Dear Dr. Frankie, I Think My Partner is Cheating
Photo: Cheryl Mazak
Dear Dr. Frankie,
I had a sneaking suspicion for the past year that my partner of 11 years was having an affair. I finally convinced her to go to couples therapy because I felt the distance between us growing. My partner eventually admitted having a two-year affair with a close friend of ours. Can I ever trust her again? Does this mean her character is so flawed that she is incapable of having a monogamous relationship? My world is shattered and I don’t know if my marriage is salvageable and beyond that I don’t even know if I want to salvage it. —Betrayed
Eleven years is quite a significant amount of time. If the relationship was happy and fulfilling prior to the past several years my advice is not to make any immediate decisions about the relationship. You are correct, your life has been turned upside down and inside out; all the more reason that now is not the time to make decisions based on pain, anger, and betrayal. Many people have a belief that if their partner cheated on them they would end the relationship, period. Well, in theory this is understandable. But don’t cut off your nose to spite your face. By this I mean that life and relationships are complicated and absolutely not black and white. If your relationship brings you more joy and comfort than unhappiness, don’t scrap it simply to protect your pride or maintain a long held belief.
Once you’ve given yourself some time to heal and for the worst of the emotional rollercoaster to end, here are some important factors to consider.
Despite the betrayal do you still love your partner? Typically people wander when their needs are not being met; did you in any way contribute to the emotional distance you were feeling with your partner? Is your partner remorseful for the affair? Are you both willing to endure the discomfort that will hang over the relationship? Human beings and relationships are dynamic and complex. Not everyone is capable or willing to forgive such a betrayal. These are questions that only you can answer. I would encourage you to seek individual coaching or therapy for additional support.
Dear Dr. Frankie,
I’ve been married to my partner for eight years. We have a wonderful relationship with one MAJOR exception! Look up Lesbian Bed Death and you will see our faces! Please help-we haven’t had sex for at least six months. We talk about it openly but the more time passes the more difficult and awkward it is to rekindle. What to do? —Bed Death
Dear Bed Death,
Obviously you both need to figure out how to reignite the flame. You have obviously connected on many other levels so remind yourself of this when your anxiety around sex builds. My suggestion to you is to not rush or force physical intimacy. The idea of having sex, particularly if it has been a while, can be overwhelming and possibly intimidating. Build up to sex by becoming more intimate and reconnecting physically in non-sexual ways. Make time daily to reconnect. After you and your partner come home from work and decompress, turn off the cell phones, TV, and other distractions. It is important for you both to show genuine interest and curiosity about each other’s days. Make this a ritual and spend at least 30 minutes a night to engage. Mornings can be a whirlwind but do your best to connect before you each begin your hectic days. Have an idea of what kind of day your partner is expecting. Does she have an important presentation to give at work? A job interview? A doctor’s appointment? And check in periodically throughout the day to let her know you are thinking of her. A simple “XO” text might be just what she needs to boost her spirits during a grueling day of meetings.
The next step is to increase physical intimacy. Make time for activities that will increase your comfort levels with physical touch. Take a shower or bath together, relax in a hot tub, give your partner a massage, or even take a sex class together. It is also important to schedule a date night weekly or every other week. Make a point to go to bed together when possible. It’s hard to rekindle romance when one person is habitually falling asleep in front of the TV in the living room. Some of my favorite conversations are the ones I have with my partner before we fall asleep. Also remove dogs, children, and other sex-barriers from the bed.
One of you might have to take the reins and spearhead the change to a better sex life. I have every confidence that because you have a strong relationship you will be able to rekindle your flame.
Dear Dr. Frankie,
My partner and I have been together for about eight years. For the past several years I’ve become more and more jealous of my partner’s relationship with her ex-girlfriend. Before my partner and I met she was with another woman and they had a child together. My partner was not the one who ended the relationship. I won’t go into the gory details of their breakup but my partner was devastated, it was not what she wanted. I met my partner about two years after their breakup. We have a good relationship but I worry that she is still in love with her former partner (who by the way does not like me). I really respect and love that my partner maintains a good relationship with her former partner in order to co-parent their child. It bothers me that my partner and her ex-girlfriend went to the same places and restaurants that we also love. I’m pretty sure that she still has feelings for her ex-girlfriend. Do I need to worry about this? —Worry Wart
Dear Worry Wart,
As you already know there are very few perfect situations. You are making an assumption that your partner has feelings for her ex and this may or may not be true. Rather than making assumptions I think it would be healthy to have a discussion about your concerns. Open lines of communication are vital to a healthy, lasting relationship. I don’t have enough information to get a sense of this either way, but that is almost not the point. Even if your partner does have lingering feelings for her ex, she is choosing to be with you. Her ex broke off their relationship, precluding the possibility for them being together even if that is your partner’s wish. It is extremely important that you have a great relationship. Enjoy the fact that your partner loves you and chooses to be with you. You can either enjoy the relationship for what it is or you can worry yourself sick over what it might not be, and sabotage the relationship. Consider also making new memories and finding new favorite restaurants. Start a fresh page by exploring together so you can have your own favorite activities and places.
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