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Be sure to also read: Having an Affair? Prepare to Become Aware, Repair, and Share

The Coaching Situation

My x-girlfriend cheated on me in about 3 years ago. When I found out I was really hurt because we had just made plans to move to a new city. 1 month before we came here, we talked about it, broke up, but stayed friends and came here anyway together as friends. I got my place and moved out we were still just friends. After I left we talked and tried to make it work again. We had some problems and got through it but I can't get past the fact that she cheated on me, so when ever I didn't know where she was I would think that she was cheating. When I'd ask why are you getting here so late or when she'd tell me where she was going and went somewhere else that she didn't tell me about, I'd think she was meeting someone.

She said she wasn't seeing any one but I didn't believe her. I feel bad because I don't know if she was telling the truth or not. What if I was wrong and I just really messed up what we had. I don't know how I can trust her again and how to let go. It's frustrating because it was years ago she cheated. Some say work it out if you love her some say leave she's lying. I deal with this every day and I don't know what to do. I want to learn how to not let things like this get to me and how to deal with it. I'm sure this won't be the last time and I want to understand why I don't want to let go of something that brought me so much pain. Can you please help? stuck!!!!!!!!!

“Stuck” was sent a list of questions to clarify his situation.

  1. According to your girlfriend, why did she have an affair? How did her explanation make you feel?
  2. What's changed that she feels she can commit to the relationship now? What do you what don't you believe about her answer?
  3. Was she able to identify any areas in your relationship where she felt something was missing?
  4. Other than the trust issue, what do you feel is lacking in the relationship or what do you wish was different?
  5. What problems did you have when you tried to make it work again, that you say you got through?
  6. Are you able to express to your girlfriend the deep hurt you went through and still feel? Can you talk about your hurt and fear of trusting her without her getting defensive?
  7. How does she respond to your lack of trust? Are you okay with her response? How does she feel about the relationship's future?
  8. Do the two of you avoid talking about issues that might lead to disagreement or conflict or try to avoid hurting each other's feelings?
  9. What kinds of things have you been able to do to periodically feel closer to your girlfriend since the affair?
  10. What judgments do you have about your girlfriend for having the affair? What judgments do you have about yourself that your girlfriend would have an affair?

"Stuck's" answer:

She said she cheated because I wasn't giving her what she needed. We argued a lot and she said she wasn't used to it and met this older man that made her feel good, easy to talk to, and it just happened. I was really hurt because I didn't think she was that kind of person. I felt a rage I never felt before. Not a lot has changed, we didn't argue as much, I think it was about getting out of a long relationship and wanting to see what else was out there. I didn't believe her because she never really said that there was something missing for her what I want to be different is to know where my woman is. I didn't think I could trust her for a long time. I didn't want to be with her but I still loved her, so I told myself to try to forgive her and I did.

We got back together 3 months after moving, 5 months later I'm starting to be able to talk about it without getting mad but not with her. She says I can trust her, she wishes I did trust her, and hopes one day I will. Now I really don't know, she says that if we got back together that there will have to be some changes made on my part as far as trusting her. Me change? She won't even call to say she's running late or had a change of plans. Sometimes we'd talk about things that made us argue afterwards. I've always tried not to hurt her feelings, but I don't think that I got the same in return.

Since it happened I try not to think about it, because it still hurts. My judgments about myself are: I'm a fool for staying with her because I loved her and I should have saw it sooner about her. She's not the women I thought she was, someone that could change my life for the better, and now I still love her but I look at her like she's a whore because only a whore would sleep with one man and go home to get in bed with another. I hope I did this right can you help me please.

The Coaching Response

The probability of a couple staying together or separating after an affair is about 50/50. Some couples can’t deal with the emotions resulting from the affair and others work through the pain and find a deeper level of trust. To stay together and successfully work through the emotions, you both need to open up communication with each other. You're suppressing your feelings about this situation, which leads to more frustration and emotions closing down.

When we don’t understand another person’s behavior, we judge it based on what we’d do in a similar situation. Since you haven’t had an affair, it’s difficult to understand why your girlfriend cheated on you and your subconscious mind finds reasons that involve you. To be able to let go of the reactions and anger, and find peace of mind, you need to understand your girlfriend’s behavior better.

The reasons why somebody has an affair are varied, yet really don’t have anything to do with their partner. Yes, her having an affair had nothing to do with the relationship. If she felt there was something lacking in the relationship, it is likely because she was putting responsibility on you for her own happiness and fulfillment.

You have to deal with the lack of trust in the relationship. If you’re successful at rebuilding trust you’ll have a stronger relationship than before. If you leave the relationship, you’ll still need to work on the lack of trust that you’ve developed or you’ll carry it forward into your next relationship. Trusting somebody new will be hard, even if they are completely faithful. You have to deal with this in either scenario.

Chances are you’ve experienced violations of trust before. This affair is an opportunity to find out what happened and what you can do about it. You need to find deeper honesty with yourself about how you see other people. How easily do you trust people? Do you have a tendency to trust the wrong people? How can you possibly trust yourself if your own decisions put you in situations where your trust is breached?.

Your current self-perspective was developed as a child. You need to investigate your beliefs about yourself and others to see if those old perspectives really work. It may be easier to hide what’s inside than to share it with someone who can help you sort out effective ways of thinking from ineffective ones. Asking people's opinions is sometimes helpful, but if those you ask have judgments and negative perceptions, their opinions won't help you see things clearly. Listening to other people’s opinions can add more problems than it takes away. You need to talk to somebody who doesn’t have biased opinions and who can non- judgmentally listen to what you think and feel about yourself. They can teach you how to change the negative aspects of your life into positive ones.

You’re being controlled by obsessive thoughts over having been hurt. You need to stop constantly thinking about what's happened by telling your thoughts “NO”. Say this every time you think about your hurt. Say “NO” loudly to yourself to stop the thoughts. Picture a red stop sign, or say “NO” emphatically out loud every time you think about the affair.

Understand that your girlfriend’s lack of change has to do with her fears rather than with not caring or not wanting to work at the relationship. Her biggest fear is that you won’t forgive her and that you may reject her. Even though you were the one hurt by the affair, she has as many emotional issues to deal with in the relationship as you do. She needs to hear that you do forgive her for the past and she may need to hear it over and over. She needs to be reassured of your love as much as you do of hers. You both need to be completely honest with each other about everything, especially those thoughts and feelings you’re afraid to share. By being more vulnerable with each other you can rebuild the trust.

It’s common to want to know what your partner's doing at all times after an affair. You’ll have to eventually let that go, because it is controlling and unhealthy. You want to know where she is because you're afraid. A trusting relationship can’t be built with fear. When you feel the need to know where she is, remind yourself that it's just your fear talking, and that you’re working at learning to trust her and not needing to know where she is. Like you, she’s free to come and go and doesn’t have to be accountable for every minute of her day.

Be patient with this process. You can spend time collecting evidence of how things aren’t working, or you can shift your perspective into reminding yourself that growth and healing take time. Learn to trust yourself, not your fear. Fear is showing you reasons why things aren’t working and it’s that fear that shouldn’t be trusted. Focus on the reasons why things are working and the fears will diminish.

Anger and fear cause us to say and think things we later regret. The depth of your hurt is reflected by the strength of the words you use. Because you really don't understand where all your pain comes from, the tendency is to lash out at whatever seems to be the cause of your suffering. With understanding you can learn to express yourself differently. When your anger wants to come out, tell yourself that what you're feeling is the result of many years of pain and hurt, from all those times that you were hurt. Pain accumulates and erupts in big unmanageable doses. When you really understand this, you can change how you vent your anger and begin to focus on healing the hurt.

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