Q&A: Partner constantly accusing me of infidelity
By psychologist Angie Willcocks
Q: Hello, I am so glad to have found you. I have been with my partner for two years and he has always had a hard time trusting me to be faithful. He has suffered infidelity by former partners while working away at the mines. We met while he was on a break from the mines, but now that he has gone back to FIFO he is constantly accusing me of wanting to sleep with other people. He says he can't control the feelings no matter how insane it is. When I can't keep up with his sex drive, he turns that into another reason why I must be cheating on him. To his credit, my partner has made an appointment to see a counsellor. He knows it is a problem that could destroy us. Is this common? Do you have any advice? I love my partner so much and I'm willing to hold his hand through this but at the same time it is so disrespectful what he says to me - it feels like emotional abuse.
A: Thanks for your email. I really feel for both you and your partner because it sounds like you are both really suffering at the moment: you because of being unfairly accused (and yes, it is emotional abuse) and your partner because he is obviously so tormented by what has happened to him in the past. I know it takes a lot of effort to move on from having one’s trust broken, especially if trust is broken more than once.
To answer your first question: no, it’s not very common for someone to experience mistrust in such a severe way, especially two years into a relationship. I know that your partner has had a bad time with infidelity in the past, so in a sense his behaviour might be understandable to you. But just be careful – a danger of being too ‘understanding’ in a relationship is that unacceptable behaviour can slowly but surely start to become part of the day-to-day life you share.
My advice to you is, firstly, to have a read of my previous column on living with someone who is depressed because a lot of what I say in there is relevant to your situation. In particular, it’s important to be clear about what is OK and what is not OK with regard to your partner’s behaviours. For example, it might be OK for him to tell you that his thoughts around your faithfulness are hard to manage, and not OK for him to actually accuse you of sleeping with someone else.
I know it’s really hard for him now, but his behaviour is his responsibility, no-one else’s. I’m so pleased that he is getting some help. Please note that if he really can’t get on top of his problematic thinking, he will need to consider talking with a GP about further treatment (such as antidepressant medication that can really help people as they learn new thinking styles).
I definitely agree that FIFO is triggering his past bad experiences, and making them seem real in the ‘here and now’. Counselling will be able to help him with this. Like I always say, it’s very important to frequently re-assess how FIFO is going in your life, and whether or not it’s working for you (and your family/partner). I would encourage you and your partner to sit down and talk about the pros and cons of FIFO. Clearly, the current situation is not working very well for you as a couple, and this needs to be discussed. It’s vital that this is re-assessed frequently, and in a situation like yours I'd advise having a chat about it every month or so.
I wish you all the best. I hope your partner gets some help and learns ways to manage his behaviour firstly, but also ultimately his thoughts. Please come back to me if I can be of any further assistance to you.
To read other columns written by Angie Willcocks during her six years with Mining Family Matters, 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.