per­spec­tives

Sunday Star-Times - Sunday Magazine - - NEWS -

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

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