When Your Partner is Unfaithful, Try Looking at Yourself

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Reader’s Question

I’ve been married for 3 years now. Sometimes it’s been okay, but most times terrible. He always blamed me for everything. In our second year, he did that less, but started to hurt me more verbally, e.g. he would say he wasn’t blaming me so much because he didn’t care. When we are okay for a few days, he never says “I love you,” but he wants me to say it. He always wants me to initiate our sexual relations — he never will. And if I ask him, “Why don’t you? You should, because you are the man,” then he goes crazy. So I’ve just stopped talking about it. But he really makes me upset because after we finish, I feel like I am nothing. So why should I always take the initiative?

In the third year of our marriage I found he was emailing a lot of girls, asking for sex with them. At first, I didn’t say anything about it, until I felt it had gotten out of hand, and then I told him he had to stop. He did stop for a while, but began again. Eventually I found that he had gone to meet one of them. He said they just met, and didn’t do more. I didn’t forgive him right away. In less than a month he texted another girl, inviting her to come home to have sex while I was not there. When I told him I couldn’t accept that at all, he said it was my fault because I was snooping behind his back. He said that if I wanted to live happily I should stop checking up on him. After a month of fighting about it, I left home, and he started saying bad things about me to all of my friends on Facebook. After three weeks, he came back to apologize, and he put good stuff about me online. I still feel angry with him, but I feel like I can’t stop myself from needing him sexually. I don’t know why, but he’s the only sexual partner I’ve ever had. I’m not able to say no to him.

Do you think he is narcissistic? Do you think if he would agree to go for sex addiction treatment, and to a family counselor, maybe that would work?

Psychologist’s Reply

One of the difficulties inherent in working with couples is that each of them wants the other person to change. However, that is exactly the opposite of what needs to happen. In every relationship we have, the only person we have control over is ourselves. And it only takes one person to change an entire system. Therefore, we are the change agents. As such, the person you need to concentrate on changing is you.

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I cannot tell you whether your husband is a narcissist or a sex addict, but I can tell you that, if you want to be happier, how you respond to him needs to change. One of the best ways to change a relationship is to figure out what you would like to see happen and then do it. This is especially true for people living with addicts (of any kind). People who no longer want to enable their loved one’s addictive behavior set boundaries for what behavior they will accept, and then give consequences for the rest. In other words, start saying no to him and insist that he treat you with the respect you deserve. If you cannot do that, I strongly recommend that you figure out why you are willing to accept the poor treatment he is giving.

One of the most important things to know about counseling (and this includes treatment for addiction) is that it only works if the person involved wants it to work. Changing thoughts, behaviors and feelings is difficult, and only the willing are able to stick with it. That is one reason why addicts usually change only when they hit rock bottom. Before losing everything, they often don’t have the desire to quit. Consequently, you can send your husband to treatment and counseling but if he is not invested in the outcome, then you are wasting your time and his. However, if you decide that you are ready for change, then maybe counseling can be helpful to you.

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