More questions held over from Part Two of the live online chat, “Forgive a Cheater?” (April 3):
This girl and I were best friends and had a fallback plan throughout college, that if both of us were still single at 30, we’d marry. We had everything in common, even the number of kids we wanted, where we’d live, etc.
We both broke up with our latest relationships four months ago, both 29. I thought our time had finally arrived.
Then I heard from a mutual guy friend that they’d been to a concert together. She never mentioned it.
It became apparent they were having a fling, but it ended quickly. I feel like she cheated on me and I’m devastated. How can I forgive her?
Press Re-set. This wasn’t a relationship; it was a fantasy at most. No commitments and romance had begun at this time. So drop the “plan.”
Best friendships in college change over time… you may not be each other’s “ideal” now. Talk to her as an old pal; don’t even raise her “fling.”
If you want to try dating, fine, but it’s a fresh start as the people you are today, not back then. She’s not even the girl who’s been in your imagination ever since.
I was married young, and even from the beginning sex was infrequent, then rare. When I finally decided to separate, he insisted we stay together, so I said I’d had an affair, and he agreed to divorce.
A few years later my son reported that his father told him I’d had lots of affairs (not true). My son’s been distant since, though he’d known the marriage was strained (he just didn’t know details). My ex is happily re-married, but my now-adult son can’t forgive me.
Have an adult conversation with your son, not a mother-son “explanation.” Ask him to think about why a father would tell that to his son. Suggest he consider whether his father was seeking revenge and also trying purposefully to disturb the relationship between you and him.
Stress that you don’t want an answer; you just want him to think about this.
Don’t seek his forgiveness. What happened wasn’t about him. The marriage was going to break up anyway, and that was from both sides’ efforts. Tell him so, but also tell him you’ve tried to be the best mother you can with the circumstances you’ve faced, just as he’ll do with his kids. Say you love him and want a relationship, not forgiveness.
My sister-in-law’s married to my older brother. She’s three years older than me and I’ve always looked up to her. But in their first year of marriage, she started telling me stories of guys who hit on her, then others whom she hung out with when my brother travelled for work. Then came details of a full-on affair. I was sick, and hated that I’d heard it all. My brother found out, they separated, but got back together recently, after several months apart. He’s forgiven her and they’re trying hard to repair things - but I can’t even look at her.
You’re having trouble forgiving YOURSELF for having listened to her stories. As his sister, you should’ve cut her off and said something like, “You’re headed for trouble. I don’t want to know about it and NOT tell my brother, so please re-think what you’re doing.”
Now he’s forgiven her, so best to stay cool, polite, not available for confessionals or other “tales” of her past or present.
FEEDBACK Regarding the man’s in-laws who didn’t attend services when his parents died (April 1):
Reader – “My family always went to pay respects. If away, we’d send a card with a note to the bereaved.
“Some people aren’t raised like this, or haven’t lost close relatives, so they have no idea what people are going through, or how to comfort them in their loss.
“When a co-worker lost a baby, I realized her closest friends on staff hadn’t called her, they didn't know what to say.
“I said, call. Say anything, or nothing, just let her know you care, and you’re there for her. They hadn't been trained to do that.
“Some people get better at responding to bereavements, because after they go through it, they learn what’s kind, and what’s needed.
“As you suggested Ellie, the right thing to do is the right thing, regardless of how others behave.”
Tip of the day:
Fallback plans only work with a fresh start as move-forward plans.