Q&A with Jane Dodding: my partner cheated on me and I feel stuck because our children are so young

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By psychologist Jane Dodding

Q: I have just read the article on your website about infidelity and wanted to ask for advice. I recently found out my husband cheated on me while working in the mines and since then has been in contact on and off with this woman. I feel very stuck because our children are so young. I am very emotional and I’m trying to understand it all. He says he doesn’t know why and he says he continued talking to her because he was afraid she would tell me. But I don’t know what to believe! So heartbroken and confused.

A: I am so sorry to hear of your distress at the moment and it is quite understandable you are feeling confused and heartbroken. I also have no doubt you are also experiencing many other emotions right now and your mind is working overtime to try to understand the situation and work out what to do.

I’m pleased you have read Angie’s excellent column on infidelity and hope you are following her survival tips. Right now it is important you accept you are feeling vulnerable and therefore need to prioritise looking after yourself. It is often good to go back to basics and make sure you eat well, exercise, maintain a sleep routine, and make time to relax to slow your mind down and take breaks from thinking about the betrayal. Easier said than done, I know, but worth the discipline to get through this difficult time.

Apart from confiding in others, it can also be helpful to write about your thoughts and feelings. This can provide a safe avenue to express your private thoughts and can be helpful to gain perspective when you re-read them. You could also use writing as a “worry diary” which allows you a specific time (e.g. 45 minutes) to focus 100% on the issue, to do all your thinking about it at the time you have allocated. Once you finish, close the book and/or put away what you have written, knowing that you will work on it more at the next time you have allocated time to do so. If you find yourself thinking about the betrayal at other times, gently remind yourself that you have already thought about it earlier and will give it your full attention later but now is not the time; essentially giving yourself permission to focus on other things and caring for yourself.

It is quite normal to be confused and not know what to believe and for you to be questioning many of your husband’s past and present behaviour. However, it is promising to hear you and your husband are talking about it. To overcome betrayal and rebuild trust, it is important that you continue to have honest, open discussions about the betrayal and for your questions to be answered without hesitation. This can be uncomfortable for both of you, but has been shown to be vital in the recovery of betrayal and to increase the likelihood that your relationship will survive and possibly be strengthened. It might be worthwhile considering counselling as a couple to assist with this process.

I sincerely wish you all the best and if I can provide any other assistance please don’t hesitate to get in touch.


To read other columns written by our psychologists, please click here. And remember that we offer a free email Q&A service with our psychologists, so just click here to ask a question about relationships, parenting or your career.

All advice on Mining Family Matters is for general information only and should never be regarded as a substitute for professional health services or crisis services. To talk with a trained volunteer telephone counsellor at any time of the day or night, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. To contact the info line at beyondblue: national depression initiative, phone 1300 22 4636.

Jane Dodding is a psychologist and director with MindsPlus, a group of psychologists and other mental health workers who came together in 2007 to provide support to people living and working in rural and remote regions of Australia. For further information about MindsPlus, contact 1300 312 202 or visit www.mindsplus.com.au