their relationship as one of mentorship at first. He enjoyed dining out with others during the week while Lisa was working in the city, because he didn’t like eating alone. One evening he and Samantha left the hotel at the same time and she suggested having dinner together. They went to a small local restaurant and enjoyed excellent food and conversation.
When he walked Samantha to her car, he gave her a brief goodbye hug. However, she pulled him into an embrace and started kissing him. There had been no sexual intimacy in his marriage for months and he was aroused by and attracted to Samantha, so invited her back to his house. They had sex in the master bedroom he shared with Lisa. This became a pattern.
Samantha would sometimes ask when Mark was going to leave Lisa and marry her instead. He would equivocate, saying that he wanted to be with her but that Lisa was emotionally fragile. He’d say he didn’t know how to bring up divorce. Samantha would then cry and pout, and he would buy her something expensive to help her feel better.
Mark initially felt on top of the world because of Samantha’s attraction to him. The sex was fantastic, and she was never tired and always interested. He stopped feeling old and felt young, sexy, and vital again. But over time he grew to feel trapped and depressed. He felt manipulated by Samantha, and realized he was in a very compromising position. If HR found out about the relationship he could be accused of sexual harassment and lose his job.
Lisa and Mark valued their marriage, loved each other, and wanted to fix their relationship. On entering therapy, the couple discussed previous relationships and families of origin with their therapist from an attachment perspective.
It became evident that Lisa had an anxious attachment style. She needed a lot of reassurance. Spending time doing things together was very important to her. She felt that she’d made sacrifices so Mark could have his dream job and they could buy their dream home together. She was feeling neglected, disrespected, and resentful.