Suzanne Says

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August 2005

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Question: I need some major advice. I am a 21-year-old mother of two and I have been living with the father of my children for 2 years. In the beginning of our relationship he had told me about this 'platonic' friend of his from college, how she was special to him but they had never had sex or been intimate in any way. (This girl lives nowhere near us). A few months later one of his college friends vaguely implied that they had been more than friends, so I confronted him about it. He admitted to sex with her ONE time and said ďthat's how they discovered they could only be friends.Ē  I was angry, but I wasnít about to break off my marriage because of it, so we moved on with our lives. I then discovered that she had been calling him at work in secret (I saw her number on his office phone) and he promised me that if it bothered me that much he wouldnít speak to her anymore. (I was 8 months pregnant at the time and highly emotional) I believed him, life went on.

Then, this past Christmas Eve, the same friend who had implied this the first time told me they had a 4-YEAR relationship. I confronted him and he admitted to it, and his reasoning was that he lied because he didnít want to lose her as a friend.

I was packing my kids up when he told me to get on the phone, so I picked it up. He had called her and said "Iím sorry but I lied to my wife about you and our past and she means more to me than anything so we can't talk anymore."

I didnít forgive him, but I haven't left or anything like that either. Everything just kind of died down and all was kosher again until the other day when I was cleaning out a bookshelf, I found a letter from her to my husband dated 2 weeks after we had started dating, talking of her 'unconditional love' for him. (His platonic friend has unconditional love for him?)

I am at a total loss as to what to do....He tells me I have to stop obsessing about it or it will never go away, but how can I be expected not to think of it? Every time I hear the name Jessica every word of that letter and all the lies about sleeping with her come flooding back to me. Should the letter have been the final straw? He said he didn't even know it was there, but believing anything he says would just be lying to myself wouldn't it? I have never lied, deceived or kept secrets from him. Would doing so be an effective way of making him feel the same way I do? An eye for an eye so to speak? Or am I over reacting? Please Help!




 Dear Lyn:

This is not a quick fix situation. I do not believe it would serve you or your relationship to begin lying or deceiving him. Your integrity is one of your values and an important part of you.

The bad news about this situation is that the relationship started before you met and continued after your marriage, so the level of betrayal you feel is going to take time to heal, and that is if your husband is truly on the same page and wants to save his marriage. Time will tell. You have been naÔve and overly trusting previously, so you do not want to set yourself up again.

It is possible to get through this experience and have a stronger marriage? The good news is that two people who choose to be together and want to heal and build a new relationship can do it. From what you have written it looks like both of you want it to work. It will require new skills from both of you and a lot of dedication. A crisis, such as this, will trigger unresolved issues from the past (with parents, siblings, and former partners) in both of you. Many relationships end prematurely because people do not have helpful information or the skills to heal issues without professional help. As I mentioned at the beginning, this situation is not a quick fix and marriage counseling will benefit the process.

This affair is out in the open and telling the truth is the first step in healing. Your husband may not believe this was an affair because it had limited sexual expression; it was an emotional affair, however. It took energy away from you and your relationship. Your husband needs to know it is normal for you to need reassurance and that you might be overly suspicious for a year or two. In time you will trust him again if he does commit to you. However, if there is no evidence that he is betraying you and you keep living in the past that will hurt the relationship too. Forgiving him does not mean you condone his actions, but simply that you understand and release the affects of the situation from continuing to hurt you. You have to stop replaying the past and see what shows up in the present.

Over time, as you both build your awareness about yourselves, which includes understanding each of your families of origin, understanding your needs, values, and what motivates you, building your self-esteem, learning good communication skills (including active listening and fair fighting skills) and taking positive risks, you can experience a mature loving relationship.

Here is a possible action plan:

1. Spend time daily as a couple to open communication, when the kids go to bed or before work over a cup of coffee. Talk and listen, express feelings, be open to looking at the circumstances and personality traits of each which contributed to this affair. It takes as long as it takes for someone to process their feelings and be able to forgive and heal. Sometimes you may just sit and be together and not have a lot to process, especially in a long-time relationship which has healed a lot of issues.

2. Spend individual time daily getting to know yourself at a deeper level, your strengths and weakness, your goals, values, your patterns of thinking and behaving, unresolved issues from childhood, to name a few. Journal writing is a helpful tool to process some of the thoughts and feelings you have. When you write your thoughts and feelings it helps you communicate them more easily to your partner.

3. Have fun together. A date night, once a week, is a good idea when you have young children. Remind yourselves of the reasons you wanted to be together in the first place.

4. Expand your awareness by reading self-help books, taking self-discovery classes and workshops. Check out continuing education classes, marriage encounter weekends, 12-step groups, and couples groups at your church.

5. Get marriage and individual counseling. Stay in beyond the crisis period.

6. Include spiritual growth. Attend a church, temple, or mosque that you both can participate in.

In conclusion, wounds of betrayal do form scar tissue over time. As trust is rebuilt you can have a rewarding, committed, intimate relationship. Both of you will need to take responsibility to heal your own unresolved issues, to learn new skills, and to communicate honestly on a regular basis. On a daily basis, you both need to practice tolerance, love, and forgiveness.  Remember also to have fun together, like you did at the beginning of the relationship before all the challenges and responsibilities that you have now.





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