If you ask most people what they consider the ultimate sign of betrayal in a relationship, they’ll usually saying being cheated on. It’s something many of us fear. And if and when it does happen, most people do see it as a dealbreaker – but not everyone.
This is the case for this week’s reader, Louise. “My husband is cheating with a much younger girl, 25 years’ age difference. I’m trying so hard to get him back but he just seems to choose her. We have kids and 20 plus years together. How do I get him to stop choosing her,” Louise writes.
What would you say to this reader?
Counselling Directory member Atlanta Rayner asks why Louise thinks it’s her job to get him back. “I would wonder if both of you could be working towards a new relationship together,” she says.
“Most people go out of their primary relationship if their needs are not being met.
“In this case it was your husband, but it could have also been you. You could consider when you feel things have changed for you, whether your needs are being met, and whether there are any communication and or/intimacy issues.”
Counselling Directory member Dr Jo Lindemann agrees it’s easy to attribute blame, but if we want to get clarity we need to understand both sides.
“Has this happened before? What is your husband missing in your relationship? Is he unhappy and why? Has he fallen out of love with you?” Lindemann says.
Is it bad that she wants to get back with her husband?
There’s a choice to leave, lump it or change it, Rayner says. “All these options take a lot of work. Sadly there’s no easy route , but reaching out for answers is a start. You want to find the best way forward for each individual. The choices you both make now will affect your children’s future relationships,” she adds.
“The best way forward is to understand what has happened and both move forward from this into a better relationship together or a new relationship , but not repeating the same patterns.”
Lindemann wants Louise to remember she has a choice, she’s not a victim.
“You could try to repair and fix your relationship, or you could stop fighting,” she says. “In my experience relationships only work long-term if it is a relationship of equals. Is he an equal? And what about YOU? Are you happy in your relationship?”
Lindemann continues: “Why would you settle for someone who cheats on you or does not treat you well. I often see people putting up with being treated badly or cheated on because they believe they do not deserve anything better. Perhaps there are deeper issues here for you to explore.”
What are some practical tips for this situation?
“Find the best way forward for yourself. Put yourself in the driving seat, become more self aware, look for knowledge which can help you understand your triggers, stress, and healing cycle,” Rayner says.
She suggests Louise could try going to couples counselling with her husband, and she also recommends CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) or EFT (emotional freedom technique) as talking therapies that might help.
Louise should reaching out to her support network, widening it if she needs, says Rayner, who also recommends reading around the subject of why people have affairs and listening to podcasts and Ted Talks. “Do some writing about all your feelings,” she adds. “Listen to your body and the feedback it is giving you.
Love Stuck is for those who’ve hit a romantic wall, whether you’re single or have been coupled up for decades. With the help of trained sex and relationship therapists, HuffPost UK will help answer your dilemmas. Submit a question here.