Damaged by a previous infidelity, I find it hard not to read every ordinary, innocent thing as a Sign. It's hurting an otherwise loving relationship with a wonderful woman, and I hate being this way and feel I am committing my own kind of betrayal. Looking for advice on strategies to stop, deflect, lessen.
posted by anonymous to human relations (32 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Long story cut very short. Some time back my wife had what we’ve settled on as an ‘emotional affair’. Not physical, I’m told, and I’ll settle for that, as it’s a long time done and we have had many good years since. It had a life-changing impact on me though, which has left me sadly jumpy at the prospect that it could happen again. This paranoia comes and goes, but the last eighteen months have been very hard.
One reason why I am sure I am being unhealthily suspicious and fearful is that at various times there have been various possible candidates. Could she have/have had an affair? Yes, these things happen. Could I have been right each and every time…I am sure I am not. It feels that I have the paranoia to start with, and then hang that on a convenient person. This creates a vicious circle - she is scared that I will misinterpret something wholly innocent so she doesn’t tell me about it, I then find out and the not being told then becomes a sign…
…but in this state of mind, everything is a sign. She puts her phone away, it’s a sign she doesn’t want it lying around. She leaves it out, aha, she knows I am concerned so it’s a deliberate tactic to put me off. I can manufacture a story in which anything is a sign, and I am well and truly fucking sick of it but I don’t know how to stop. If I'm in the wrong mood then whatever happens I can create a great fiction around it with no evidence at all...but it almost feels to me as if what I have made up has actually happened. It’s like a gut reaction, something learned like riding a bike. I need help to unlearn it.
An example - the phone is a problem for me, and when I'm in the low mood any sound of a message coming in is like a little electric shock. She has offered to let me pick it up at any time and look but I refuse. A year ago, I let it get to me so much that I checked on her phone a few times. I stopped and told her I had done it and have never so much as looked at it since, and very much regret doing it. I will not go back there, that much I do know, and I have not gone back there even when my fears have been very strong. If she is unexpectedly late, or takes longer when out than expected, I worry. If she seems a bit quiet, I worry. These are ordinary things, and she has a right to have friends and message them, be late, do something or go somewhere not planned, feel a bit tired and so be quiet, and not have that seen as a sign that she's up to something.
We have talked, but it is difficult to tell her sometimes when I’m feeling vulnerable to it, because quite naturally she then feels under suspicion and worries what she’s done to make me feel that way, or gets angry that I am thinking like that. I hate to do that to her, and to make her feel that way. I have had some counselling, which helped a bit but I feel there’s a long way left to go.
I’m sick to death of feeling the way I do, and I’m sick to death of hurting the woman I love very much by feeling like this and not being able to hide the way I feel. She has been patient and loving, but if I go on behaving like this, there’s the ironic danger that my behaviour could bring about the thing I fear.
How do I train myself to think in a different way, and get this Iago in my head to shut the hell up? Strategies to stop my paranoia and jealousy running away with itself, and creating a film in my head which starts to feel like a memory, not an invention. How to see the best in things, the million prosaic explanations, not the worst possible story? To deflect a thought, and move on in a more positive way. Anything, really, other than what I have.
My life is good, and I have people who love me. I should be happy. But I am really, really miserable and worst, it's through my own invention.
(although answers here are better in case they help someone else at some time in the future, if you have something helpful but feel that you can't post here and can email anonymously, you can get me at firstname.lastname@example.org)