Why Did All My Exes Cheat?
Reeling from a series of bad relationships, one woman wonders how to move forward.
DR. GILDA CARLE (Ph.D.)
Courtesy of Match.com’s Happen Magazine
Dear Dr. Gilda,
I’m having a major run of bad luck. I had been married for 23 years when my husband said he was bored and didn’t want to be married to me anymore. It turns out he had been having an affair with a co-worker. A few months later, I met someone in the Air Force who was home on leave. I did not get sexually involved with the new guy until a month after my divorce, and we married a few months later.
I know now this was a rebound marriage, and it ended four months later, after I caught him having an affair with an old girlfriend—to top it off, he got her pregnant! I did have one new relationship two years after my second divorce, and it lasted eight months, but he decided to marry a woman from his church.
Dr. Gilda, what is my problem? I have trust issues. I’ve pulled myself out of the whole dating scene and now whenever a man shows me the slightest interest, I wonder, “OK, Bud, what are your real intentions?” I do admit to carrying some baggage still—anger and jealousy towards my ex-husbands. How do I work through my lack of trust and self-esteem?
Lonely In San Francisco
Loneliness, distrust, anger, and jealousy are all obstacles to love. There’s nothing wrong with you except that you didn’t take time between marriages to discover your identity as an independent woman. When each husband cheated on you, you internalized it as something wrong with you. You still felt inadequate two years after your second marriage, when you established ties with another man who chose to marry someone else.
From the outside, it seems that each of these three men cast you aside for another woman. But you played a role in pushing each one out the door.
Let’s backtrack. You never did the necessary work to discover what went wrong in your marriage. Why was your husband bored? Were you bored, too, after 23 years? Did either of you try to recapture the waning passion? Instead of probing these questions, you licked your wounds with a military man only a few months later. You married him as an act of revenge against the husband who left you and as a way to bump up your self-confidence. Obviously, a revenge-marriage can’t work because it’s founded on the wrong things.
Good for you for pulling yourself out of the dating pool for now. That’s the healthiest thing you have done in a long time. But other actions must also be taken. While you’re alone, instead of complaining about your trust and self-esteem issues, acknowledge your past behavioral patterns. This is how:
1. Get into counseling with the goal of changing your “victim” mentality to that of “victor.”
2. Learn how far back you have been feeling angry and jealous. I would bet you had these feelings even before your first marriage—which probably impacted your marital derailment.
3. While you can lay blame on your men for cheating, also examine how you treated each guy. As my Gilda-Gram says, “For love to last, you must be invested in your partnership.” Can you describe yourself as being “invested” or just being in each relationship? Just being in a marriage is just drifting, and just drifting pushes a relationship to drift away.
4. Everyone brings something to the party. Distrust and shabby self-esteem make loving impossible. That’s how you may have pushed your partners out the door.
You signed your name, “Lonely in San Francisco.” Are you lonely enough to make some changes now? If so, these lessons were good lessons. The wonderful world of single life beckons you when you are finally ready.
DR. GILDA CARLE (Ph.D.) is an internationally known psychotherapist, relationship educator, and management consultant. She is Match.com’s “Ask Dr. Gilda” advice columnist published on MSN.com. She is also known as the Country Music Doctor, with her “Country Cures.” She is a motivational speaker, professor of psychology & communications, the author of the well-known “Don’t Bet on the Prince!,” a test question on “Jeopardy,” 99 Prescriptions for Fidelity, How to Win When Your Mate Cheats, and many more. She was the therapist in HBO's Emmy Award winner, "Telling Nicholas," featured on Oprah, where she guided a family to tell their 7-year-old that his mom died in the World Trade Center bombing. She is currently developing her own TV show. Visit www.DrGilda.com and get her Instant Advice!