My husband and I have been together for the better part of a decade. Recently, I noticed he was pulling back in all areas of his life, but especially sexually and emotionally.
Eventually (after a few months) he admitted he’d begun “emotional affairs” with a few women online. He also met a random woman when out one day and they went for coffee together.
He said the contact has stopped and he didn’t do anything with the one he met, other than talk and hold hands. I do believe him. He’s never done anything like this before, but we’ve had a couple of big fights recently where we both exchanged some hurtful words. He wants to make our marriage work.
What do I do? I don’t want to throw away our life together, but I’m scared if I give him another chance then he might do the same thing – or worse – the next time we go through a rough patch. Wow, what was going on for him, I wonder? Holding hands with a random stranger is a curious story. The first step is for your husband to work himself out and take responsibility for these recent destructive choices.
Your task is to express very clearly, when not arguing, that you feel deeply hurt by him taking his inner self to others and you live with fear he will hurt you again.
This is the dilemma anyone who’s been betrayed faces. The way forward to repairing the damage involves rebuilding trust by both of you being emotionally transparent, open and intimate and of course being wide open will be scary for you, maybe for both of you.
Learning to fight fairly is an important component of keeping a relationship close and healthy. There are always going to be disagreements because you are two different people. Being understood and well responded to is exquisitely satisfying.
Sadly, nobody gets it right all the time and the “misses” are very disappointing and frustrating. To deal well with the negatives you need to be able to describe your concern clearly, own your own feelings and specify the change you want. The listener does not get to reply until after the speaker feels heard and understood. Two real people being open and no-one gets put down or shut down.
Robyn Salisbury is a clinical psychologist. Email questions to MrsSalisbury@sextherapy.co.nz