Q. My partner accuses me of cheating and looking at other women when we are out. She won’t say anything whilst we’re in a bar, restaurant or at a friend’s house, but as soon as we leave, she launches into a frenzied verbal attack. She’s so detailed about what I’ve said and done, most of which I don’t even know what she’s referring to. I’ve tried everything to show I love her and reassure her I’m not a cheat, but somehow in her mind I’m ready to leave and go off with whomever. Sometimes the arguments go on until early hours of the morning and then she won’t talk to me for days. I could understand her fears if it was true, but I’ve never cheated on her, not until recently.
I was so down at work one day after a night of hysterical interrogation, when a colleague joined me for a coffee. I confided in her and she listened. We started meeting at lunchtime and one day went back to hers for the afternoon. We’ve now been seeing one another intimately for three months. It’s the first time I’ve cheated.
I don’t want to be with my partner anymore, it’s too much, but I fear what she’ll do if we break up.
A. It seems your partner is very insecure and struggles to trust she’s loved or that she’s loveable. She compares herself to other women, most likely believes they are better, more attractive, more successful, slimmer, funnier and so on, hence her insecurity.
Her anxiety will be rooted in early childhood, in her early childhood relationships. Maybe one of her parents left when she was young, possibly following an affair, hence her fear you’ll go off with someone else. Growing up her home environment may have been chaotic or even critical and abusive. Remember there are different ways of being abusive; it’s not just physical or sexual.
The comparison with others comes from a yearning to be perfect driven by a longing for love and acceptance but always fearing she’s not good enough. Consequently she relies on external validation, ie. you, to reassure her and affirm her qualities. Unfortunately, whatever you say or do, even if you told her every day how good she is and how much you love her, she’ll struggle to believe it. Not because she doesn’t trust what you’re saying, but because she won’t believe it about herself. She thinks she’s unlovable and yet longs to be loved.
I understand your predicament about ending the relationship, and you can’t give up your life for fear of what she may do. Your partner needs professional support to help her heal her childhood wounds before she can venture into a healthy adult relationship.
Arrange to go for a coffee or a walk in the park. Talk to her about how you feel when her insecurities are triggered. Be willing to listen openly, without judgement and without feeling you need to fix or defend yourself if she blames you. Take responsibility for your share of the relationship breakdown but equally don’t take on hers as well.
Be honest about why you’re ending the relationship but kind and understanding. Speak with her about seeking the help of a therapist. Suggest she contacts a friend for moral support. Show gratitude for what you’ve experienced together and what you’ve learned from one another. Break ups don’t have to be a big drama.
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