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The Dust of Adultery

The Dust of Adultery

Venus Nicolino holds a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology. Her column addresses Love, Life and Relationships

Dear Dr. V,

My boyfriend and I have been together for 2 years now. The first year of our relationship he lied to me and told me he was working, when really he was out with a female friend he met before me. She is from a different state but comes here on vacation once a year with family. I am convinced that nothing happened, he was just too scared to be honest with me at the time. After I confronted him he never spoke of her or to her again.

Then the following year he had two phone numbers of these two girls who waitressed at a dine-in. I found out about it before anything could happen.

After that everything was fine within our relationship; we said that we were going to start fresh. But now just recently, he got on a matchmaking site that he made 4 years ago, and he sent what you call an “icebreaker” to two girls, I was actually shocked! It seems completely innocent in a way, but I still have an empty feeling. He swears he would never cheat on me, but I just don’t know how to trust him anymore.

It seems every time I start gaining trust towards him, he does something else. I don’t know what to do. He is an awesome, hard-working man and I am madly in love with him, but I’m not 100% convinced that he is in love with me (even though he says it every day, his actions speak differently to me). Do I keep forgiving and taking him back, or does this sound like a dead end relationship?

Please help! -T. R.

Dear T.R.,

How frustrating and hurtful these circumstances must be for you. I have no doubt that you deeply care for this man. However, I think he has provided you with an overwhelming amount of evidence for what his behavior will be like in the future. What I’m wondering is, do you think that maybe you’re not staying with him despite this, but rather because of it?

A friend once told me that if men and women want to stay faithful to each other, they should avoid exposing themselves to what he called “the dust of adultery.” What you’ve caught your boyfriend in basically amounts to this.

While he may not have actually slept with any of these people (that you know of), the fact remains that the intention certainly appears to be there. If the first incident you mentioned with the out-of-town friend had remained isolated, and there were no further breaches of your trust, I might lean towards giving your boyfriend the benefit of the doubt.

Yet the way you relate the discovery of the waitresses’ phone numbers: “I found them before anything could happen,” says to me that there is no trust between you and your boyfriend. Not that I fault you at all for this, how could there be, when you are continually catching him on the verge of infidelity? Without trust, it is impossible for love, empathy and all the other wonderful things we want from our relationships to flourish and flow.

And I if I can speak plainly for a moment, this guy is really showing some nerve. I’m sure you know that unlike Facebook or Myspace, matchmaking sites serve one purpose, to help people find romantic partners. And from what you describe, it sounds as if he was in the process of initiating new relationships with not one but two more women. So not only is he planning on being unfaithful to you, he’s going to cheat on the girl he’s cheating on you with!

Given your recent discoveries, I think a pattern has revealed itself. He’s already blown his second and third chances. I’m sure there are many reasons why your boyfriend feels compelled to continually look outside of your relationship for what he should find within it, and there is a very good chance most if not all of these issues have nothing to do with you, but rather everything to do with his past.

Regardless, this is about you, and the decision you now face: To Stay or To Go? Before you can decide, you have to accept that this is who your boyfriend is, and without him doing the serious work on himself required to break out of this pattern (as in getting on the couch and opening up that box of issues), he will continue to fool around on you. Look deep inside yourself and ask, “Is this the kind of relationship I want? Is this the kind of man I want to spend my time with? Is this who I want to devote myself to?”

I don’t think your boyfriend is a “bad” guy for being who he is. However, I do think we all deserve to be cherished and honored by our partners, and that’s not something I see happening for you in this relationship.  I think what you really need to ask yourself is if you feel like on some level you “deserve” to be cheated on. And without even meeting you, I can say that you don’t. Nobody deserves to be hurt like that, let alone over and over. You might want to consider if there’s some emotional reaction playing out for you in the “catching him in the act” aspect of it that you’re attracted to?  When I say attracted, I mean in the way we’re sometimes attracted to pull on a hangnail: it hurts, it’s bad for us, but once we know it’s there we just have to pull on it ’til we see blood.

Without really having a conversation with you it’s hard for me to know, but I can tell you that the current path you’re on doesn’t seem to lead to a satisfying resolution. The way I see it, this can only lead to dysfunction, frustration and hurt, and I’m sure this is something you don’t want, unless you can accept the fact you will always have to share this man with other women.

Of course, you can talk to your boyfriend frankly about this, but again, if he continually proves himself to be dishonest and deceitful, I’m not sure how much comfort you can find in his words.  As you said yourself, actions speak louder. If you feel like you want to try and tough it out for a bit longer, perhaps you could make an agreement with yourself: if and when you discover he’s been unfaithful again, perhaps it might be the time for you to consider that how you feel in the moment of terrible discovery is just as much a part of your relationship as how you feel in the “good times,” and ultimately it is you, not him, who is responsible for allowing the situation to continue.

With Empathy,

Dr. V

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