Q Three years ago, my husband of 11 years had an affair with another woman. We tried to work it out to avoid a break-up, but I could not trust him and he didn’t seem to be interested in continuing our relationship. Although, we have one child together, we ended up divorcing. For two years, I didn’t date anyone. Now, as men become interested in me, I am noticing that although I want to date, I also find ways to avoid getting close. I don’t know quite how to start trusting again.

A An affair shatters trust, especially after a substantial amount of time together, and it sounds like you tried to reconcile and avoid a divorce. Getting over an affair is one of the most challenging aspects of relationships. Did you get some clarity on what were some underlying issues that may have ended up in an affair and a divorce? Do you see it as a problem your husband had, or was it a reflection of the status of your relationship? Was there a loss of attraction? Did he tell you why he didn’t want to be with you? How much healing, forgiveness, or resolution did you have? When a relationship includes covert behaviors and secrecy, it indicates a lack of courage and impulse control, the avoidance of difficult issues, and unmet needs or desires. Understanding these dynamics will help you work on preparing for a new relationship.

Trusting another man will be difficult at first, especially if the memories of your ex-husband continue to surface. This can be an opportune time to heal more deeply from the fear, vulnerability, anger, and loss you felt due to the betrayal. These feelings cannot be risen above, and need to be understood and expressed. Knowing what caused the affair can offer you insight and a sense of agency, giving you more confidence to be with another man. The way through is by seeing as full a picture as possible, accepting that such break-ups occur, and taking the opportunity to learn and grow from the experience. The more aware you are of your own behaviors, emotions, patterns, and style of relating, the more conscious a partner you will attract.

It’s natural to project your fears onto the new person you are dating. Asking questions and sorting out the past from the present will be very important. Dealing with issues as they arise, rather than hoping they will go away in time, or that positive experiences will simply dissolve negatives ones, doesn’t work in the long run. Having the tools to communicate honestly, work on misunderstandings, and make agreements will help foster a more trusting and fulfilling partnership.

Q I want to report that I have found some of the tips you have given in previous months on how to be “in the present moment” helpful whenever I practice them. I am now convinced that these methods really work in helping me relax, be more aware, and sense what is occurring in my body. I just wish I could be more disciplined in my practice.

A Yes, being regular with these practices is difficult for most people! Deep breathing and mindfulness even for five minutes while waiting for the train or at the grocery line can be useful. Doing these practices first thing in the morning before starting your activities works well for most people. As the benefits and enjoyment continue to increase, so will your commitment.

Alzak Amlani, Ph.D., is a counseling psychologist in the Bay Area. 650-325-8393. www.wholenesstherapy.com

 

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