Dear Dr. Romance:
My boyfriend and I have been dating for almost two years now. There is a seventeen year difference in age. I left for two and a half months to help my older sister during her second pregnancy because her husband was in Iraq.
When I came back I found out that my boyfriend tried dating other women when I was gone. One of which was my good friend. We argued quite a lot for a while and at one point I started to move out, but we worked things out. And we were even stronger then ever! But yet I still can't seem to get over it. Is that normal?? I still question if he talks to them anymore, and he says that he doesn't. But yet I'm still very bothered by it. Whenever I bring the subject up with him, he always just says, "I love you, and you only, I come home to you every night. There is no one else that I want to be with. I almost lost you not that long ago, and I don't want you to leave now." But like I said I'm still bothered by it. What should I do?? If you could please help me, I would greatly appreciate it.
I'm sorry you're going through such a difficult time. You feel betrayed, and your trust in your boyfriend has been broken. He was obviously very immature, and it sounds like he's changing a little, but he hasn't sufficiently apologized or admitted his guilt to satisfy you that he feels remorseful, so you can't begin the rebuilding process. It is possible to recover from infidelity, but it requires that both of you work together to do it.
"Handling the Green-Eyed Monster" will help you understand jealousy and how to resolve it . Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting about the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage has "Guidelines for Building Trust" you can use to fix the problem.
Repairing Trust in your Relationship
If the trust between you and your partner has been damaged, you will need to work together to rebuild that trust. How do you build trust? Make agreements that are sensible, and keep them.
Trust grows in a relationship over time, as contracts are kept. Be on time, pay your debts, and treat your partner with respect. When you can't keep your promise, say so in advance -- if you can't do that, apologize and ask how you can repair the damage. The process is much the same whether you're building trust with yourself or someone else. The following guidelines will help you put these methods into practice:
Guidelines for Building Trust:
*Remember fear breaks down trust. Don't frighten your partner (or yourself) by testing too hard, risking too much, or demanding the impossible. If you begin to feel frightened, talk about it. If you want to be told what is going on, don't make it too hard for your partner to be honest by making threats or reacting hysterically, or with rage.
*Keep each other informed. Lying or sneaking does even more damage than breaking contracts.
If you slip up, tell the truth. If your partner errs, be open to hearing it without flying off the
handle, and negotiate a solution to the problem, using the problem solving steps in the first
section of this chapter. If your partner keeps messing up, and shows no sign of change, or if you can't keep your bargains, couple counseling is crucial.
*Learn to make clear contracts and renegotiate them before you break them.
*Give it time. Patience and communication are your best allies. As you learn that you both make mistakes, and no one's being deliberately hurtful, trust builds. As it does, you can begin to relax the rules, and allow yourselves more spontaneity.
You and your boyfriend may need to get counseling in order to solve this problem. An objective counselor can help your boyfriend take responsibility for his bad behavior, and help both of you to understand what went wrong. "Guidelines for Finding and Using Therapy Wisely" will help you do that.
For low-cost counseling, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org