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I’m feeling very betrayed and lost right now

Background: My fiancé and I have been dating for close to 5 years now and have been engaged for a year. We have an almost two year old son. We bought our first home three hours away from where we currently live. Our relationship in the beginning was great! We were in love and always all over each other. We’d always do everything and always show small acts of love. I unexpectedly became pregnant and it took a toll on me emotionally. I became more distant from my partner and more consumed with my mental health. After our son was born we had a lot of problems because of his toxic family. I was really hurt and I became even more distant. We still have sex just not as often. But I’m not as affectionate and I don’t really treat him like in the beginning of the relationship. Things have been rocky and I’ve told him on multiple occasions that he’s not the partner I want him to be for me. I’ve done a lot of criticizing and demanding to meet these needs. He’s told me he feels unappreciated and like he’s not wanted or loved but I can’t seem to get out of the routine to be more affectionate. I think this branches out from us not putting effort in like we were when we were first dating. I think we’ve fallen into a routine and have gotten comfortable with the routine. A week ago we got into an argument and I told him I felt like I wasn’t truly happy with how things were between us.

Issue: I am staying with my parents for a week until our home is ready. My fiancé is supposed to be bringing all of our stuff this weekend to move in. I received a message from a girl who lives 30 minutes from our apartment asking if I was dating my fiancé. She proceeded to send me screenshots of them talking. It was small talk. He didn’t flirt with her and she didn’t flirt with him. He invited her to a haunted house and then he deleted her off Facebook. She asked if he had a girlfriend and immediately contacted me after asking. I called my fiancé and he admitted to me talking to her on Sunday evening and Monday. He said he did this because he was seeking attention I don’t give him. He said he had no intention of meeting with her. He just wanted someone to pay attention to him.

My thoughts: My heart shattered and my chest felt like it wanted to explode. I am completely taken aback by this because I never expected him to do such a thing. He’s never done anything shady. Never hid his phone or passcode. I read all the messages again and nothing was flirtatious and she did send all of the messages. Part of me wants to forget this ever happened because he didn’t physically do anything. But another part of me wants to leave him for betraying me. I think me being neglecting plays a big role in this. I understand how not feeling loved and appreciated could lead you to want to search for this elsewhere. Is it still wrong? Absolutely. I just truly love this guy so much I can’t bring myself to walk away. Am I being unreasonable?

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First off, welcome to Heart Support. You’re in a good place for this.

Now, you’re undoubtedly hurt, and it’s a perfectly normal knee-jerk reaction to want to leave him. You wouldn’t be entirely out of line to do so. However, it sounds to me like you are aware of all the issues that led up to this and are taking a very pragmatic approach to it, so you’ll be open to advice. Everyone on here may have a different perspective on this, but here’s mine.

Do you see infidelity as black-and-white, or are there shades of infidelity? I’d say emotional infidelity is no better, and perhaps worse, than physical infidelity. It sounds to me like he didn’t go into a full-blown emotional affair, but that he was testing the waters by talking to her and asking her out. It’s a definite red flag. TBH if my relationship was rocky I’d be tempted to do the same thing, but like him I’d be timid and unsure about it.

I went to a marriage seminar this year, and the presenter talked about love tanks. The idea is that if we’re receiving the right kind of affection (more on that in a minute), our love tanks are full, we are fulfilled in our relationships, and we have love to give back to our partners in turn. When our love tanks are empty, our partners become more like roommates. First, we stop feeling affection for them, then we begin to resent them. That doesn’t mean you stop loving or caring about each other, but you don’t make each other happy, and that’s where he’s inclined to find happiness elsewhere, even if it’s just emotionally.

Men are fragile. A lot may deny it, but we are. Just reading that you tell him he’s not the partner you want him to be makes me feel like I’ve been pushed in the chest. He’s told you he feels unappreciated and unloved, which is better verbal communication than a lot of men will give. If you tell him that multiple times, he’ll take it to heart and shut down. Criticizing and demanding further extends that message that he can’t do anything right, so after awhile what’s the point in him trying? He feels defeated.

Now, don’t go saying it’s all your fault and calling yourself names. You both played a role in this. Your love tank is empty too. Pure lust won’t carry a relationship for 3 years, so the first 3 years of your relationship were genuinely affectionate, but 3 years is the length of the psychological honeymoon period. After that, the work begins, and it can catch anyone off guard if they’re not ready for it. Add a surprise baby into the mix right at that time, and you’ve got a ton of stress in your relationship.

Your relationship isn’t too far gone though. You are not communicating at an emotional level, but you can reverse that pretty quickly. I’d recommend each of you take the 5 Love Languages quiz (it takes about 5 minutes online), and read the book by Gary Chapman if you’re so inclined. Everyone has different ways of expressing love, and those aren’t always (or even usually) compatible with the way their partner likes to be shown love. One example he gave: “My husband buys me jewelry all the time, but I just wish he’d wash a dish for once.” His love language is Gift Giving, but she’d rather be shown love through Acts of Service, and all the tennis bracelets in the world won’t fulfill that desire.

Call a meeting together. Bring your Love Languages quizzes with you. To avoid arguing or getting off topic, I’d recommend each of you writing down your talking points. You should tell each other the ways you each feel unfulfilled in the relationship. Don’t point fingers or call names, and avoid using the word “you” as much as possible. This isn’t about him, it’s about you and your empty feelings. He should then do the same thing with the same rules. After that, discuss it, again avoiding accusations and the word “you.”

Circling back because I lost track of my thread, you should probably have a separate meeting about the haunted house incident. Tell him you love him and you don’t want to leave (if that’s still true), but reiterate how hurt you are, and again make it about you and not him. Say something to the effect of “I was really hurt when I found out about your plans to go to the haunted house with this girl.” (Yes the word “your” is in there, but you aren’t pointing fingers in that context.) Pause to let him respond, and really listen to him instead of thinking about how you’ll respond to whatever he says. He may say hurtful things because he’s feeling hurt, I don’t know, but hold yourself together and don’t give in to a fight. This is a time to put your pride aside and be humble, but be careful not to cross into self-deprecation. There’s a big difference between “I recognize I’ve fallen short” and “I’ve been a terrible girlfriend.”

This won’t be solved in 1 or 2 conversations. You’ll need to rebuild trust in each other, and re-learn how to meet each other’s needs. I’d recommend couples counseling. I know there’s a stigma around that, but think of it as personal counseling where the “person” is your relationship. Couples counseling doesn’t mean you’ve failed, it means you’re using outside resources to succeed. My wife and I are about to start going so we can keep our communication and relationship tools sharp.

Let us know how it goes. I’m pulling for y’all.

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I seriously want to cry reading your response because this is what I’ve been running through my head all night. I think this is the confirmation I needed. I wouldn’t consider it cheating since it wasn’t emotional or physical. It’s the idea of him finding someone else that made my heart sink. I definitely assume my responsibility in all this but I know he’s just as responsible. Outside of this mess we still get along great. I think it’s worth giving things a shot and working things out. I appreciate the nonjudgmental advice. You stated a lot of good points and I am glad someone can look at this situation from a different perspective of just “leave him”.

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