Q: Dear Dr. Hedva:
My husband had an affair a few years ago. We had at that point been
together almost 20 years. The other woman was a prior girlfriend . Through
a lot of tears and talking we reconciled. Months passed and because I really
wasn't sure if it was over I did my own investigating and discovered the
story he gave me of their chance meeting was a lie. He refuses to discuss
this anymore because to him it is in the past, over and done. How do I
learn to trust him again? Especially when we reconciled based on a lie.
A: Dear Alberta:
This may not be so much about trusting him, but about trusting yourself,
and your choice to be with him. You sensed something was ‘off’ in his story,
so you investigated your hunch. You you found out that he did not tell
you the whole truth about how they ‘met’. But, you did not mention that
he was still seeing his old flame. Thus, I gather this relationship was
(and is), in fact, over.
So if you want to open to trust and are truly ready, take a moment
to think of whether you have ever, in your entire life, had prior experience
with lies? Have you, perhaps, ever withheld information to spare someone
else pain, or perhaps to spare yourself from their reaction? If you did,
can you have compassion for that part of you, (however old you or ‘she’
was), for being afraid to tell the whole truth? Becoming more conscious
of our unconscious motives is called ‘owning your shadow.’
It is easy to see our partner’s foibles, but if we search our own
hearts, we will discover that we all suffer from vulnerability and insecurity
due to a need to be loved and approved of. It’s possible that he was motivated
by similar fears and needs when he confessed. If he is able to discuss
these kinds of deeper feelings, including what you both need to feel safe
in order to discuss uncomfortable topics, you may open greater understanding
and trust between you. For more help go to the exercises at http://www.betrayaltrustandforgiveness.com
If it helps to reflect on another perspective: It sounds to me like
he chose you over her twice: 20 years ago and again a few years ago. Now
it is time for you to choose whether you want to be with him, in all his
human-ness -- including the shadow of his vulnerabilities and fears. With
Dr. Beth Hedva
Q: Dear Dr. Hedva,
I recently found out that my husband has joined a website, which caters
to married people looking to have an affair or have cybersex. He even created
a profile, which discussed how far he would be willing to go.
I became very angry and confronted him about this. He claims he did
not act on anything, but only looked at other women's profiles as they
contained dirty images. He would not however tell me what his profile entailed.
I do not trust him now, and can't be sure if he is being completely
honest with me. He has his own business and works a variety of hours.
How can I trust him again when I am not even sure of how far he actually
went? We have five children together, and they are sensing an unhappiness
in me. My mistrust is definitely affecting our relationship.
A: Dear Help!
To re-establish honest communication and trust, the two of you will
need to find a way to feel safe sharing very intimate and delicate material
with each other, including definitions of fidelity. Your husband may be
turning to cyberspace for what he might believe is safe recreational release
-- without thinking about how it might impact you. Because there is no
physical touching, many cybersex users compartmentalize their experience,
and put this in the same category as using magazines or movies for self-stimulation.
Sexual excitement is objectified -- not personal. As to not sharing his
profile: The anonymity of cyberspace may allow him to explore parts of
his sexual nature without fear of turning you off, or risk being judged
and feeling shame.
True intimacy is a risk, and includes sharing our deepest thoughts
and most vulnerable feelings. Do you feel you understand and empathize
with each other? If you take the initiative, this crisis may be an opportunity
to open up to each other. Is it possible for you to discuss what he gets
from his cyberspace contact? What turns him on? (Example: Is it the novelty;
doing something forbidden; the sense of adventure or risk; any particular
fantasy?) Have you ever shared your desires, needs, or fears with him?
You may be able to use this discussion to open communication, clarify needs,
and increase the fun/recreational quotient in your marriage (adventure,
novelty, emotional closeness etc.) as you each bring some of what the other
desires back into your lives, (even with 5 children and a household of
If it is too hard to have this conversation on your own, consider
talking with a professional, ideally one who specializes in sexual and
relationship issues. For a list of qualified therapists contact the Ontario
Board of Examiners in Sex Therapy and Counselling or call the Sex Education
Council of Canada (tel) 416-666-5304 (e-mail) firstname.lastname@example.org
. To help him understand your point of view also try reading and discussing
this 48 page book: ‘Straight Talk About Betrayal: A Self-Help Guide for
Couples’ by Donna R. Bellafiore.
With respect, Dr. Beth Hedva
Q: Dear Dr. Hedva:
My partner and I are giving it another go around in terms of a relationship.
When things began to go sour I turned to another man's arms. This of course
did not happen overnight, as it took a couple of years of us being crude
to one another for it to escalate to this. I told my mate that it was over
and since telling him did not cause him to raise an eyebrow, I guess I
took things a bit farther. We are now back together after a year and a
half separation and I am willing to give it another go and obviously he
is too. Unfortunately communication is still not the greatest and I know
that without this we will not stand the greatest of chances. What would
you recommend to be of some help in this case. He is a good man and we
are a year apart. I am 45 and he is 46. We have no children except for
animals. I have a son who does not live with us as he is grown.
A: Dear 'Giving it Another Go,'
Since you are ‘giving it another go’ this makes me think that there
is a significant bond between the two of you -- and there is more to learn
from each other. We often come together with our beloved to learn significant
‘spiritual’ lessons. Eastern traditions call this ‘karma.’
There are always personal life lessons to be learned. To discover
these lessons, go to your heart, use your intuition, and ask: “What is
the purpose of this relationship?” “How have I grown, and how can I grow
more?” “What are my barriers to personal growth, to being all that I can
be with my partner?” “How can I eliminate these barriers?” Finally, “How
can we help each other grow and fulfill our greater purpose together?”
A communication hint: speak only for yourself, and let your partner speak
only about himself, without interruption.
Equally important to communication are acknowledgment and acceptance.
When we know and accept ourselves it is easier to extend understanding
and acceptance to our partners, and they feel respected too. (Instead of
feeling ‘wrong' -- a side effect of wishing they were different, or trying
to ‘change’ them). To break the pattern of name calling and crude language
consider a communication or conflict resolution course. Look around, here is one resource:
http://www.couplecommunication.com/ . Sometimes a trained or mutually
trusted facilitator can help. (see “Dear Ontario for URLs).
Dr Beth Hedva