I Discovered In Counseling There Were 3 People In My Marriage

My husband, myself, and ... someone else.

woman hugging back of husband ITimBo | Shutterstock

"I can’t believe what my husband just texted me," I said.

I was sitting with a group of friends. One woman I was not particularly close with and she was not a respectful personality. Unfortunately, I was seated next to her while I read my husband’s comment. She heard my words and said, "Well, I don’t know what you said to him."

My marriage was careening toward a potential divorce. 

Things with my husband were incredibly strained and we were in marriage counseling. This woman knew things weren't great because she was part of an extended group of friends. Her comment was unkind and rude. She was going against the girl code at the very least and being judgmental at most


Plus, she loved my husband and found him funny and charming. I tried to ignore her but it irked me. 

She was basically sharing a common relationship sentiment.

You hear people say it all the time when a relationship ends or a divorce is initiated. There’s a distinct implication that both parties are equally at fault for this emotional demise. The accountability should be equally split. Because as they say … "There are two sides to every story."

Not necessarily.

My marriage had what I refer to as a third party in it.

Of course, I was blind to this. I had absolutely no idea there was someone else in the marriage with my husband and me. It was our marriage counselor who alerted me to it. It took the expertise of a psychologist to identify this individual. Most people go to couples counseling as a party of two, not a party of three. But there we were.


My husband, myself, and a narcissistic personality disorder.

Sorry rude friend but there aren’t always two sides to a marital demise. When a marriage involves an extreme of some kind, such as a personality disorder or substance abuse it creates a third party in a relationship. There’s an entirely different entity that you are dealing with in addition to your spouse. It’s not a wife and a husband.

It’s a wife, a husband, and another personality.

It’s difficult to place accountability on the spouse who is dealing with a severely extreme personality or partner with a substance abuse problem. That spouse isn’t the one bringing a damaging component into the marriage. Does that mean I was entirely innocent?


No, because I was an enabler. 

This is something else I discovered while in counseling. Enablers are overly caring people who tend to tolerate and make excuses for repeatedly bad behavior. They remain in unhealthy situations for too long because they care too much. I was and am accountable for the part I played in my marriage.

But there weren’t two sides to a marriage that involved a third party.

I was coping at best. I was running interference with narcissistic behavior. The same funny and charming guy who could fool and enamor people like my rude friend. Who’s now really no longer my friend. I went to marriage counseling with three people.


My husband, myself, and a narcissistic personality disorder.

If you think you may be experiencing depression or anxiety as a result of ongoing emotional abuse at the hands of a narcissist, you are not alone.

Domestic abuse can happen to anyone and is not a reflection of who you are or anything you've done wrong.


If you feel as though you may be in danger, there is support available 24/7/365 through the National Domestic Violence Hotline by calling 1-800-799-7233. If you’re unable to speak safely, text LOVEIS to 1-866-331-9474, or log onto thehotline.org.

Colleen Sheehy Orme is a national relationship columnist, journalist, and former business columnist. She writes about love, life, relationships, family, parenting, divorce, and narcissism.