Ask A Woman: Your cheatin’ heart will tell on you…
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I have been with a lady for the past 18 months, and during that time I cheated on her once. I know that it was a mistake, and I confessed to her because I love her and I knew she would leave me if she found out through other channels.
Now she keeps on telling me that she doesn’t trust me anymore. How can I gain her trust again? Is this possible? I don’t want to lose her.
Well that’s a bummer. The whole situation you’ve described is just difficult. There are a lot of people who think once you cheat, you become A CHEATER and you’ll keep cheating forever and ever, amen. Although I myself have been cheated on and I’ve since heard through the grapevine that my old boyfriend has continued being a dog to most of the women he’s been with, I actually don’t think it’s a hard and fast rule that messing up once means you’re destined to do it again. Everyone makes mistakes. There’s not something magical about infidelity that means you can’t learn from it and move on.
I gotta side with Ross on this one.
That said, infidelity is one of the hardest things for most people to forgive. It’s such an emotionally weighted and complex issue. Besides the horror of imagining the person you love being intimate with someone else, there’s also the secrecy of it–most people don’t come clean right away, and it’s hard to accept that your loved one kept something so huge from you. It’s a total blow to the self-esteem. What is lacking in me that he/she had to go elsewhere? Plus the embarrassment you feel if other people know about it, and so on. It’s so terrible, it really is.
Is it possible to fix this? Yes, I think that’s possible. It will take a whole lot of work, from both of you. You will need to do some soul-searching and figure out why you cheated, and what you can do to prevent it from happening again. She will need to do some soul-searching and figure out if she can learn to trust you again. You’ll also both need to make sure that you don’t get into a dynamic where she’s allowed to treat you with constant suspicion and you become a doormat, a dynamic where you’re the “bad one” and she’s the “good one.” It’s appropriate for there to be some unpleasantness for a period of time, yes, but you can’t live like that permanently. It’s miserable and unfair to you both.
Old-school heartbreak…and a guarantee to never see matching denim outfits again. Sniff.
Because this task will be so challenging, much more so than I can “fix” in 600 words here, I suggest counseling to kick it off. It will be immensely helpful to do this work under the eye of a professional who can direct you towards healing. Find someone you both feel comfortable with (it’s appropriate to interview a few therapists to see who is the best fit) and commit to taking this work seriously. Finally, be hopeful but also realistic. It is possible that she won’t be able to get over this. That doesn’t mean you’re evil. It doesn’t mean she’s a harpy. Sometimes you just can’t fix what’s broken.
Got something brewing in your life? Send me an email–style, etiquette, relationships–I answer it all: firstname.lastname@example.org