Dear Miss U,
I’ve been in a LDR for almost 4 years. We’ve been madly in love and everything was fine till the day he cheated on me. When I learned about it, I wanted to break up with him, but he begged me not to do so and said that it was a mistake because he was drunk and he reassured me that he’ll change for the better. As I’m madly in love with him, I decided to give him a second chance but I can’t trust him anymore and at the same time, I can’t live without him. What can I do? Can he really change?
Dear Broken-hearted Girl,
Repairing trust, even more so than first establishing it, takes time. You can’t expect to go through a betrayal and then somehow just forget about it; as much as you would like for things to just go back to normal, they don’t.
This “change for the better” concept is rubbing me the wrong way but before I go into that, I want to share something I watched a long time ago in a Dan Savage video. He asks why people throw in the towel at the first sign of cheating and yet there’s no reward or even acknowledgment for every time a partner could have been unfaithful but wasn’t. This guy comes out with a lot of things I don’t agree with, particularly in relation to long distance relationships about which he seems to have no idea (lucky, because otherwise, I might be out of a job,) but I thought this was on-point.
Why is that? A person falls off the wagon just once and they can never be forgiven despite having potentially hundreds of temptations against which they remained strong in the past. Why do all the times a person remains loyal go unheeded? Of course, I can think of arguments and excuses against this point of view and I’m sure you can too; but it bears thinking about, doesn’t it?
Now onto this idea that you boyfriend is going to change. Change what exactly? If this incident was legitimately a mistake, not a habit or an intention or even a character flaw, what is there to fix? There’s nothing there, as the past can not be changed. All he can do is make better choices in the future, starting with choosing not to drink so much.
I’ll be honest here, I’ve done my share of cheating and I fully believe that in the majority of cases it’s got nothing to do with the offender’s character, more it’s a symptom of something wrong with the relationship. An illness, if you will. Just like an illness, treating the symptom (checking in, making promises, etc.) does not resolve the underlying cause. This one incidence of cheating could be an accident – an injury to the health of your relationship through poor decisions and nothing more – or it could be a symptom of something you need to get to the bottom of. When you are emotionally ready to hear his honest answers and be open yourself it might be worth talking about the health of your relationship, how you are both feeling, what is working and what isn’t.
Give yourself and the relationship time to heal and give him the opportunity to show you his best, most loyal, self. Over time you will see him making better choices, you might even notice temptations that he holds out against, and your memory of the heartbreak will fade as more and more good times and fun memories fill in the space between past and present. One day you will wake up in the morning, or you’ll be listening to a girl friend worry about infidelity in her own relationship, and it will hit you suddenly: you will realize you don’t have to worry about that anymore and you haven’t even thought about it for so long.