DEAR NATALIE: My boyfriend recently had an affair with a co-worker that lasted for maybe a year. I'm not sure of the details because he won't be totally honest with me. I'm hoping that he will eventually provide those details in therapy, as I need transparency in order to possibly move towards forgiveness. The infidelity was the straw that broke the camel's back. I'm struggling severely in dealing with his infidelity and have considered leaving the relationship more times than I can count. I feel a pain that I cannot quell. The betrayal has broken my spirit, hardened my heart and produced insecurities that I didn't even know I had. My anxiety is through the roof! Every time he leaves the house, I'm wondering if he's cheating. Every phone call or text message he gets, I'm wondering who's on the other line. I hate who I've become because of his betrayal. In fact, I don't think I know who I am anymore. The old me would never have even considered being with a man who cheated. I'm violating my own boundaries and it really upsets me. I'm disgusted by his touch and I don't know how I'm going to be able to have sex with him again. Our bond has been broken and I know that it will never be the same. If we are to move forward, I think that professional help is needed. We stopped having sex about a year ago, which I think was part of the reason why he cheated. But that doesn't by any means excuse his behavior. Our communication is one-sided, meaning that I do all of the talking. He has a hard time expressing his feelings, probably due to growing up in an abusive household and in a religious cult. He's also a chronic liar. It's actually quite amazing. I had no idea that people like him even existed. I would actually classify him as a total narcissist. He lies about everything big and small. Even when presented with evidence of his guilt, he'll continue to lie and try to gaslight me. He also has several addictions from soda to cigarettes to porn to gambling. He spent thousands of dollars just in the last 2 months on gambling, which just adds more stress to the relationship. The ONLY reason why I've stayed up to this point is because of some lingering hope. Don't get me wrong, I'm very skeptical about the ability to salvage this relationship. But I'm committed to the process and I think he is too. Through everything, I do love this man. I've invested almost 4 years into this relationship and at the end of the day, we're great friends. I guess what I'm really wondering is should I put any more energy into making this relationship work? I'm beyond tired. I'm overweight (I have put on 50 pounds over the last 2 years), I'm stressed and I'm more depressed than I've ever been. We are scheduled to start couples therapy later this week and we both have individual therapy as well. Should I even go through with the couples therapy? Or is this relationship already at the point of no return? — EMOTIONALLY DEPLETED
DEAR EMOTIONALLY DEPLETED: Get rid of him. I wouldn’t waste another minute, another thought, another breath on this person. He not only cheated on you, but worse — he lied and treated you terribly. How can you be “great friends” with someone who causes you so much harm? From what you have shared, I don’t see what is worth salvaging. I would bet that once you lose this relationship, you will lose weight, too. Not because you should, but because shedding an unhealthy emotional state will physically manifest itself. You may be surprised how you feel like a new person without him in your life. It can be very scary to let go of the familiar. We may often feel as though we will never find someone ever again. It can be overwhelming to think that you could be alone. But — what if you flipped that idea on its head. What if it is a blessing to stand on your own two feet? What if it is a joy to come home at night to a peaceful space? To embrace yourself and learn about who you are and who you want to be without someone causing trauma and fear? What if you like feeling free? Run towards that curiosity as fast as you can and run away from this toxic man.
DEAR NATALIE: My family is (mostly) vaccinated but my uncle and aunt refuse to get the shot. I have been going through some major health issues this year and while I want to be with my family, unless they are vaccinated, my doctors don’t want me to take any unnecessary risks. I would still wear a mask around everyone and keep my distance. My brother told them this and they said, “Well, she can just stay home.” Why should I have to stay home? They are the ones putting me in danger. Why can’t they stay home? My brother doesn’t know what to do. He is hosting this year and doesn’t want to cause waves. My mother thinks I should call my uncle and tell him how I feel, but I’m also afraid of causing a war in our family. What do you think I should do? Why should I be the one isolated when they are the ones exhibiting bad behavior? My brother agrees with me, by the way. He just doesn’t want to stand up to them. Thoughts? —NOT A HAPPY HOLIDAY
DEAR NOT A HAPPY HOLIDAY: The holidays can be challenging for some families. I am so sorry that your family is behaving so selfishly. If they don’t want to be vaccinated, that is their choice. But it is your brother’s house. It is his choice to only entertain vaccinated people during the holiday knowing that his sister is immunocompromised. If he is uncomfortable “uninviting” them, what he could do is just invite them for dessert. You could leave at that point and then you wouldn’t have to expose yourself to them and their recklessness. If your brother won’t compromise at all, then unfortunately you will have to decide whether or not you want to see them and sit in another room away from them or not. I don’t know if I would trust them to be respectful of your situation since they don’t seem to care about anyone else but themselves. While I can’t make that decision for you, I would first try to convince your brother to talk with them. It is their decision to remain unvaccinated, but actions have consequences and it is time your brother stands up and draws a line in the sand.
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