I have been in a committed relationship for six years. We are engaged to be married, with a ring on her finger. We’ve been living together for the past year and a half. Three years ago, she had an emotional affair with a man at work. She promised to end it, delete his number, and made a promise that she would tell him she couldn’t engage with him.
He does not work here, but frequently comes in as a vendor. We discussed relationship boundaries and that her behavior was disrespectful. She agreed and assured me I could trust her. I did. Fast forward three years to the present. I had a gut feeling so I checked her phone.
There is an unlisted name in her contacts list that comes back to his number. After she told me she deleted it years ago. I found a text from him to her requesting the possibility of meeting. She indicated an affirmative response. A day later she deleted this text. I feel she has broken the bond of trust and respect between us by being untruthful about deleting his number, texting him, and continuing to contact him.
I may be naive, but there are no indicators of sexual cheating. She seems happier than ever with our relationship and our sex life is great. Her behavior and affection toward me hasn’t changed. I don’t know what to make of it.
I don’t know why she would do this when she made promises to me and we are committed to getting married soon. Should I confront her with just this? Is this someone I should give a second chance to? I want to confront her now because I don’t want to delve into the issue after we are married.
It’s in your best interest to address this issue now before you get married. Unresolved trust issues can put enormous strain on a relationship.
It also helps if you can reframe the issue as a “discussion” that needs to be had rather than as a “confrontation.” Thinking about the conversation as a confrontation is likely to lead to a competitive mindset — a you versus me mentality, which often results in more defensiveness, less candid discussions, and solutions that don’t work in the long run.
Rather than confront your fiancée, describe what you discovered and how it made you feel. Try to discuss your feelings in a way that creates sympathy — “I’m sad, confused, and hurt by what happened and I’d like to talk about it.” Try not to focus on her actions or intentions, but how you feel by what you discovered.
If you can talk about the problem in a way that creates empathy for your situation, she’s more likely to own up to her behavior, talk about what happened, and make amends.
It also helps if you can take responsibility for what you’ve done — “I’m sorry I checked your phone… I shouldn’t have done that.” If you take responsibility for your actions, she’s more likely to do the same.
It’s also critically important to get to the heart of the issue. You need to discuss why she remains in touch with him. Try to avoid the problem of coming up with simple solutions — such as making promises never to do it again. You need to have a real conversation about what motivates her behavior.
Ask your fiancée why she feels the need to engage with him. Listen to what she has to say and encourage her to discuss her feelings. As difficult as it may be, try to avoid judging her and try to understand where she is coming from. This doesn’t mean you have to condone or agree with her point of view, but in order to solve this problem, you’re going to first have to understand what’s motivating her actions.
The two of you can only work at rebuilding trust once you’ve gotten all of the issues out in the open. It’s only after you truly understand what’s motivating her behavior that the two of you can work at identifying solutions that solve the problem and help restore trust.
In our book, Broken Trust, we provide more detailed advice for dealing with these types of situations.