My boyfriend has cheated! What should I do?

Infidelity

Hi,

I have been with my boyfriend for four and a half years, we have a mortgage and have been living together for almost 2 years. I just found out that he has cheated on me 3 times in the space of 6 months. This happened 2 and a half years ago.
Normally I would never tolerate this and end the relationship straight away. But because it was so long ago I am considering what I should do?!

I believe him when he says he only cheated these times, as I only found out about 1 time and he admitted to the 2 other times which he didn't need to do. And says he is glad its out in the open now.

He has moved in with his parents till I decide what I want to do. But I am so confused! Anyone who knows him would say he is not the type of bloke who would do this. I think this is why it has come as more of a shock to me!

I am only 24, and have been with him since I was 19, only having slept with 1 person before him, and never having had a long-term relationship before. Makes it very difficult to know what to do!

Any advice would be very welcome! As right now I am at the end of my tether and do not know what to do!

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He'll most likely do it

He'll most likely do it again. The pattern is established.

By accepting it, you re-enforce the pattern more by showing you won't leave...whatever you say, he'll read this as you will most likely stay when he does it again.

There's no way you can win here. You can take the pain now or later. Now is better because later means more emotional attachment and loss of your life.

But leaving takes time to avoid the emotional trauma of sudden seperation, so try to get where you need to be as ok as one can be in such a situation, then leave.

You don't and should not tell him. He didn't tell you. Use the time without him pressuring you or leaving earlier and causing you more trauma.

Cheating boyfriend

Hi Hollykins24

I was very sorry to read about the distress and upset you must be going through. When things go wrong in life-partner relationships, the effects can be enormously painful and disorienting. I think there are two major risks involved when such events happen and we try to find a way out of the emotional turmoil. The first major risk comes when we tell ourselves that what has happened to us is so painful as to be extraordinary, and that we must do whatever we can, as soon as possible, to remove our pain. The second major risk comes when we seek to resolve our crisis by applying what seems to be the conventional 'wisdoms' that many people generate almost automatically when they hear about our misfortunes, and that are reinforced daily in the popular media.

With regard to the overwhelming grief, disappointment, anxiety and sense of loss and betrayal that attend the discovery of a trusted partner's infidelity, it will perhaps be helpful to accept that your pain is the place you are in at the moment, and that it is perfectly understandable that you should be feeling this pain and uncertainty under the circumstances. The problem with this kind of pain is that it tends to be very intense, gets in the way of our living our daily lives and sleeping, and also, alas, tends to be with us for a long time. Not only that, but when we find that our efforts to remove the pain are unsuccessful, our minds tend to tell us that things will never get better for us in our future. If your mind is telling you this, then I would invite you to not to believe it. Things will get better for you, despite the pain you are feeling at the moment. In the short term, you may just experience this improvement for brief moments when a shaft of sunlight manages to penetrate the dark clouds; but in the course of time, however the issue between yourself and your boyfriend gets resolved, you will experience the kind of emotional weather conditions you had before your upset: the good and bad experiences life brings us all. Infidelity in relationships is surprisingly common: 50% of people in close relationships have affairs - and one has to wonder how many of the people who do not have affairs simply don't have the opportunity to do so, or else would like to but abstain from fear of the consequences, rather than from a feeling of loyalty to their partner. I mention this to highlight the fact that you are by no means alone in your experience - though I also do not want to suggest that experiencing infidelity is anything other than often an extremely painful and upsetting event. After having a similar experience in my own life, I sometimes looked at the faces of people in the train on the way to and from work, and wondered how many of them were experiencing the same kind of unspeakable grief I was feeling as a result of the actions of an unfaithful partner.

I would suggest that, as far as your pain is concerned, you might find it helpful not to struggle to get rid of it. It will go in its own time, and its intensity might lead you to pursue avenues to resolve your situaiton that are ultimately unfruitful, if your primary motivation is to remove your pain. For instance, if you value repairing your relationship, this might involve experiencing your pain for longer, until the issues are worked through carefully and patiently. I am not making any suggestion at all as to whether you should - or should not - try to repair your relationship: I know hardly anything about you, your partner, or your relationship, and the whole question is one that hinges on your deepest values, not mine - but I would perhaps suggest that you might best avoid making radical, even perhaps irreversible decisions while you are still very upset.

The second major risk to finding the best solution to your dilemma is the possibility of well-meaning but unhelpful advice from others. In a situation of desperation, it is perfectly understandable for us to turn to friends, family and others for advice. People often feel they should suggest a solution to people's problems when they are approached by someone who is clearly in a great deal of distress: as human beings, we tend to feel there must be an efficient and straightforward solution to every problem, and seeing someone in distress often makes people feel that they would be faling short of their duty if they are unable to suggest something helpful. Unfortunately, what counts as 'helpful' advice in the community at large so often amounts to a very unsophisticated and cliched formula that gets peddled and recycled so often it comes to be accepted as true. You might find people saying to you such things as, 'Get rid of him: he will only do it again'; 'You will never be able to trust him again'; 'You are better off without him - there are plenty of fish in the sea,' etc., etc. These kinds of comments are often made with the very best of intentions, but human relationships are so complex that no simple formulaic solution could possibily fit every case. It is still possible for relationships to be repaired, and even get stronger, after a partner has been unfaithful; on the other hand, what has happened can be a symptom in some relationships of a conflict of fundamental values and hence indicate a level of incompatibility that might not be bridgeable. Only dialogue between yourself and your partner will help to clarify the significance and reality of what has happened to both of you.

There is wealth of reading material and self-help books on relationship infidelity that can be bought via amazon.co.uk and perhaps you might find it helpful to explore some of this. I found it a consolation to read about other people's similar experiences, and to consider the thoughts of psychologists and psychotherapists who are experienced in helping people out of the deep and gloomy hole they find themselves in after relationship infidelity. There is also the possibilty of relationship counselling being helpful, with an organisation such as Relate in the U.K. - they charge about £40 per session, and can make a significant contribution to restoring psychological well-being, and even possibly save a valued relationship.

After we have been so deeply hurt by someone we love, it is unavoidable that we will feel a degree of anger and resentment towards them, and perhaps want them to be punished in some way. This can however compound our own grief by adding the suffering of protracted anger, grief, and even in some cases hatred, to our emotional economy, and such feelings can also lead us to take rash actions in revenge that might offer some temporary respite from our pain, but that might well make things worse and get in the way of the best route for a positive resolution. It is not so easy to switch off feelings of anger and resentment ... but if you are feeling very angry, yet feel able to avoid judgmental and angry outbursts when talking to your boyfriend, and if you are able to make some kind comments about him, despite the hurt he has caused you, during private conversations with your frends and family, it might help you to forgive him to a degree, and you will feel the benefits of not carrying around the extra burden of negative emotion. Forgiveness is a gift we give to ourselves, to spare ourselves the suffering of resentment and anger. Forgiveness doesn't necessarily entail pardon, however: you might decide you want to try to forgive your boyfriend, but at the same time, you might or might not decide to pardon him and allow him back into a committed relationship in your life. That is a decision only you can make, but I would hope you will allow yourself time for the dust to settle before making a final decision, and enter into a discussion with your boyfriend, if he is willing to do so, that might help you both to make an informed and well-considered decision.

In the meantime, as I said above, it is not at all surprising that you feel such pain and turmoil at the moment, given what has happened. But perhaps there is no reason to see your suffering as something alien and bad that you must get rid of as soon as possible. The pain you are going through is the price of love; and it has a value as a marker of the traumatic rupture that has taken place in your cosmos. The Buddhist monk Thich Nath Hanh speaks of our pain as a suffering baby needing care and compassion. Perhaps you will feel able to hold your pain, as though your pain were a sick baby you were nursing - with love and compassion. That pain is a part of you that has been hurt, and you yourself can give that hurt part of you the compassion and love that you deserve. The baby will heal, and things will get better.

You might feel able to tell your friends and family that you are not asking for their advice, but that you really appreciate them providing a kind, patient, listening ear to you. They might be relieved on some level that they are not expected to provide a solution to a very complex situation. Your friends and family can also help nurse back to health that suffering baby with their love, patience and compassion

I wish you and your boyfriend well, and I hope that my thoughts might provide some help and consolation to you.

Best wishes

Gary

if it's good, it's worth a second chance

Hi Hollykins24, I don't know if I can really help you but a similar thing has happened to me recently and I can sympathise. My boyfriend of 3 years slept with another girl one drunken night earlier this year - he didn't tell me, I found out a few weeks later through someone else. He said he didn't tell me because it was a mistake and didn't want it to change things. I was devastated and confused as well but decided to stay with him because I love him so much. And because our relationship was so good that I thought it deserved a second chance. If your relationship is really good and the pros outweigh the cons, then I think it is definitely worth trying to work through it.

It is incredibly hard and the first few months after I found out were particulary emotional. Our relationship is good now but I still have my moments of outrage and fear that he'll do it again. This is the first time I've been cheated on so I don't know how long it takes to heal. But I have been in other long term relationships before and know that none of them have been as good as the one I'm in now (despite what happened). So if you think it's worth saving, then give it a go.