Dear Ms. Peirano,

My girlfriend, 47, and I, 49, met and fell in love on a dating platform a little over eight years ago. She had been through a very difficult marriage with a lot of violence and cheating on the part of her ex-husband and was happy to meet a nice man for once. I had often been seriously injured myself, and I told her back then that I wanted to take things slowly so that I could build trust. She assured me that I was in good hands with her, that she would never hurt me or hurt me.

Life with her and the two children (then seven and nine years old, now 15 and 17) from her marriage was also very harmonious. Our different sexual needs often seemed problematic because she wanted to take on an extremely submissive and humble role in bed, and this aggressive and dominant pattern doesn’t suit me at all. This frustrated her for a while, but then she brushed it aside with the comment “accept what you can’t change.” At least that’s what I thought.

At the beginning of our relationship we were both on a similar level. She had just started her own business as a lawyer and was trying to build a reputation. And I worked independently as an IT consultant. Over time, however, an extreme imbalance developed.

She became more and more successful, while after we moved in together in 2018, I mainly took care of the children, the household and other family matters, and only did my job to the extent necessary to cover my costs.

At the beginning of this year the bomb exploded. My girlfriend revealed to me that she had cheated on me with dozens of other men over the years since we met. At first she thought it was purely casual sex during her lunch break with guys she had met on sex dating apps in order to satisfy her special needs.

From now on she wants to be 100 percent honest with me and I should then decide whether I can accept her behavior and stay with her or whether I would rather leave. My world collapsed and I was completely unable to decide anything. In the following two weeks I lost twelve kilos of weight due to the enormous stress, I hardly slept and in the end I was on the verge of ending my life.

I had become completely dependent on her for the last few years and was about to lose my entire life with no prospects. In addition, she didn’t seem to have any sense of injustice because she carried on as before. Met her lovers, told me about it, and I felt worse and worse about it. When it finally dawned on her what she had done and that she was about to destroy my entire life, her behavior suddenly became much more compassionate. She got me an appointment with a psychologist, finally allowed me to be close again, which I had been missing for a very long time, and promised to stop the meetings until I got better.

This massive loss of trust made me want to somehow get the situation under control. I hadn’t thought for a second about being jealous or spying on her. From her biography with the cheating ex-husband, I thought she knew what that felt like. Now, however, I logged into her computer and it turned out that the stories about the specific sexual preference and the purely casual sex were also lies. She met other fellow lawyers, clients, police officers, etc., i.e. all people she had met through her work and not anonymously through an app. She let them assign her orders and suddenly earned a lot of money. Confronted with this, she said she had to lie to me because her affairs also meant losing all of her family and a lot.

Because of my personal experiences, I am well able to dissociate and put uncomfortable things in drawers and put them away. So I could live with the past, also because she kept reassuring me how much she loved me and that she only ever wanted to grow old with me. But my condition would be that together we can restore the trust that has been lost. And that seems very difficult to me at the moment because she is still trying to hide potential meetings with these men. She promised to stop, but I know for a fact that she won’t.

My question now is: How can I get back on my feet and find myself, and how can we both possibly overcome this situation together? I had already suggested couples therapy, but she didn’t agree to it. Sometimes it seems to me as if she’s just trying to keep me quiet so that I don’t inform the partners of her affairs, which I could actually do at any time?!

Thank you in advance for advice on how I can deal with and live with this completely absurd situation!

Best regards, Thomas P.

I work as a behavioral therapist and love coach in private practice in Hamburg-Blankenese and St. Pauli. During my doctorate, I researched the connection between relationship personality and happiness in love and then wrote two books about love.

Information about my therapeutic work can be found at

Do you have questions, problems or heartache? Please write to me (maximum one A4 page). I would like to point out that inquiries and answers can be published anonymously on

Dear Thomas P.,

Your story sounds shocking. What particularly moves me is that you have had bad experiences in previous romantic relationships (and perhaps also in your childhood?) and have been severely hurt. As is also recommended, you told your partner right at the beginning that you had been hurt and that you therefore placed great value on trust and treating each other with consideration.

In intimate relationships, you can theoretically hurt yourself more than strangers can because of the great influence. It is not uncommon for physical or psychological violence to occur in “love relationships”; even a significant proportion of murders are carried out by (ex-)partners. Financial fraud also often happens through the partner, so that he or she can deprive you of your house and farm or even ruin you. Relationships can be extremely dangerous!

Intimate relationships thrive on the fact that you confide in each other and also surrender to a certain extent, and that is precisely why it is essential that you trust each other. In my opinion, it is very important that you not only know general vulnerability, but also know the specific vulnerability of your partner. Imagine it like a target: in the center is the highest vulnerability, the “Bull’s Eye”, around it are other sensitive zones, and then everyone also has the outer areas that are not even on the target and where you can feel free too can sometimes criticize or lovingly tease each other. And this “target” is different for everyone.

It is important to know and keep this partner’s target in mind so that you never, even emotionally, throw the arrow at your inner vulnerability zones. Because that would destroy trust and cause great damage.

Your friend (by the way, it’s hard for me to use that word because she doesn’t act like a friend) promised you at the beginning of the relationship that she wouldn’t hurt you again. It even sounds like a kind of pact: I know you’ve been hurt. That’s why you can be sure with me, I won’t hurt you.

But let’s be honest: Think back to the beginning of your relationship when this pact was made. Did the words spoken by your partner match her previous actions, her history and her behavior towards you – or did you already have a strange gut feeling at the time?

Right from the start, your girlfriend secretly met many other men – you write dozens – for sex. It must have been a huge shock for you to find out after eight years, especially after the pact you had made. And of course it’s extremely difficult to come out with the truth after eight years and then say: “If you don’t like it, you can leave.” Something like this should have been discussed BEFORE.

Furthermore, what your girlfriend is doing sounds incomprehensible. For example, if she had fallen in love with another man once, one could look for the motives. However, your girlfriend’s cheating with dozens of men over the years sounds like it’s the tip of the iceberg, and there’s a much deeper problem underneath.

I still don’t understand your partner’s motives. In order to arrange for sex with dozens of men she knows from a professional context over the years, it takes a lot of experience, routines, cover-up mechanisms, unscrupulousness, dishonesty, the art of seduction, and precise knowledge of secret places where people meet can etc.

For the majority of men, it doesn’t sound like it’s about living out lust or a deeper connection on a physical level, but something else. What exactly do you think your partner’s motives are? Is she possibly addicted to sex? Have you ever thought about the topic?

If not, I could recommend the book to you:

Sex addiction. A guide for those affected and their relatives by Kornelius Roth

And to what extent do professional or financial advantages play a role for your girlfriend? In this pattern, is she primarily concerned with obtaining business or being successful in representing her clients? Especially if you, as a lawyer, sleep with clients, police officers and possibly even judges, this can also entail major professional risks for both sides. This situation doesn’t really make sense to me.

I think that analyzing the underlying problem, the “iceberg,” can help you realize that this is probably a deeper problem with your partner and not a relationship problem between the two of you. Many women who behave in such promiscuous ways were sexually abused when they were young. They have learned to exploit sex to gain advantages or to build relationships. It stands to reason that your girlfriend has been acting so promiscuous not just since she started dating you, but also before. It is possible that the statement that only her ex-husband cheated on her is not entirely true, but she also had the affairs before you.

The most important question is how you can free yourself from this, as you write, absurd situation. Let’s take a look at your girlfriend’s behavior towards you: She has been cheating and lying to you for eight years. Even today she only tells the truth in bits and pieces. Although she appears to have been betrayed herself, despite your suffering, she has no empathy for you, sends you to therapy instead of going herself, and is unwilling to change. She offers you to stop cheating if necessary until you feel better. And then it starts again even though it causes you so much suffering? After all the lies, do you believe her that she is really not doing that right now and would not do that in the future? This is extremely questionable, especially if it is an addiction.

In my opinion, changing this complex, years-long behavioral pattern (or possibly an addiction) is not easy and almost impossible without therapeutic help, which your friend rejects. I don’t want to give you hope. Because unjustified hope is often like a drug that helps you endure things that you can barely endure because you (unjustifiedly) believe in improvement.

You have lost a lot of weight, you are desperate, in a state of agitation inside, your thoughts revolve around the betrayal, and you are also having suicidal thoughts. In summary, that sounds like you were severely traumatized by your friend’s behavior. Your inner security has collapsed, trust has been destroyed, and you currently have no prospects because you have invested so much in the relationship.

Due to your high level of suffering and the poor prospects for a change in your girlfriend’s behavior, I can only advise you: break down your tents and get to safety. And over time, you build your own existence, as quickly as you can.

Of course, that’s a long way off and easier said than done. What would you need for that?

Imagine being trapped at the bottom of a well and hearing someone calling you from outside. What would help you climb out of the well? For some people, confiding in friends helps them feel affirmed and respected again. Others need a solid financial perspective, such as a job or assignment, to be able to free themselves. Having your own apartment is often very helpful (especially in your situation). And still others need to understand exactly what happened, why it happened to them, and realize that there is no chance of a happy ending.

In my opinion, because of the trauma you have been through, you need a good therapist with experience in trauma therapy who can help you find yourself again, heal your injuries and free yourself.

I hope you find a good therapist and other trustworthy people who can throw a rope into the well from the outside and help you climb out of the well and find a new place for yourself where you can be safe.

Kind regards and all the best to you, Julia Peirano

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