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QUESTIONS & ANSWERS:
Relationships Department

Please remember, this column is designed to help the consumer seeking behavioral-health information, and not intended to be any form of psychotherapy or a replacement for professional, individualized services. Opinions expressed in the column are those of the columnist and do not represent the position of other SelfhelpMagazine.com staff.

Question

About 4 months ago, I discovered that last year my wife had an affair with someone who was helping her with a family situation. She said she had made a mistake and it was over. However, I later found out that the affair continued. Again we talked it out and she has said that this time it is really over. But how do I really know? I am tired of spying and feeling suspicious. I still have the feeling something is going on. What do I do?

Answer

Despite the fact that your wife betrayed you and then lied, you seem to want to believe her and wish to work things out between you. Now you still suspect something is going on, you feel suspicious, and yet you do not want to end your marriage. You must either love your wife very much and want to trust her or you need her very much. In either case, the thought of leaving her apparently is not acceptable to you.

People have affairs when their needs aren't being met within the context of the marriage. It's quite possible that your wife is not sufficiently happy to confront you with her dissatisfaction with the marriage, so she seeks extra-marital relationships to get what she needs. Her attachment to this other person seems great enough to risk hurting you and ruining your marriage. You are not sufficiently dissatisfied with the marriage to warrant leaving. There must be something in this relationship for the two of you to remain together despite her dissatisfaction and your hurt. Perhaps it's love, perhaps it's dependence, perhaps it's the fear of being alone. Based on the information given, however, it appears that both you and your wife could benefit from professional help to understand the nature of your relationship. A trained professional might be able to help you discover what's missing, help you each to understand your respective needs, and perhaps help you seek resolution and forge a new beginning. Or perhaps through therapy you both will find the courage to admit the marriage is not working and, before hurting each other further, go your separate ways.

In order form marriage to work, at a minimum, there needs to be mutual trust, mutual respect, honesty, and caring. The scenario you describe seems to missing all four.

There is a series of articles dealing with marriage in our magazine that might help; please check the Relationships section.

3/5/98

Dr. Edward A. Dreyfus is a Clinical Psychologist, Marriage, Family, Child Therapist, and Sex Therapist. Dr. Dreyfus has been providing psychological services in the Los Angeles-Santa Monica area for over 30 years. He offers individual psychotherapy to adolescents and adults, divorce mediation, couples counseling, group therapy, and career and vocational counseling and assessment.His book, Someone Right For You, is available in the Amazing Bookstore Catalog.

Dr. Dreyfus can be reached at: (310) 208-5700.

 

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