While he never actually slept with anyone else, I still feel cheated on

My husband used to be a porn addict. He kept an online dating profile, commented on photos of other women, posted for sex, and responded to a woman to meet. While he never actually slept with anyone, I still feel cheated on – betrayed at least. I have read many articles on forgiveness and recovery, but I still don’t know how. He has an extensive history of cheating on past partners. How do I recover from this?

Are we doomed? I feel my inability to fully trust him is a big part of our relationship.

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Roadblocks to trust

It makes sense that you would feel betrayed and anxious about your future. You are right, trust is a big part of every relationship and there are serious roadblocks to trust in this situation. In addition to dealing with the betrayals that have already happened, you must consider the possibility that your partner still suffers from a sexual addiction that must be successfully treated if the relationship is ever going to feel safe.

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A thorough evaluation by a counsellor or therapist is a good first step. You are going to need a lot of support, both individually and as a couple.

There can be no secrets

The need for total transparency is a given here. There can be no secrets. Social media accounts and other media – email accounts and cell phones – must be an open book. You are living in a very stressful situation and it would be helpful for you to learn effective stress management techniques like deep breathing, relaxation exercises, and perhaps some form of meditation.

It might be helpful to have a ‘State of the Union’ meeting each week. Set aside an hour to talk about how things are going. What is the state of your union? This would be a good time to share what has been helpful toward rebuilding trust, and what you still need from your partner that you may not be getting. It is important to state what you do need rather than what you don’t need. Avoid attacking and blaming your partner.

Give yourself a break

Finally, give yourself a break about forgiving your partner. In a situation like this, forgiveness is connected to feelings of safety and understanding. How can you forgive what you don’t understand? Your understanding comes from his awareness of self. You cannot feel safe until you are convinced that his behaviour has ended.