“I think my partner is unfaithful and I keep digging. Am I right?” Advice for Real Change – No quick fixes (sorry)

“My girlfriend and I (both 26) have been together in a long-distance relationship for eight years. It was a dream until she became a successful chartered accountant when she got a job, while I was doing not so well academically.
I dropped out of my law course  as I did not find it challenging enough. After that, I joined an organisation, where I worked  for a year.
During this time, we were going through a rough patch as she seemed to be uninterested in me. I later found out that she was having an affair with a man from her office.

I was devastated. When I confronted her, she admitted it but said she didn’t want to hurt me, wasn’t leaving me and still loved me. She promised she would break it off, and I told myself that she was scouting for other options since I wasn’t doing so well.
Two months later I found out she was still seeing him. Again, it was painful, but I decided that the  fault was with me for under-achieving — so I joined a Masters in Business Administration course.

She told me she was trying to break it off, but the guy was overbearing and emotionally blackmailing her.
She did finally end it and changed her company to move to the city where I live. Although we have never ever spoken about the extent to which they were involved, she told me that she was not involved physically (although she was living alone) and I trust her.
Or rather, I’m trying to trust her — but it’s hard.
I am quite successful at my MBA course and looking forward to getting a good job in the next few months. Moreover, our parents are involved now and we are planning to get married  next June.
That being said, she has a very good friend who worked for her old company. Recently, she made a work trip to London during which she met up with him and had a great time. However, since then she has been secretive.
She hides her phone, gets angry if I ask something and says I’ve developed a habit of digging.
But as a result, I have realised she lies to me about things related to this friend of hers. This is creating a lot of emotional problems and making me jealous.
I have tried talking to her, but I don’t think she’s completely forthcoming. She pushes me away, saying that people have secrets their partners shouldn’t be concerned about — and they are just good friends.
I try to believe it, but her behaviour depicts a different picture. I am at loss. What is wrong with me? Please help me.”

This letter first appeared in the Daily Mail. 

My Thoughts: 
You say the relationship was “a dream” until she became more successful than you, in your own perception. The use of “a dream” does immediately suggest that perhaps there is a fantasy element to how well the relationship was really going, especially as it was long-distance. Then your idea that things started going less well when she became more successful than you suggests that this has more to do with your own self-esteem and how you evaluate success than with anything coming from her.

You say your course wasn’t challenging enough and that she seemed “uninterested” in you – it does feel as though you don’t deem yourself very interesting (you don’t much blame her for her perceived lack of enthusiasm).  Clearly, the vocabulary you use throughout is indicative of a relationship that is not healthy – hides, uninterested, angry, secretive, emotional problems, digging, jealous, secretes, pushes me away, at a loss, painful, devastated, not doing so well.

You don’t say how you “found out” about her affair but it seems she didn’t tell you about it – this points to a lack of intimacy and trust on both sides. She wasn’t fully open with you and you weren’t fully open with her (you must have investigated rather than asking).

Again you mention that weren’t doing well and I assume you mean you were feeling unhappy and unstable. You translate this into the kind of achievement you can tick off on a chart and you start on a new academic qualification. I think you already needed some therapy at this point since you rate yourself solely on acheivements and assume she’s doing the same. This is hugely unlikely to be the case, but she may, of course, have been struggling with your depression, anxiety and low self-esteem.

Though you were living apart and she apparently “admitted” an affair, she says it wasn’t physical and you do not believe her. Trying to believe someone is an admission of not believing them. You make it very clear that you do not trust her and it’s impossible to tell from your letter whether or not she is trustworthy.

But you certainly feel very insecure in terms of what you call “success” and whether or not you are loved (translated, as so often, into sexual fidelity). You put the onus upon her to be trustworthy rather than looking at your own feelings of anxiety and inadequacy which I imagine would exist with or without this particular woman.

She says you have developed a “habit of digging” and that “as a result” you’ve uncovered some lies. If you feel the need to dig then you don’t trust her and this should already raise a huge red flag. Even if you had not uncovered any lies the mistrust would still be there. You have a fantasy that if you could prove she was 100% faithful to you all the time you could relax and be happy. However, nobody can provide that kind of constant reassurance forever. The unease resides in you and not in her behaviour.

She has already admitted one fidelity and you have decided to put up with that. Why? There seems to be a fair amount of masochism here and a desire to uncover things about your partner in order to prove your suspicions right. They may well be right (I’d say they are if I had to guess) but why do you continue a relationship with someone of whom you are suspicious? I suspect that it is partly a defensive measure that means you won’t have to look at the source of your anxiety and esteem issues because you can just blame them on her. However, that isn’t working because you seem to be aware that you need help.

You say very little about how you feel about her, what she’s like, what you do together – it’s all about your mistrust of her. You want her to make you feel happy, confident and successful. Of course, nobody can do that if you feel as worthless as you do.

It’s impossible to look at the underlying issues here with so little information, but I suspect you have never been able to live up to parental expectations of you and that you were brought up to perform well at school in order to feel loved. I wonder if your jealousy has a root in sibling rivalry – you felt your mother preferred a higher-achieving brother? Of course, this could be more classically Oedipal – a higher achieving father (particularly sexually) constantly won the battle for mother’s affection and something got in the way of your ability to work through this.

These are wild and fairly crass guesses, but what is clear is that you must think about and address these underlying issues before trying to fix your relationship or before embarking upon a new one with someone you feel you can trust. Marriage seems like a bad idea while you are still so anxious and uncertain about this person. Could you trust anyone fully? We don’t know. But we do know that you don’t trust this person and that your focus on that and on her behaviour is distracting you from the real issues – your own depression and anxiety and the lack of self-worth that makes you blame yourself for her infidelity and stay in a deeply unhappy relationship.

Proper Advice for Real Change via Skype or email: annablundy@gmail.com




About Anna Blundy

Honorary psychotherapist with a Masters in Psychoanalytic Theory and another in Psychodynamic Clinical Psychotherapy. Novelist - Author of the Faith Zanetti quintet - The Bad News Bible, Faith Without Doubt, Neat Vodka (US - Vodka Neat), Breaking Faith, My Favourite Poison. Also a memoir of my father, Every Time We Say Goodbye and my most recent thriller - The Oligarch's Wife
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