Q: My girlfriend of three years went to her 30th college reunion and connected with an old divorced classmate. Upon her return, she told me she was going to pursue a relationship with this person and end ours. I fought for her, and she ultimately cooled on this guy, claiming that he was a minor celebrity at the reunion and that it was about being all caught up in the moment. It has haunted me a bit. Don't know what actually occurred, but can imagine. Bothered by how easily she strayed? Will it happen again? Feels like it's caused a permanent distrust / fracture in our lives. How do we get to level ground? -- Nick, 54
Dr. Susan: Affairs are always traumatic to a relationship, whether you're married or not. Same goes for whether the affair was physical or "only" an emotional one. At least she didn't sneak around for long, but rather told you what she intended to do. That's a point in her favor. Not only that, but she seems to have some insight into why she fell for this old classmate. It's a common story, sadly, that people get all excited about someone they knew ages ago. Somehow it makes them feel young again and they often mistake those feelings for something real or lasting. The two of you need to treat her misguided adventure as an affair and take it seriously. I highly recommend Frank Pittman's Private Lies, or my own book, Loving in Flow, in which you'll learn how distressed couples surmount betrayals and go on to have happy relationships. Number one requirement, you'll find, is total and complete honesty from now on, so that you can rebuild trust. That doesn't mean she has to give you horrid details, if you prefer not to know them. The fracture is genuine and not to be belittled. Time and commitment will bring healing.
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Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, relationship expert, and bestselling and award-winning author. Her books include Loving in Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get and Stay That Way, and Kylie's Heel, a novel for adults.
Pamela G. Chollet, Ph.D.
Dr. Pamela Chollet has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and Master degrees in educational psychology and fine arts. Her passion has been helping people face and get through those times when they feel trapped and unable to move forward.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, stress management expert, and author. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or struggling to make changes in your life, Anna can help.