I have been in a relationship for 8 years now, but he has left me 3 times now. The last time he left he slept with another woman, but he told me about it when he asked me to take him back. He has got a wandering eye, and he tells me that I'm just jealous, but that is not true. He is so secretive about his actions. He gets angry if I ask him who he's talking to on the phone; when we meet a woman that I don't know but he does, he won't tell me who she is.
Yesterday however, I found out that he is sending cute e-cards to a woman who is in the church with us and whom I "know" he thinks is attractive. My reaction to this was deep hurt - not only did he keep this a secret, but he is also sending another woman cute e-cards.
Where do relationship boundaries regarding secrecy and contacting others begin?
I am sorry to hear about the recent troubles in your marriage. It sounds like from your email that your husband has commitment issues. People with commitment issues try to keep all their options open even when married. They often deal with situations and problems by leaving temporarily. They often have horrible communication skills.
A good rule of thumb is that only minimal to no flirting should take place. If there is some, only a very strong and trusting relationship can handle it. Your marriage does not sound as if that is the case.
Sending e-cards to another woman is inappropriate unless: she is both a friend to the couple and a personal friend of the person sending it, and the relationship is definitely platonic in nature. You should also not have to find out about it. A caring partner would reassure you and tell you about it beforehand.
It is quite healthy for married people to have both couple friends and separate friendships. Since the opposite sex is fully one half of the population, it is fine to have separate friendships with them. However, the relationships should be clean and display good boundaries, and the marriage should be strong. His secretiveness worries me.
However, it is possible that his charge of you being overly jealous is accurate. Very often, people who have been abandoned as a child by the early death, divorce, or lack of intimacy of a parent seem drawn to distant and commitment phobic partners. I wouldn't let his misbehavior make you blind to that possibility. You both could be reinforcing each others behavior. Let yourself objectively reevaluate whether he has a point. Remember though that this does not excuse his behavior at all.
Seek counseling for yourself, not only to deal with this possibility, but also to understand his problem and be better prepared to deal with it. Also, I strongly suggest marital therapy as well. The relationship is unstable and tenuous, so don't ignore it.
I hope this has been helpful. Good luck.
Jef Gazley, M.S., LMFT
This question was answered by Jef Gazley M.S. Jef has practiced psychotherapy for twenty-five years, specializing in Love Addiction, Hypnotherapy, Relationship Management, Dysfunctional Families, Co-Dependency, Professional Coaching, and Trauma Issues. He is a trained counselor in EMDR, NET, TFT, and Applied Kinesiology. He is dedicated to guiding individuals to achieving a life long commitment to mental health and relationship mastery. His private practice locations are Scottsdale and Tempe, Arizona. You can also visit Jef at the internettherapist, the first audiovisual mental health online counseling center on the net.
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