SPB.N NEWS – Online Desk: Question : I am a 25-year-old man and my wife is two years younger to me. We have been married for two years and even dated for three years before that. We once broke up before marriage because she had many ‘friends with benefits’. But to pull her out of that dirt, I married her.

But now, even after one year of marriage, she is still cheating on me with some guy and has confessed it. She accepts she is no more in love with me and wants to get out of this relationship. She wants to live her life on her own terms but I love her too much; she is everything to me. But the fact that cheating is her second nature and she has herself confessed not being in love with me has put me in a tight spot. Kindly suggest what should I do? – By Anonymous

Answer by Zankhana Joshi : It must be an extremely difficult situation to deal with your spouse’s constant cheating, and yet finding ways to make your relationship work.

I would say this behaviour of serial adultery would be a red flag for your marriage and it reflects something inherent in your wife’s need, which drives her to cheat repeatedly. Cheating once and then returning to fidelity is more indicative of a momentary transgression, and twice could also be because of temptation. But if she does it repeatedly, it is unlikely driven out of the need for attraction and temptation, and is more likely to do with some deeper need for something more particular like sex, power etc. You are partly to be blamed for this behaviour as you choose to stay in this relationship, which sublimely suggests to your spouse that there are no boundaries drawn by you.

On the other hand, it also seems that she’s not particularly invested in the marriage. In fact, she is clear and willing to give up the marriage, but not her need for multiple partners. So the real question to ask is why are you unwilling or unable to give it up. Your need to stay in this ambivalent relationship could possibly be explained as a love-hate abusive relationship that you cannot give up.

Maybe, on the one hand, you love the role of a rescuer, where you felt you pulled her out of the dirt of having friends with benefit by marrying her. On the other hand, you hate that despite all that you have done for her, your wife still keeps cheating on you and is not willing to stop. It’s a love-hate relationship and common for people to stick around with someone they love, who abuses them like this.

I do not know much else about you but would suggest introspecting what is in it for you. You may be choosing to stay for some reason. In my practice, I have found that the ones who stay, are in the prison of their own hope, waiting for their spouse to change or transform. They need not be fragile or powerless- but are often extremely ridden with guilt and shame and somewhere blame themselves for the spouses constant cheating. Reflect on whether that is the case.

People also often stay for the intermittent gratification – where the spouse showers them with moments of enormous kindness, tenderness, and affection, which makes the pain of infidelity forgettable and makes it difficult to let go of the relationship.

Very often people overlook the constant cheating because it is embarrassing to publically admit it, especially for a man as the society shames the spouse questioning their ability to satisfy the cheating spouse. This is especially true for people who suffer from low self-esteem, who feel unworthy of the spouse and easily internalize the cheating to be due to their inadequacies.

Whatever is your reason to stay and your wife’s reason to constantly cheat, you have quite a few options ahead of you, so do not worry. Based on your details, it is quite evident that she is not quite interested in you or your relationship. On the other hand, you prefer to stay and work it out. I would suggest having an honest discussion with your wife about where this relationship is going. In case you are unable to come to a consensus, I recommend seeking professional help to see if this can be worked out together. Open ended, non-judgmental communication on your behalf will help her feel comfortable and then, she may want to open up about the issues at hand. Take your time to evaluate your own motivations as well.

In the end, find an inspiration to stay together, not insecurities!

Ms Zankhana Joshi is a practicing psychologist in Mumbai

Times of India