On the Dear Therapists podcast, renowned therapists and advice columnists Lori Gottlieb and Guy Winch invite us to hear raw, transformative sessions with listeners to share actionable advice, and find out what worked and what didn’t. On this episode, they talk to Elena, whose husband has been steadily unfaithful for their entire seven-year relationship. Recently, she discovered that his affairs are with men as well as women. She says she loves him and wants to forgive and trust him, but he says she’s crazy and unreasonable, and acting out of control. Lori and Guy discuss the situation with her, what she really wants out of the relationship, their take on the husband’s behavior, and the work Elena must do on herself to enjoy a healthy relationship, whether it’s with him or someone else.
They talk with Elena about the couples’ therapy she’s been doing with her husband; she says that while he was willing to discuss his affairs with women with their therapist, he refused to bring up the affairs with men. He finally told Elena to bring it up in her individual session, which she thinks made it easier for him because she had already divulged the secret. He also feels that sex outside of marriage isn’t a big deal, and though he has promised to stop cheating, it’s because she says she doesn’t like it, not because he believes it’s inappropriate. But only twelve hours after promising to stop, she found more messages to women on his phone. She says she feels exhausted dealing with this, but doesn’t really want to leave him; she mentions thinking that if she just loves him enough, he’ll change.
Guy says fixing a relationship and regaining trust is a two-person job, and he’s not getting any indication that Elena’s husband is willing to do any of that work. He wasn’t even willing to tell the therapist the truth about the affairs – he left it up to her. It’s no wonder she’s exhausted, he says. Lori agrees, but also wants Elena to address her own behaviors. They’re always talking about his problems, his needs, his trauma – but what’s happened in Elena’s life that makes her feel like she can give up her entire sense of self to a relationship, that makes her think that if she just loves him enough she’ll be that special person who saves him? If she doesn’t address her own problems, it won’t matter if she leaves him or not – she’s part of the pattern, just like he is. His gaslighting and manipulation is a huge problem, but there’s a reason she’s willing to fall for it again and again. Hear their great advice for Elena, and how it all works out, on this episode of Dear Therapists.
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