Dr. Tracy's Advice Column

Cartoon Kiss


Cheater's Guilt
Reckless Relationships
What and When to Tell About an Ex

Cheater's Guilt

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I've been married over 9 years to a wonderful woman, but am afraid I've crossed the line.

Over the past year and a half, I've become too close to a woman at work, and developed feelings for her. I wouldn't call it love, but romantic. Also, we spent alot of our time talking at work not face to face, but by IM. Some of the conversations were most definitely inapproriate of a sexual nature, nothing like cyber sex, but getting into some details I shouldn't be having with another woman. I don't believe this other woman felt anything romantic for me, and nothing physical occured between us, I never even attempted to hit on her. But the guilt would get to me from time to time and I think manifested itself in my occasional (but more frequent) moodiness at home and demands of my wife.

Some of this finally came out in the open with my spouse in the past week, and she has taken it suprisingly well, but she only knows the part about my feelings for the other woman and the length of time, but not about the sexual conversations. The guilt is a heavy burden, and I want my wife and I to have the deep, satisfying, open, and loving relationship we shared before the children, and not me keeping these hurtful secrets. But what is my motivation for telling her, to relieve myself of the guilt, or for her to know the entire truth to truly forgive me?

I've been advised by a friend (which I am in short supply of) who has been in a similar situation to not tell my wife everything, that if nothing physical happened, than she doesn't need to know all the dirt, it will only hurt her and it will take years, if ever, to repair that kind of damage. But I don't know what to do, I'm miserable like this, and want to bask in my wife's love and forgiveness, guilt-free. I think she knows I'm holding something back, but isn't pushing me for details.

So you know, I've taken steps to limit the contact with my co-worker to work-related subjects and have even un-installed the IM from my work PC.

help me please............. burdened with guilt

Dear Guilty,

Your friend is right: you've already told your wife enough. Give her a break. Don't beat her up with your guilt. You want to be relieved of your guilt, but she can't do that. Only you can.

It's over. Forgive yourself and move on. You don't need to tell your wife anything else to make your relationship open, deep, and satisfying. Love requires two good forgivers, and she's already shown she is one. You have to be the other one. The best thing you can do now is to love her and show her how much you care for her and appreciate her by putting a stop to the moodiness and demands on her.

You've already cut off the other relationship. There's nothing more to do except to put this behind you. In life we often have to live with the decisions we've made, even the bad ones. You'll just have to live with this one. Figure the guilt you feel is your punishment for doing such a stupid thing and risking your relationship for no real reason.

You've got a great wife. Don't mess up your marriage by confessing more than she really wants to know. If she wanted more information, she'd ask.

Let it go.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Reckless Relationships

Dear Dr. Tracy,

Its been over a year and a half since i split from a guy that really hurt me and as much as i try to forget him for some reason i cant, I guess what still hurts to this day is the fact that he returned to his ex wife who had cheated on him with 9 different men and my most common thought is Am i really that bad that he would have to go back to someone who is capable of doing such a thing?

Since then i rushed in to a relationship with a guy and ended up pregnant. He turned out to also be a cheat and a huge liar and now i am the single mother of a 4 month old little girl.

My immediate problem however is that i have recently met a guy and i really do like him however i am so scared. The other night we went out on a date and he invited me back to his house for a drink, the problem being that he thought that i was there for more than a drink and i must admit that perhaps i gave him that idea, the problem came when it came to the point were we were about to have sex, I couldent go through with it, even though i wanted to. I dont know how to deal with this problem and was hoping that you could perhaps give me some kind of advice. Thank you.

Dear Hurt,

Your taste in men is really bad and your thought process is even worse. You had a cheating, lying guy who went back to his cheating ex-wife a year and a half ago, and instead of being happy to be rid of him, you're still worrying about being so "bad" that he would leave you.

Now you've had a child with another man who turned out to be a cheat and a liar. When will you learn? Don't you understand that you've been rushing into relationships with men who don't really care about you and aren't really available to be with you?

You should make sure that the next man you date is totally different. You need to look for someone who is available, truthful and trustworthy. You can only find that out with time. Read my Love Library to find out how.

Slow down. Stop trying so hard to get involved with another guy. Spend time with your little girl and don't even think of going to a man's place "for a drink." There's no such thing as going to a man's house for a drink without having him think he's going to get sex out of it.

As for sex, stop having it until you know for sure the man is a keeper. Don't have unprotected sex ever, so you don't get knocked up again or get a sexually transmitted disease. Now that you are a mother, you need to find a man who will make a good father, not one who is simply hot and sexy.

Get a grip. No man is worth ruining your life over and that's where you're headed. It's a good thing you're scared. Maybe the best idea for you is to be too scared for sex. That way at least you'll be safe from your bad choices.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

What and When to Tell About an Ex

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I used your private counseling by email more than one year ago. Your advice was very appreciated. I was the young girl in the sexless marriage in a foreign country. Moreover, the tension got worse and my ex also showed some negative side of his temper so it was time to leave and I feel more calm and at peace with deciding to split.

I am not ready to date yet - though I have ordered your book "Marrying later, marrying smarter" so I will avoid doing the same mistakes, and I will check the sex drive of the guy this time. But, I have one longing question: I do not want to play victim with my potential suitors - I agree I should not tell my potential dates all the details of why my marriage failed or badmouth my ex, but at one point or another they would like to know what happened. Even guys that are mildly interested are asking why? And of course I am not ready to tell such intimate details...yet. At what point of the relationship you tell? when it gets really serious? after some dates?

I know I should not disclose so much about myself in the beginning, but I know for a fact some guys would like to know the reason of a failed marriage before pursuing the dating further and before they start to show more interest. After all, you want to make sure the person you are interested in did not leave a marriage for foolish reasons.... how do I tell a person my husband gave me sex once a year and on top of that he started to be aggressive?

I am at a loss since I consider to be my ex essentially a good person with lots of issues he has to solve by its own... I spoke with a male friend- I was visiting as he lives abroad - and talked about what happened with these words: "I have no regrets, I married for love and I did my best in my marriage. We are friends with my ex and I hope we can stay that way... he is a great person and great person also do mistakes..." because I was pressed a bit to dig in the topic and did not want to give the impression to him that I thought the grass was greener or I was the one who was at fault....

It was a short meeting with this dear friend but other prospective males will ask... what to say when they press a little bit? When to say what happened? Your advice will be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance, N

Dear At Peace,

I'm glad to hear that you have left your abusive relationship and are at peace with the decision.

Your question is an important one. So many people have bad ex-mates and want to know when to tell a new potential partner about what happened.

Never wait to tell the bad news. Get it out on the first date (unless you're sure you're never going to have a second date). Simply say, "I had a bad marriage. I loved him, but he turned out to be abusive and not to like sex." A short, dignified statement is all that's required. Avoid long explanations. If pressed, say "It's in the past, and I prefer to leave it behind me." If you never go into into the gory details, you can never be accused of badmouthing your ex.

By getting the bad news out in the beginning, you will save yourself from being hurt. After all, if some new man isn't going to want you because you had a bad marriage, it's best to find out right away, before you get too involved with him. Having someone decide they don't want to be with you after one date is so much easier than having it happen after you've developed feelings for him.

Telling right away will also help weed out other men who are abusive or who don't like sex. It will let them know you won't put up with that kind of behavior.

Most important, it will save you from the quandary you're in: worrying all the time about when and what to tell. You won't feel like you're keeping a secret that might endanger a new relationship.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Submitting a Question to this column

Dr. Tracy regrets that it is simply impossible for her to answer all of the hundreds of questions submitted to this column each week. However, she does read every question, and tries to select the three which are of the most general interest to the visitors here.

Dr. Tracy says, "Is your question urgent? Many of the most beseeching, desperate messages I get are not answered in this column because the answer is just a couple of clicks away in my Love Library. Have you tried my Love Library? I know that nobody goes to libraries anymore, but check this one out -- it's so easily searchable that it's fun and easy to use!"

If you can't find your answer in the Library and you feel you MUST have an answer, you can get a personal answer from Dr. Tracy within two business days by availing yourself of her inexpensive private counseling.

You may submit your question to Dr.Tracy's column by e-mail here. (Tips: to increase your chances of having your question chosen, state your age and your marital history, and remember to use paragraph breaks so that your question isn't just one big, hard-to-read clump of words. Also, questions in all caps won't be answered.)

(Featured art from cover of Letting Go, by Zev Wanderer and Tracy Cabot, published by "Bitan" Publishers, Tel-Aviv, Israel)
Return to "Ask Dr. Tracy" Home Page

© copyright 1995-2011 Tracy Cabot