A Reader Writes…
At the end of October, I found out that my partner of 3 1/2 years was having an affair with his work colleague.
I found out in the worst possible way, she emailed me on Facebook detailing what had been going on for 5 months behind my back. After a string of emails and a day later my partner made the decision to end it with her and work on our relationship.
This fuelled her fire and she ended up sending me more emails and even contacting my family and friends. She also tried to play the card of pretending she was pregnant with his baby.
This tore me in two and even 3 months later I am still struggling to come to terms with what happened as the relationship me and my partner had before this was perfect.
I read your book which gave me some confidence that we can work through this and potentially make our relationship better than before.
At the beginning of discovering the affair, my partner re-assured me every day that he would fight for us and do whatever it takes. He also promised that he would find another job so that I needn’t worry any more about them working together.
Since all these promises and showers of affection my partner has changed slightly, he says he feels low and that he feels I will never be happy again as I’m always thinking about what he did. The constant flooding of what happened in my mind makes us feel like we are going round in circles and we will never see light.
I’ve told him on a number of occasions that I feel the only way for us to move forward is for him to find a new job and get away from her but he has been honest and told me that he no longer wants to leave. I’m confused, why is he not wanting to persist in looking for a job if that’s what will help us move forward?
Can we still be ok if he decides to stay there or do I have every right to give him an ultimatum that it’s either me or he finds another job?
First of all, I want to put in writing what a terrible experience you’ve been through. How horrible for your partner to have an affair and for the woman to rub your nose in it. Worse still, she tried to torture you by pretending to have a baby. I feel it is important to restate this information because you worry that you can’t get over this catalog of horrors three months later. To be honest, I’m not surprised! Three months is like yesterday.
Especially, as I expect, you’re counting from the moment of discovery – not from when you finally had it confirmed that she was not pregnant and could begin to breathe normally (if not easily). So please cut yourself some slack. Being flooded with horrible thoughts is normal at this stage.
Next, I want you to re-read your letter because there is a lot of ‘black and white’ thinking which might be how you’re feeling (at the worst moments) but just makes the whole situation more dramatic (and harder to solve). For example: ‘we will never see the light’. How do you know? Never? Even if you live to be 100? Another example: ‘only way forward’ How do you know? There are lots of ways forward. You just haven’t thought of them yet.
I would also take issue with ‘perfect relationship’. Partly because I’ve never seen one. (Most people who have claimed one have been shoving stuff under the carpet so it can seem perfect on the surface.) But mainly, because you’ve just turned a nasty situation into a catastrophe. She didn’t ruin a good relationship but a PERFECT one!
Then we come onto that fact that’s he continuing to work with her. I know this is hard because I’ve spent hundreds of hours with couples grappling with just these circumstances. And although it’s tough, thousands of couples like you find a way round this horror.
So let’s look at your case, my guess is that you were completely distraught – like a blob of jelly on the carpet. Your partner would have said anything to make you feel better (and probably meant them at the time) especially as he was the cause of all that pain. In the cooler light of three months later, he’s beginning to wonder how practical those promises were.
So why does he not want to persist in looking for a job? First of all, let me put into words the thoughts that are underpinning this question….’ because if he truly loved me then he would do anything to make me feel better.’ Therefore in your mind, because he has slowed down looking he does not love you. (No wonder it feels bleak.) But just because this is your interpretation of his thoughts, does not make them his thoughts. I would be very surprised if that’s what is happening in his head.
He will be thinking: ‘It’s over with this woman. I hardly see her. I go out of my way to avoid her. Why should I give up a perfectly good job at a time when jobs are as rare as hen’s teeth? Yet she keeps on going on at me about it. How am I going to pay the bills if I quit? I’m being torn in two. I love her but all I get is grief. I try to make it better but she keeps ripping my head off. I can’t win.’ (No wonder he’s depressed)
So what should you do? Certainly not issue at ultimatum, it will certainly tip this whole situation into a crisis (and you will probably back down and end up feeling weak.) Instead, try talking calmly to each other and listening to each other’s viewpoint too (and accepting that it will be different from yours). Then perhaps you can begin to negotiate a way forward – for the time being – that will help you feel less raw.
Take it one day at a time and instead of ripping yourself apart over what happened, start to look at how to make your relationship better. Read Build a Life-Long Love Affair and Help Your Partner Say Yes as these will help your journey to recovery.