Q My boyfriend and I had a great start to our relationship. We were medical students then. We trusted each other and were both clear that cheating is a dealbreaker for us.
When we moved to different cities to start our specialty training, we saw each other less. Things got busier but we tried working things out, always thinking about the light at the end of the tunnel. Nonetheless, we felt really happy once we met.
Two years ago, someone anonymously messaged me on a networking site saying my boyfriend was seeing someone else. There was no evidence, but I immediately called him and he denied it.
One day, I went into paranoid mode and checked his phone while he was asleep. I saw flirty messages. The next morning I confronted him and asked who she was. He said they were coworkers and friends, and he was just helping her review. That was our first big argument.
Of course, I believed him. We even got engaged last year!
Fast forward to three months before our wedding. Another person messaged me, this time with proof! Turns out, their relationship became physical both before and after he proposed to me.
Bit by bit, he told me the truth. He admitted they were friends, part of a group who went out together and reviewed in his apartment, until the two of them were left alone. But he never once mentioned this group of friends to me. He said he was afraid I wouldn’t give my permission to hang out with them.
He said the girl made a move and kissed him first, and his lust took over. After that, they had sex for a few more meetings until he realized what they were doing was wrong. He claims he ended it with the other woman three months ago and was going to tell me.
My life crumbled. The person I thought I knew best and trusted most, suddenly became a stranger. We broke up and our wedding was canceled.
A month and a half after D-day, we still communicate. He’s remorseful and readily answers my calls, even though he knows I just want answers.
I will be flying to another country for 18 months of further training, while he’ll be staying in our home country for his training. He says he’ll fly to see me once he’s done and court me again. He says I’m the person he wants to live with in this lifetime.
Can a person really change? Will I be able to get past this feeling of betrayal?
A Heidi, a loophole is defined as an exemption that can be used to avoid the effect of a law. You and your boyfriend are both looking for a loophole.
In this case, the law you want to avoid is a law of human nature.
Your boyfriend’s first line of defense was to lie. His second line of defense was to blame you. (You wouldn’t approve of his group.) His third line of defense was to blame the other woman. (She started it.)
If you stay with him, his final defense will be, “It couldn’t have been all that bad because Heidi stayed.”
Of course it isn’t all that bad to him. He’s not the one betrayed. Proceeding as before is what a cheater wants because they are not the injured party. But if you had cheated on him, would he be so lenient on you? Of course not.
His excuses are the archetypal responses of a cheater who is caught. It’s the classic pattern, but because you haven’t been through this before, you don’t recognize the pattern. Still, your gut told you to cancel the wedding.
When he blamed the other woman, he admitted he can “fall prey” to any other woman. In trying to wriggle off the hook, he set the hook. He admitted, “I cannot control myself and you cannot trust me.”
You were not paranoid when you checked his phone. You smelled gas and looked for the leak. That’s realism, not paranoia.
Perhaps you’ve had to explain to a patient that they have a terminal disease. Now you’re on the other side of that. You must face that your relationship with this man is terminal.
Reactions to cheating—the disgust, the outrage at the unfairness, the suspicion, the traumatic response—are not something a skillful counselor can talk you out of. They are part of your human nature.
Counseling can be helpful in many areas, but it cannot overcome the basic needs built into us for trust, for justice, and for love.
In a marriage, there can be no loopholes. Why? Because with people who belong together, none are needed.
Wayne & Tamara
Invade – to enter as if to take possession, to intrude upon.