Following are questions held over from a two-part live online chat, “Forgive a Cheater?” (March 27/April 3):
My boyfriend of five years twice cheated on his girlfriend, before me. He never cheated on me while we were together.
We took a break a year ago during which he slept with someone twice. He said he could’ve done it more, but didn't.
I knew this would happen if we went on a break. I was prepared, and I forgive him.
We want to get back together, learn from our mistakes, and have a new beginning. But I worry what my friends and family will think of me.
How do I show them how happy I am?
You’re expecting disapproval, which suggests you may have some doubts yourself, despite your denial.
Also, by expecting that he’d cheat, you signalled to him that you’d accept this. It’s also a signal to me that you believe he’ll do what he wants.
I say, take it slow. Don’t rush back to full-time togetherness without an honest talk about why you needed the break, what “mistakes” you both admit, and what negatives each believes the other contributed.
Then be sure you have an agreed plan for how you’ll both need to change to make it work this time.
Once done, your happiness will show. You won’t have to “prove” it to anyone.
My wife and I were both unhappily married when we met, so you could say we were “pre-mature” lovers, and our ex’es would say we were cheaters.
During the rough period until we each divorced, my “lover” had a one-night stand with a colleague on a work-based retreat. She was ashamed and contrite when she returned, and confessed. I was hurt but understood as we were both under a lot of stress and only able to get together occasionally. I forgave her, and am grateful that I did because we’ve been totally happy together, married now eight years.
You’ve both passed the test of time, obstacles, and stress. You don’t whitewash your cheating on former spouses. That honesty about your own behaviour increased your tolerance for understanding, so her one-night’er didn’t alter your feelings for her, nor hers for you.
It’s not the perfect path to marital happiness…. many couldn’t survive the guilt or the jealousy. Here’s hoping you two are now too closely bonded for the past to be a problem.
My husband of two years has reconnected with a former classmate who’s moved here, and they’ve gone out a few times. Each time he’s brought his sister along (she’s visiting him) and my husband always acts funny when he returns… won’t say much, goes to bed immediately, and sleeps.
I confronted him and he admitted he’s smitten, but nothing’s happened. It’s still emotional cheating and I’m very upset that it could happen so early in our marriage. I’m worried that if I forgive him, he’ll feel free to be a player from now on.
He won’t feel “free” to play if you call him on it right now. “Smitten” is only okay in a marriage as a shared fantasy. It’s good that he admitted it; now he must explain openly why he was attracted…. it’s an opportunity to look at your relationship together.
Talk about how sensitive and insecure this makes you feel…. insist that you two get out together, work on your intimacy, etc. Next time his friend’s sister is around, he must either bring you to the outing, or not see her.
Feedback to Chat:
#1- “I wouldn't want my partner confessing just so she can feel better about herself (after an affair).
“The key is for the couple to move forward. Sometimes the "truth" is better left unsaid. If someone described his or her affair to me (the who, where, and when), it would then be left to me to block it out.
“AND, if it keeps popping into my head later on, then I’d get the blame for not letting it go...”
#2 – “One reason I lost interest and checked out of sex is the revelation, after marrying, that he isn’t that great as when we dated. There’s also the self-centered way sex happens in my bed.
“Add the factor of imbalanced chores and responsibilities. And me doing all that, and bringing home more money than the husband, who plays inept at every household chore.
“But I only "checked out" sexually after he cheated.”
Tip of the day:
Couples can survive cheating if it’s discussed openly, and considered a mistake by both.