Dr. Eris,

Why can’t I let go of my dad cheating on my mom after so many years?  Am I making excuses for my past bad behavior? I’m smart about why my relationships don’t work???? Sometimes I am lazy about not wanting to do the work it takes to hold the relationship together. And I have trust issues. I usually sabotage situations because I don’t deal with rejection well.

I always think relationships should be easy, and not so much work. I currently have been sabotaging all of my relationships.

I was in a very unhappy marriage for 13 years. I was the cheater in the marriage–separated now 3 years. The hubby was a workaholic and I was too much of a social butterfly–spending time with friends after work instead of going home. My husband says he doesn’t want a divorce. We stay in touch. But…he moved back to his hometown and so did I. I am just now filing for divorce.

As I get older, I am very set in my ways of doing things. I am 47–no kids.I am good at pushing people away. I do spend a lot of time alone so that I don’t hurt people’s feelings. My words are somewhat cutting. I have no filter sometimes. I say exactly what I think–very controlling at times. 

I do work on clearly thinking before I speak. I want to be liked and don’t enjoy hurting anyone’s feelings. I usually get along with friends who can take my honesty—those who aren’t easily hurt by what I say.  

I have had the opportunity to address daddy issues with my dad. He explains that he and my mom were not meant to be together. But they stayed in their unhappy marriage as he constantly cheated.

My parents divorced when I was around 12. My dad got custody of me, my older and younger brothers because mom suffered from severe Depression. 

I couldn’t wait to leave home for college…and when I got there…I was an unfocused…C student…. with two boyfriends at once and lied to them both. I’m not bragging or narcissistic about this behavior. I hated it, but still did it. 

After my husband and I separated, I moved back home to the same neighborhood where my married dad had another family around the corner from our house–growing up.

I am a mess right?! 

I don’t want to seem as if I don’t take these issues seriously, but I do often laugh at myself instead of crying.

Thanks if you can provide a little insight. I do have a therapist. Just wanted another’s opinion.


Dr. Eris Suggests:

I applaud you for your courage and level of self-awareness to address these issues and for being in therapy.

It is very traumatic for any child to see their parent’s marriage fall apart. You think, “what did I do wrong? Why did my dad have another family besides us? Why is my mom so sad?” Even though you are an adult, it doesn’t mean that you don’t still feel immense pain from your childhood, whether conscious or unconscious. The problem is that if your psychological burdens are not dealt with, you will continue to carry your unhealed wounds into your relationships in adulthood. It sounds like this is what is happening with you.

Even though you have gotten an explanation from your father as to why he chose to have an affair and get divorced, you are still holding onto resentment. Whether conscious or unconscious your behaviors have been very similar to your father’s – hence you’re repetitive cheating.

You mentioned your tendency to hurt peoples feelings, that you can be controlling and that you push people away. This is not uncharacteristic of people who grow up in unstable homes.  You clearly have fear of intimacy and if you can’t control others feelings (feelings are often unpredictable) you just push them away. Instead of somebody pushing you away, you do the pushing. You control because you don’t want people to hurt you so you do the hurting. You act out with these behaviors because you are afraid of attachment and scared that you will get hurt.

You were in an unhappy marriage because you didn’t allow yourself to be in a healthy one – that would be too scary. That would take vulnerability, which can be uncomfortable at times. It’s also something that you don’t know because you didn’t see it growing up.

If you are not completely happy with the way things are, start by taking contrary action and allow yourself to be vulnerable instead of carrying a protective mask that keeps people at a distance. Start by telling a friend how much you love them.  Or, if you admire someone at work, tell them how much you appreciate them.  The road to building long and meaningful relationships starts with very simple (sometimes not so simple) steps.

Ask yourself what kind of woman you want to be in this world. What do you want people to say about you when you leave the room? List those qualities and values. Be specific.

Then ask yourself what kind of relationship you would like to be in next time around. What kind of qualities do you want to emulate? What kind of a man would you like to attract? Again, be specific. Remember this: you must love yourself before you can ever fully be in a loving relationship.

If you would like to connect with people on a deeper level, instead of pushing them away, start working on your childhood wounds with your therapist. Your perspective on life will change once you start letting go of that baggage. Even though you have pain from the past, don’t live in your victimhood. See how you can start empowering yourself through the exploration of those experiences. You can’t change your past, but YOU can change. Focus on the solutions. The more you focus on the solutions, the more you will see the solution.

I am sending you an autographed copy of my book, Break-Up Emergency. A guide to transform your Break UP into a Break THROUGH. It has lots of exercises in it that can help you through this process.

Good Luck! I wish you lots of love in your life. To your Break Through success!

Dr. Eris