My partner’s “friendship” with a colleague put a strain on our relationship – can we get back to a point of trust and understanding?

I am very much in love with my long-term partner and have been together since 2006. Things were going really well for the both of us…. until he started a job at an aged care facility where he was working alongside a female colleague and they became extremely close which made me uncomfortable. Every night when he got home from work he would go on the computer and chat to her most of the night and she even made phone calls to him that lasted over three hours. When I questioned why this was going on I was told that there was nothing going on and that she was just a friend. This lasted until he quit his job, however, the calls from her continued until I gave him an ultimatum…her or me. To make things more bizarre, she was in a relationship with a man. They were invited to spend a holiday with my partner and me, by my partner, I was not comfortable with them being with us and told him only to be told I was paranoid. I simply can’t get these awful memories out of my head. Yes, I am still with my partner and intend to spend the rest of my life with him. But I am wary of people and scared that it’s going to happen again. How do I get over the hell of the past? Would really appreciate some advice, Evie. – Amanda 

Dear Amanda, 

It’s great that you’ve written in – this is a problem faced by many. When a partner takes an interest in a third party, it can cause feelings of insecurity, jealousy, and doubt to arise. In an ideal situation, your partner would have respected your feelings by not involving this woman further in your personal lives (i.e., inviting her to join you on holiday knowing that you’re uncomfortable with it). 

This, to me, signals a lack of respect for your boundaries and feelings. You’re not paranoid to question why this lady was invited on holiday or why there were 3-hour phone calls.  But it’s clear from your message that you’re devoted to this relationship and are looking for ways to move on from the past. Since that’s the case, resolving this issue is going to take a team effort. Your partner needs to acknowledge your very valid feelings around his friendship with this woman, and if you stand a chance of trust being rebuilt, a few frank and honest conversations will be needed. 

That’s something for the two of you to work through together. If he’s as committed to the relationship as you are, he should be willing to work through this and not just sweep it under the rug. 

But individually, I’d encourage you to think about your own feelings of insecurity. Some jealousy is completely normal in relationships, but if you do generally trust your partner, perhaps there’s more going on under the surface. Explore your emotions with an open mind and no judgment. Often, our past experiences shape how we approach and show up for our current relationships, so it’s worth reflecting on the past to understand why this situation has made you uncomfortable (aside from the obvious). 

Finally, your fear of this situation happening again is understandable. To combat this, boost your self-esteem through personal activities that make you feel strong and independent. Whether it’s picking up a new hobby, seeking therapy, or spending time with friends, strengthening your sense of self will help you face fears of future issues.

But most importantly, talk to your partner

It’s so very important that you’re both on the same page when it comes to boundaries. You’ve already tried to do that by giving him the ultimatum, but boundaries aren’t static. They’re something that you review, time and time over, and require constant checking in with your partner to make sure you both understand your individual expectations.

Remember – rebuilding trust isn’t straightforward, and there might be setbacks. But by keeping the lines of communication open, respecting each other’s boundaries, and working on your own self-confidence, you can not only overcome past challenges but also build a stronger foundation for your relationship.

Wishing you luck, 

Evie

Do you have a question for Evie? If you would like advice from Evie, fill out the form here or send your problem to askevie@ideapod.com.

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Ask Evie

Evie is on a mission to revolutionize relationships and help you sort through your emotional woes. Her popular column helps readers break free from societal restraints and create empowering relationships - both with their inner selves and with those around them. With a wealth of experience in relationship counseling, backed by several professional certifications, she’s open-minded, big-hearted, and extremely compassionate… But she’ll also be completely honest in telling you the (sometimes) brutal truth, so you can get straight to the heart of the matter. Maybe you’re trying to save a marriage that currently feels like a sinking ship? Or worrying that your new friend isn’t quite as nice as they seem? Perhaps you’ve accidentally killed your partner’s goldfish and are weighing up the pros and cons of going to the pet store and finding a doppelganger, or fessing up? Whatever the dilemma, Evie’s at the ready to help sort through the emotional turmoil and guide you towards the next best step. To get in touch with Evie, click here.

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