Dear Molly, I Cheated On My Boyfriend and Now He Doesn’t Trust Me At All.

I know I’m about to sound like the bad guy, but last year I cheated on my boyfriend. It wasn’t with anyone serious, it was a handful of times, and it didn’t mean anything. The guilt was eating me up, so four months after I ended things I told him. Obviously he stopped trusting me, but we stayed together. That was about ten months ago. And he still doesn’t trust me at all. Checks up on me all the time, doesn’t believe me when I’m going out with my friends, constantly asks to see who I’m texting and what I’m doing. At first, I thought it was temporary, just to give him back a little faith in me. But it’s been so long I’m not sure anymore. How can I prove to him that I’m trustworthy and get things back to the way they were? 

 

Trust and Trusting are two different things.

Trust is a noun, it’s formed over time through mutual generosity and confidence in each other. Trusting is a verb, it’s the action that builds Trust (the noun). Trusting is hard, it takes vulnerability, patience, and a willingness to be hurt. Trust isn’t built by one person. It’s built by two people Trusting, which means it cannot be rebuilt by one person. While you may have been the one to break the Trust the responsibility of rebuilding it, through Trusting, belongs to both of you.

What’s interesting to me is you said “to give him back a little faith in me”, but that’s not how faith works. Like Trust, faith is something he has to have in you, not something you can provide him. When you told him what happened and you both decided to stay together that was square one. You restart together. He doesn’t get to stand on a pedestal while you beg for forgiveness. To agree to restart is to grant forgiveness. His decision to stay was his own and he needs to act like someone who wants to stay because right now his words are not matching his actions.

You cannot have a relationship without Trust. To restore Trust (noun) in your relationship requires your boyfriend’s willingness to Trust (verb) you. That’s the funny thing about it, to have it you have to give it. Your boyfriend and you cannot have Trust if he doesn’t start Trusting. His behavior of checking up on you shouldn’t have started at all. Trust isn’t born of the absence of discretion. Trusting is risky, you can get hurt and he did get hurt. But that’s the nature of loving. That’s the dare we all take when we entrust our hearts to someone else. To truly love is to accept risk.

By agreeing to continue to be together he agreed to start Trusting again, the two are mutually inclusive. If he doesn’t want to move forward then he should have left when you came clean. If he loves you and wants to move forward he needs to practice Trusting you.  It doesn’t sound like he is moving forward, it sounds like he’s reminding you of it daily and using it to punish you and control you.

So here are the facts:

He didn’t catch you cheating, you came to him after you ended it. That speaks volumes about where your priorities lay and what you want most.

He doesn’t trust you and isn’t giving you the space to earn trust back. Yes, he was hurt. But he made the decision to stay.

You can’t make him trust you. You can’t make things go back to the way they were.

When you came clean and decided to stay together that was wiping the slate clean. If he can’t do that then you need to find someone who can. Learn what you can from this, leave him, and move forward.

 

xx

 

Dear Molly, Once a Cheater, Always a Cheater?

My boyfriend cheated on me and I don’t know what to do. That’s really all I have. I don’t even really have a question, I just don’t know what to do. Do you think once a cheater always a cheater? I don’t know if I can trust him anymore.

 

Most people think that someone who cheats is immediately untrustworthy and should be cut out of your life, I disagree. To me, assuming “once a cheater, always a cheater” is a very narrow view of someone’s sexuality, capacity for a healthy relationship, personality, and their ability for growth. A person who cheats is always able to have a healthy relationship in the future, whether that be with the person they cheated on or a new person.

I think people are fallible, we make mistakes. I think people are defined not by the mistakes they make, but by how they rise. How they move forward. It comes down to this: Did you find out on your own or did he come to you?

If he came to you there’s a good chance he feels guilty about it. If you want to continue the relationship you need to understand that there is trust to be rebuilt, that it will take time, that it will take patience and sacrifice from you. If he came you to and genuinely feels bad and wants to move forward then, to me, the question isn’t only about your capacity for forgiveness.

Can you move forward? Can you feel secure in the future? What do you need to achieve those pieces? Don’t get bogged down in details of was it one time or on-going, those things don’t matter if you want to move forward. If you can’t separate that type of detail than I suggest you leave, because the odds of you being able to have a solid relationship in the future are slim. We’re taught to “forgive and forget”, but with cheating, it’s not so simple. Maybe you can forgive, but you’ll never forget. The potential future of a relationship rests on your desire to move forward and rebuild trust.

If you found out on your own then, in my opinion, the gloves are off. Especially if it was romantic. You don’t need to stage your own Carrie Underwood Before He Cheats music video. You don’t need to weigh yourself down with acts of revenge. But you do need to leave. Pretending you don’t know isn’t an option. Pretending it’s not a big deal isn’t an option. You’re worth more.

 

So why do people cheat? Everyone’s reason is different. People cheat for the thrill, for an escape, because it really was a mistake, the list goes on. Cheating is not the thing that ruins a relationship, it’s a fork in the road. It’s a symptom of something that is already wrong. It doesn’t need to be immediate, but if you move forward with this guy, you may need to have a conversation about the “why?” which can be incredibly tough.

 

I can’t tell you what to do. I’ve been cheated on and left immediately, I’ve been cheated on and stayed. It’s subjective to each relationship and situation. What I can tell you is that staying in a relationship and moving forward is going to be difficult. It’s going to require work and blind trust in someone who just shattered the trust you had for them. It’s going to take strength and vulnerability. It’s going to be the process of establishing a new normal, a new foundation for your relationship. It’s going to be hard.

 

xx