Should She Forgive His Infidelity?
I would never think I would need to write you again, your advice has helped me through many obstacles in my life and I thank you for it. Now I'm facing a hurdle that I'm not sure I can get over as easily (as if my previous issues were a walk in the park heh) if you can recall from my previous letter ("Stepfather from Hell" I believe was the title) my mate and I have blossomed since then. We remained living together for some time before he was laid off from his job. Financially tightened we moved back into with my mother. We remained there for over a year, one day he packs to travel to visit home, the reason I cannot recall. He regrets that I cannot go with him, it didn't bother me at all that he was going back by himself. He heads off and I am smiling and happy when he comes home, having patiently waited for him like the canid I was, my tail wagging and kisses. We even have this cute pet/master relationship fun (non-gorean and completely consensual, being a pet is a bit of a kink of mine).
This is where the warm and fuzzy updates end, unfortunately.
Fast forward one year. We both now have work and a place to call our own in an apartment. Unfortunately, the increased burden led to higher stress and tempers. I was always the more submissive member of the pack, so I would never fight back with his aggression. Our fights were petty but often and after a more recent argument (I was a messy artist and had an awful habit of leaving my supplies everywhere, and it was the one time too many) we bicker and yell and move to a state of peace where we cool down looking at our phones. This time was different. He kept looking at me with, worried and pained eyes, like he was scared of me or what I might say. I have never has this look from him in any of the 5 total years in knowing him, not for any occasion or any reason except when I asked him what was wrong. Hesitant at first I pushed for an answer, a heavy feeling was in my chest, I dreaded his answer but I didn't know why. I had to know. He tells me....
He has allowed another female to stray to his bed when he was away one year ago. He has betrayed me in the worst possible way and I was in hellish agony. The man that rescued me from my tormentor had broken his promise to be faithful to my love. I was devastated, heartbroken, and angry. Years of repressed anger and suffering all flowing out of my soul like a poisoned river, he was meant to be my first last and only man in my life. I was faithful to him in both mind and body (I would mentally block all males or temptations of males by being easily distracted by minor things like falling leaves or buzzing flies, costly to my attention span as it was).
I wanted to hit him, scream at him, stab him, kill him. Most of all I wanted to kill myself because not only did I feel like I did something wrong but that I felt like I deserved it in some way. Even with this betrayal I could not deal with the fact that such evil was caused by him and him alone, I had to have done something wrong. Was I not pretty enough, did I make him so bitter at me that he did this as punishment? All the questions pointed to how it was my fault. Those thoughts still hover in my head now as I write this.
As I wailed in pain he looks to me in shame, grips me tightly, I struggle screaming at him to let me go and he embraces me tightly. He was crying saying sorry over and over again how he was so weak. How he had let another female tempt him so easily in times of stress, he wanted to keep this secret to the grave, not just to hide it from me to get away with it, but because he knew the unmentionable pain it would cause.
He tells me he had regretted his sin as soon as he did it. That he could not stand being next to the female after his act, and that he was plagued with excruciating nightmares of me finding his secret and killing myself or leaving him altogether. He tells me he's seen visions of me hanging from our closet and that he does not want to die alone. That he wants me to be his wife, the mother of his children, to be with him beyond forever.
Since his confession I have had to keep blades away from him. He has begun to show signs of wanting to hurt himself even so far as to almost demand me I stab him, demand I take revenge for my pain. I wouldn't do it, despite my rage I wouldn't and I took his knife away from him. He has been depressed for the past 2 days of his confession. Despite his betrayal I still feel compassion and the need to comfort him. He tells me it's not my fault, that he was the one who fucked up. That he ruined years of relationship just by spending a night with the stray, he tells me he wants to make this better he wants to do anything in his power to keep me by his side.
"Hate me, spit on me, stab me, yell at me, hurt me in every way you feel is right until death, just don't leave me alone, I don't want to die alone."
I had asked him what he would have done if I was to turn away forever; he has mentioned that he would work himself to death that life would not be worth living. His words and tears were sincere I know I can feel it, but is that just hope that he wasn't lying? Will he stay faithful for another chance?
On one final leap of faith I tell him his infidelity was forgiven, but I could not forgive him hiding it from me, lying to me about he always have only me on his bed every night. He said he didn't care as long as I was still at his side. Even after telling him I forgive him I still don't know what to do to heal us. I looked at relationship articles for some advice but they all seem the same. Which is why I am writing to you now.
Every time I look at him, I ache inside, his touch is like touching a ghost now. I don't want these feelings to last forever and I want us to be able to heal each other, and he shows to be very willing to do what ever it takes to make things better. He seems to show deep regret for what he has done and I'm willing to believe that we can work this out.
Papabear with your unbiased view did I make the right decision to forgive him? Am I weak for forgiving him? (With modern feminist views I am not sure anymore about any of my actions in this situation. I still feel like his betrayal was my fault.)
And can you give us any advice to both he and I on how we can help heal together.
Thanks for reading this extensive letter. It was just as exhausting writing it as it was experiencing it.
Broken Hearted Wolf (age 22)
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Dear Broken Hearted,
“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover the prisoner was you.” –Lewis B. Smedes, Christian theologian
The quick answer: you are right to forgive him, and you must also forgive yourself.
Your reaction to his confession is understandable, especially given that you were raped by your stepfather. One of the sad side effects of rape is that the victim often blames herself. You have not completely recovered from the psychological trauma of that rape and that self-doubt, and, therefore, your boyfriend’s cheating on you with another woman immediately brought up all those past feelings of betrayal and guilt.
It is important to note here that your boyfriend is not your stepfather. You stepfather raped you; your boyfriend is not a rapist (it was consensual, apparently), and, unlike your stepfather, he is miserably guilty about what he did, is begging for forgiveness, and wants to be with you and make amends.
The question comes up, then: why did he do this? I suspect a couple of contributing factors (none of these are to excuse his behavior, mind you, merely to try to explain it so that solutions can be explored). The first is stress over money. You might not think that stress and sex are related, but they really are. Sex is an amazing stress reliever. Why didn’t he have sex with you, then, to relieve this tension? Probably, at the time, you were arguing and in a bad mood. Apparently, when the two of you argue, whether over silly things like art supply messes or more serious things like money problems, your solution was to stop fighting and stare at your phones until you calmed down. This is a very poor way to deal with a problem and is not communicating at all. Therefore, what ever was causing the upset was still the gorilla in the room, and that gorilla grew larger with each argument. Again, this isn’t to put blame on anyone, merely explaining things.
So, my suggestion regarding this small part of the problem is to work on improving your communication skills. I wrote a column about this last year that includes some rules about fair fighting practices: http://www.askpapabear.com/letters/learning-to-fight-fairly-is-important-in-any-relationship.
There are a number of reasons why people cheat. Judging by what you have written about your boyfriend so far, I would not conclude issues such as sex addiction or trying to escape the relationship (he definitely wants to be with you). No, more likely, the possible reasons on his part include extreme stress, depression, low self-esteem, and avoidance of problems (escapism). Again, not excusing his behavior, but Papabear suspects that because of the horrible thing that happened to you your boyfriend was placed in the role of “knight in shining armor” and could not handle the burden of such responsibility because he has issues too (does he not?) You have never mentioned what his background was and whether he has been having any emotional issues, too. There is the possibility of this mental reasoning that could be buried deep in his subconscious: “She sees me as this perfect man, this rescuer, this savior who can do no wrong, but I’m not! I’m really flawed and have problems too that I don’t feel I can admit to her. I’m only human! I’m going to sabotage my image of purity and that will alleviate this burden of perfectionism.”
I know that might sound irrational, but it is very human.
Now is the time to start putting your relationship back together for both of your sakes. You are in pain, he is in pain. His cheating on you, really, is a symptom of much deeper issues that both of you need to address.
The good news is that you have the most powerful weapon in the universe to heal your pain: LOVE.
As you said, even with your extreme anguish, you still want to reach out to him, and he still wants to be with you and marry you. If these things were not true, I would advise you to dump him. BUT! They ARE true, so please don’t give up on each other.
So, what now??? That’s the big question. Here are things I would suggest:
Papabear believes that what happened here is rather like shaking a Champaign bottle. The liquid in the bottle (your relationship) is delicious and intoxicating, but if agitated long and hard enough eventually the cork is going to explode out of the bottle and there will be a big mess with hopes and dreams spilled on the ground.
You can still recover from the hurt, you can still have a relationship. You have the tools to do it (love and forgiveness). Use them to rebuild your trust. Realize that you are both humans with flaws but that if you work together and communicate you can have a beautiful future together.
I wish you luck and love. Please keep in touch with me and let me know how it is going.
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