The Sex Column: 'He's a serial cheater and blames me – is it all my fault?

My boyfriend has slept with three other women in the four years we’ve been together.

On my 21st birthday he slept with a colleague.

He always begs for forgiveness and I always take him back. Stupid, I know, but I love the idiot.

Since the start of our relationship, I’ve been on different prescriptions for panic attacks and anxiety.

He says my anxiety is stressful for him and a massive turn-off, which is why he cheats.

I feel like it’s my fault for offloading on him. I really want this to work
but I can’t keep doing this.

What’s your advice?

You appear to have gathered all the dots and are almost at the point of joining them. But let us be clear.

‘You really, really don’t want this relationship to work,’ says Rupert Smith. ‘It’s very bad for you.’

Your boyfriend betrays you, lies to you and then blames your mental health needs for his appalling behaviour.

‘Every time he lets you down, he’s sending a clear message that you are not important to him,’ says Dr Angharad Rudkin says.

We must assume, then, that there’s something very powerful in your past related to feeling worthless and deserving of the bad things people inflict on you, and that you are repeating this dynamic with him.

‘Unfortunately, you’ve found a partner who fits that pattern very neatly – an emotional abuser looking for a victim,’ says Smith.

Being cheated on is not your fault. Managing anxiety is not your fault. Hiding behind nonchalant language won’t change the fact that you’re
in a deeply unhealthy relationship, says Rudkin.

‘It is not “stupid” to love him, it’s self-destructive,’ she says. ‘He’s not an “idiot”, he is a controlling and emotionally invalidating person.’

McConnachie suggests writing a list of what you feel you deserve in love and then reading your answers back as if another had penned them.

‘I bet you’ll be shocked at how much you put yourself down,’ he says. ‘The least confident part of you may feel dependent on this boyfriend and may have learned to call that feeling love but the behaviour you describe is not loving.’

We strongly urge you to sever this relationship, calling on the support of your friends and family.

‘When you’re on an even keel, start investigating with a psychotherapist what it is that you are repeating,’ says Smith. ‘A difficult relationship with parents, a family break-up, a separation, a bereavement?’

Our partners should help us feel like the most confident version of ourselves, not the least.

The experts

Rupert Smith is an author and counsellor

James McConnachie is the author of Sex (Rough Guides)

Dr Angharad Rudkin is a clinical psychologist

Got a sex and dating dilemma?

To get expert advice, send your problem to [email protected]

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