Ask Ellie: Counsellor can facilitate constructive talks after infidelity

Advice columnist EllieDear Ellie: I’m a woman who’s been living in a committed relationship with another woman for 10 years. We’re both 39. I already had a young child when we met. My partner and I are the only parents my daughter has known.

My partner is the bigger earner as on-site manager of an essential business. I’ve always worked part-time from home throughout our relationship.

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A month ago, my partner announced matter-of-factly that she’d met another woman at work for whom she has strong feelings.

I was stunned! She always had outside contacts/friendships through her work, with both women and men. Before the pandemic restrictions, she’d tell me about her new friends and sometimes invite home a person or couple for me to meet.

She’d said nothing about this woman who’s come between us until this confession. She’s single, almost ten years younger than us, has had previous serious relationships with men. This is her first intimate involvement with another woman. My partner won’t be more specific than that.

I’m deeply hurt and very worried about the future and how all this will affect my daughter, though my partner says we’ll “still be a family.” How would that work? My mind is racing. I was told that we’ve “drifted apart,” that I stopped asking her about the business she manages several years ago (not true, she just doesn’t say much about it), and that she no longer feels appreciated for all that she does.

I also do a lot: Managing our home, household bills, shopping, cooking, raising my daughter, and keeping up my own paid work. I wish now that I’d been more independent and taken classes to advance in my field. But I was doing the work/motherhood/homemaker balancing act for everyone’s benefit.

Do I just accept that our relationship is over? Since we’re not married, is there any obligation on her part to keep helping my daughter financially? What about the cost of she and I having to move and maybe pay higher rent?

But really, I just want us to stay together. I accept that she needs more appreciation and interest in her work. I’m ready to upgrade my status to be more interesting to her. I’ll rise above all this to give her the intimacy that she needs, which we’ve both sometimes neglected.

What else should I do to win back the partner I still love?

Another Woman

You’ve experienced a harsh, unexpected emotional blow to your heart and mind. Now let some of the new information settle instead of rushing to react to your every concern. A partnership of ten years deserves time for both of you to talk this through, but you may not be able to do this effectively without some professional guidance. Know your goals: You wish to stay together and you’re willing to make changes in your work life and intimate life with your partner. Tell her so.

You accept her emotional needs for more attention and appreciation. Tell her you’re on board with that because you love her and admire her achievements. Ask her to consider getting couple’s counselling because you’ve invested all these years together and a shared role as parents. (If you do break up eventually, the joint counselling will be important to helping your daughter adjust). Also, consider getting counselling for yourself to bolster your independence, self-image, and equality in this or any future relationship. In time, pursue the legal questions regarding your daughter’s needs and asset-sharing.

Reader’s commentary regarding divorce, its reasons/effects on kids:

My ex-husband went on a business trip to a major American city I’d heard a lot about. After a couple days, I asked to join him there for a much-needed “romantic weekend.” “He questioned my leaving “the kids” but I’d already arranged for them to stay with my parents.

“I was so excited to fly alone and meet him in a hotel! His greeting wasn’t that warm. When I took off my coat, I saw a sexy nightgown hanging in the closet. Looking like it’d been worn by someone. “Our weekend fell flat because he gave no logical explanation… the nightgown was “there when [he] arrived;” “it must’ve been forgotten by the previous guest,” etc. “Our romantic life never improved. We eventually divorced. It took quite a few years to settle everyone, but the kids ended up very fine. It wasn’t easy.”

Ellie: Touching reality.

Send relationship questions to Follow @ellieadvice.

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