Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine answers another set of reader dilemmas
I have a destructive streak where relationships are concerned, and I simply don’t seem to be able to control it. Although I am ‘happily’ married with two children and a caring husband, I seem to have a need for extra-marital affairs (I had my first on my honeymoon!).
I know my behaviour is shocking by most people’s standards, but I don’t seem able to feel guilty. I even had a bit of a fling during lockdown, with someone I met whilst out walking. That’s ended now – but I’m now back at work and I’m being sent on a part-time college course soon, so the opportunities will be enormous.
My husband did find out about one relationship that got a bit out of hand, but he forgave me. You’d have thought that would make me feel guilty, but somehow it didn’t – it just added to the fun of it.
I would like to change my behaviour and be more loyal, because my husband really is a lovely man, but I don’t know how to start. My behaviour is like an addiction and, despite my good intentions, I seem unable to stop.
FIONA SAYS: COUNSELLING COULD HELP YOU GET TO THE BOTTOM OF IT
Please contact Relate (relate.org.uk) and get counselling help as soon as you can. You are, it would seem, addicted to the thrill of an extra-marital relationship and, like most addictions, they can be dangerous. You really need to sort out your feelings and find out what is missing from your life that you are replacing with the excitement of an affair.
It sounds as if you have a warm, loving relationship with your husband, but I suspect there is something in your past that triggers this behaviour. It might give you a clue as to why you behave this way, if only you are prepared to go looking for it – and that is something that counselling could help you do. Some people have a dependency on sex and sexual activity to help numb negative emotions and difficult experiences – could this be you?
If it’s something lacking in your relationship with your husband, then you need to find a way of addressing this. It might, for example, be passion – but passion is something that can be created, especially if you truly care for one another. In spite of your affairs, it sounds as if your husband is still very important to you and that you do care about him.
I’m sure you realise that not only are you putting your marriage at risk by carrying on as you are, but you are also running a huge health risk to your husband as well as yourself. How would you explain to him if you gave him a sexually transmitted infection of some kind? How would you explain things to your two children if your husband decided he wasn’t prepared to forgive you?
Aside from Relate, another organisation you could turn to if you feel it might help would be ATSAC. That stands for the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity (atsac.org.uk) and it might be an alternative route for you to follow. Whatever you do though, do please seek professional help – not just for your sake, or for your husband’s but for your children as well.
WHY AM I SO STUCK IN A RUT?
Why can’t I change my life? I feel like I’m such a failure and I’m so depressed with myself that I can’t see me ever amounting to anything. My boss offered me a fantastic promotion a couple of weeks ago, but in the end, I just turned it down – don’t ask me why, I just don’t know, but it all seemed too much.
On top of that, I’m in a relationship with someone that I’ve long since fallen out of love with. I’ve been trying to finish it for the last six months but just can’t seem to summon up the energy for the argument that’s going to ensue.
Why am I stuck in such a rut, and what’s wrong with me?
FIONA SAYS: COULD A SELF-ESTEEM BOOST HELP?
Something is clearly holding you back from what you want to achieve. It might be a fear of change, or it could be that you’re depressed – it could be a bit of both. You clearly want to change your life, but the fear that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the fence can hold us back.
Most of us experience this battling of the two sides of our nature quite regularly, and it is often perfectly normal. It only becomes a problem if, as with you, you let the negative side continually come to the fore.
Also, huge numbers of people have become depressed because of either Covid itself or the repercussions from it. If you think this might be you then perhaps a chat with your GP would help, or you could try other remedies, like exercise, which is known to help.
If you had more confidence in yourself and in your abilities, I think that would help too. For some reason, your self-esteem has taken a knock, so think about, perhaps, reading up on ways to help yourself like yourself a bit more. There are lots of great self-help books out there.
As for your boyfriend, you might find that once you fall back in love with yourself, you start feeling differently, so if you’re not 100% sure, it might be better to wait until you feel better.
If you have a problem you need help with, email Fiona by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org for advice. All letters are treated in complete confidence and, to protect this privacy, Fiona is unable to pass on your messages to other readers. Fiona regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence.