Q&A Double Take: We Were Married, We Took a Break. We Both Cheated. I Can’t Get Past It
Dear Alison and Tony: My husband and I have been together 10 years, but two years ago we legally separated. We agreed that we would be free to sleep with other people during this separation which I assumed would lead to our divorce. But we didn’t divorce, we got back together again. The problem is that I am obsessed with the fact that he slept with other women. He seems ok with the fact that I slept with other men while we were apart, but I just keep thinking about those women. I want to know the details, and then I don’t. What if he is still seeing them, or wants to see them? What if they call him? What if they were better in bed than me? I know it’s illogical, as we are back together and this could ruin things, but I just cannot stop thinking about it. Please help me get past this because it’s all I think about.
Tony’s Take: Many breakups start when relationships get repetitive, predictable, and dull. The expression the grass looks greener on the other side of the fence jumps directly to mind. We always know there is a rush of feeling whenever we start up with a new person (sadly some of us never settle down and keeping seeking that initial rush by flitting from partner to partner).
Your getting back together has led you to a more mature and important realization about a partner. That is, they are your friend, your comfort, your companion. The one you want to be intimate with, which leaves all other relationships no matter how sexual, lacking in the real intimacy and understanding department.
Your current obsession and realize that it is an obsession, is born out of insecurity. You are afraid that good sex could trump the intimacy you share with your partner. You are afraid that you have not given your partner what you think, not what he thinks, is a good enough experience to keep his eye from wandering, now that he has (with your permission).
You are right, sex with this other woman is going to be better than sex with you simply because it is new and fresh and both people are on their best behavior and both people are working towards making each other happy in order to have a relationship. This does not mean that sex a month from now with that woman is going to be any good at all after you find out that she drinks herself to sleep every night (and we don’t mean cocoa), and never has the energy or desire for intimate relations.
Understand, truly, he chose you over them. If he wanted any of them or saw a future with any of them he would have held you off and kept talking while he was bonking his way to sexual fulfillment. But he chose you. And the intimacy of you and the holding of you and the kissing of you . He has to adore you and you have to adore and cherish him in return . Stop this self-destructive thoughts about these other women and if you really feel paranoid about it, become a better lover. Either read books or at this point, there are even erotic and intimate videos as opposed to straight male-based pornography. Understand the feelings of the men and women in these because they are often boyfriend and girlfriend and see how it applies to your own lovemaking.
As a woman, I feel that we are very competitive with other women. It’s in our nature to compare our hair, nails, clothing, etc. When it comes to this issue, keep in mind that even if those other women were better looking, more charming, even more clever, accommodating and yes, better in bed, they are not the sum total of who YOU are. Apparently your “total package” brought your husband back to you. You are married to him. The ring is on YOUR finger. They might have borrowed him, but he’s yours to keep, if you’re wise about this.
What will happen if he wants to call one of these women, or they call him to lure him back? If the issues that sent him into their arms in the first place are still there, you are right, you have reason to worry, so work on fixing those. But, meanwhile, if things are good between you and your husband says he’s no interested in other women anymore, you should try and believe that. Without trust, there’s little else to believe.
I can’t add much more to the great advice Tony provided above, other than if you want to continue to think about this breakup, don’t focus on the women he might have been with, but on the man you’re with now. What made the two of you break up in the first place? Is your communication better now? Can you see a real future with him, or are you staying together because you didn’t really find what you were seeking (but you are still wondering) out in that big, cold world? The women are not the issue, as your husband already realizes since he isn’t as bothered by your own infidelity, it’s the issues that brought to you to someone else, that is.