[Two Pronged] My partner cheated on me but I still want him back
Rappler's Life and Style section runs an advice column by couple Jeremy Baer and clinical psychologist Dr Margarita Holmes.
Jeremy has a master's degree in law from Oxford University. A banker of 37 years who worked in 3 continents, he has been training with Dr Holmes for the last 10 years as co-lecturer and, occasionally, as co-therapist, especially with clients whose financial concerns intrude into their daily lives
Together, they have written two books: Love Triangles: Understanding the Macho-Mistress Mentality and Imported Love: Filipino-Foreign Liaisons.
Dear Dr. Holmes and Mr. Baer,
I recently found out that my fiancé whom I've been with for over 11 years and is the father of my son had been cheating on me. I admit that I'm not innocent in the fact that I was depressed from losing my mom and sister 2 years ago. I just gave up on being happy in life.
Even prior to their death, I felt like I wasn't good enough for him, or that I was not what he wanted, but I was happy because at least I had him in my life somehow. Apparently, he gave up trying because he thought that I wasn't interested. Which wasn't and still isn't the case at all. I have said all that I can say and I (the one who would NEVER cheat) have been begging and pleading, but all he can say is he just doesn't know what he wants.
He has doubts that I can be happy again. I am finally making the changes I need to make to be a happier and mentally healthier person. Why can't he give me the one chance I need to prove to him we do belong together? Or is this probably just an excuse that he uses because he thinks I will take his son? How am I so ready to forgive and move on and build our lives up, even if I am a mere option to him?
Hopelessly and truly in love
Thank you for your email.
So before the deaths of your mother and sister, you already felt you were not good enough for your fiancé (let’s call him Don) or not what he wanted. Notwithstanding what some might consider a fundamental flaw in the relationship, you persevered with Don because you were happy with him in your life. Then death and depression struck and the situation became more complicated. You gave up on happiness and Don gave up on your relationship because he thought you’d lost interest — which you say wasn’t and isn’t the case.
Quite how you quit happiness while embracing your relationship is not clear.
A significant factor in this timeline of a fracturing relationship is that you felt you weren’t good enough for Don before the deaths and depression. Unfortunately, you don’t tell us why you thought this or why a man should be willing to remain with a woman for eleven years when she isn’t what he wants. You also don’t mention discussing it with Don.
From all this, one stark fact emerges: you and Don have spent years together forming views about what the other is thinking and feeling without apparently actually having a conversation about what sort of a relationship you both want and how to achieve it.
Communication is now the key to any possible future together. You say you are on the road to happier times, he says he doesn’t think you are but doesn’t know what he wants. There is plenty of scope for discussion but it remains possible that there is too much history between you to bridge the gap, though hopefully that won’t be the case.
All the best,
Dear HATIL (Hopelessly and Truly in Love):
Thank you very much for your letter. Mr Baer has brought up many important points about your relationship and I agree that communication between you seems to have broken down way before you found out he was cheating on you.
I cannot second guess the reasons he wants to end your relationship, but it seems fairly clear that he wants to.
Just look at his answers to you, HATIL: “He gave up trying.” It doesn’t matter what reason he gives [at this point it was “he thought you weren’t interested”] but if that were truly the case, after you’ve reassured him that you are making changes you need to, he would give your relationship another chance to see if you are capable of truly making effective changes.
I say this not because I think you are lying. Depression is such a debilitating mental disorder that sometimes a depressed person cannot do something no matter how much she wants to.
Since you are just coming out of your depression, expecting yourself to prove to someone else that you are happier and rid of it completely (which is many people’s definition of a mentally healthy person) is too onerous a task. It will make you even more depressed if you “fail.” For you, failing is his leaving you, but that may have nothing to do with you or how you present yourself to him now. I think he’s already left.
I am sorry to seemingly be so harsh; but I think it is better to know you could have done nothing to make him stay, rather than berating yourself for not doing enough, not saying the right things, etc. You will not have failed if he leaves you, HATIL, because no matter what you do, say, or promise, he already has.
When a man says “he just doesn't know what he wants,” this usually means he wants out of the relationship. How can you "convince" him to stay when you don’t know what needs to happen to make him stay, and he isn’t helping at all because “he doesn’t know what he wants?"
It is possible that he loves you, but just isn’t strong enough to continue with your relationship. It is extremely difficult to live with a depressed person (no matter how “reasonable” the cause of your depression); it is possible that he himself got depressed. That can be extremely frightening for someone not psychologically inclined. The normal reaction is to cut and run. One of the least imaginative way to do this is to have an affair.
I am so, so sorry to have to give you the bad news but, devastating though it is to hear this now, I hope it is better than your jumping through hoops to convince him of something he doesn’t want convincing of.
Please think about going for therapy, HATIL; not necessarily over the long haul, but just to help you get over this very trying time.
Need advice from our Two Pronged duo? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with subject heading TWO PRONGED. Unfortunately, the volume of correspondence precludes a personal response.