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Don’t Cheat Yourself Out of a Great Relationship by Settling for Less

Posted May 07 2010 3:53pm

Dear Nina: I read your advice regarding love addicton and I have also ordered your book . I can’t wait to read it when it arrives. My question for you is this…is it ok to forgive a cheater? I have just spent almost 4 years with a man who I thought was the love of my life. We had been talking about marriage and I have been waiting for him to propose. Two weeks ago I found out that he was seeing someone else. I confronted both of them and ended my relationship with him. He says he’s sorry and wants me to forgive him. I don’t know if I could ever trust him again. Can a couple truly overcome cheating? Is it ok to forgive or should I move on? Am I just addicted to the idea of him? This is the hardest thing that I have ever had to do. I know that I love him, but I don’t know if I should forgive him or move on. - Confused, Michelle

Dear Michelle: I hope you do forgive him eventually, although you’ll need time. Carrying forward resentment or bitterness hurts YOU, so yes, forgive in time. But forgiveness is only one small part of this equation, and just because you forgive doesn’t necessarily mean you go back into the relationship.

There are many, many issues that must be resolved after infidelity in order to have a healthy relationship. The biggest is the loss of trust, without which you don’t have a relationship. Right now, you don’t know who this man is - he wasn’t honest and authentic with you, so at best you love an illusion - the man you thought he was, as you pointed out. So a huge step in this process would be to understand who he really is. Questions you must explore in depth with him include:

  • Why did he seek another relationship? What was missing in this one for him that left him so unsatisfied that he looked for it with another woman?
  • What was his commitment to her? Did he tell her he loved her, too? (if so, he may still be involved with her, despite what he says)
  • If he says it wasn’t love with her, then the next question is: could he have a sexual addiction problem? How many other women has he cheated on in the past? Does he use pornography? What is his pattern?
  • Why does he want you back? Is it loneliness, fear, feelings of abandonment because you left?
  • If he says it’s you he wants, then you must ask: If I’m so wonderful, why did you feel compelled to do another woman?

If you were married to this guy for ten years and had three children, Michelle, I would recommend marriage counseling and a good solid effort to save your relationship. Couples can recover from infidelity as long as it isn’t a pattern and as long as there are many other qualities in the marriage that are positive, plus genuine, deep remorse on the part of the cheating person.

You’re in the middle of the Temptation to Settle for Less than a truly great relationship. You’re not married, you don’t have children, and you are in a position to move on to a man whom you can totally trust. Believe me, there are many, many men of good character out there who would find your boyfriend’s behavior disgusting, who wouldn’t even think of cheating. Before you try to put this one back together, I recommend you take your time and really consider moving on. The book will help you understand how you got here and what it takes to have a truly great relationship with a good man.

If you can’t bring yourself to move on, then the burden for fixing this broken pseudo-relationship is on him, not you. He should be crawling over broken glass begging your forgiveness. He should be setting up counseling to help the healing process. He should be doing everything in his power to prove that you can trust him, that you’re safe with him. He should be expressing deep remorse and offering the ring, proposal, and a plan for healing. Anything less than a gargantuan effort on his part is crumbs and you’ll be settling for less.

I don’t recommend that you accept the ring if he offers. Your “push back,” which is a test of character for him, would be to tell him it’s too soon for that, but if he’s intentional to ask again further down the path. If he’s an insecure man, which I suspect he is, he’ll back away and look for a woman who will take care of his needs first. This whole incident gives you the opportunity to take off the blinders and see his real character, who he really is, not the illusion you were in love with. Though you are in pain, you are lucky to find these things out now, not after marriage.

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