He says that his insecurity, combined with the time apart, and the drunkenness, allowed him to convince himself, in that moment, that it wasn’t totally wrong for him to hook up with someone else because we hadn’t been dating that long and he didn’t know how serious it was. According to him, he’s never done anything wrong since and he knows that he could never do anything like that to me again. To be honest, he has always been an incredibly attentive boyfriend so it would be hard to imagine when he would even have time to cheat on me, but then again, I didn’t know about this event for the past two years and 10 months either.
In your opinion, is this the kind of cheating that one could “get over?” He has said that he’ll do anything to make me see how trustworthy and committed to this he is but neither of us can come up with something that he can actually do that might make me feel like we’re on level playing fields again. Any ideas? I feel like if I were to give him a chance, I would need some kind of gesture from him that would bring some of his words (“I’ll do anything…”) into action. On the other hand, I’m still not sure if the relationship is worth saving because the idea of getting married to someone who has already cheated on me seems absurd. Please let me know what you think I should do! I realize that it’s ultimately up to me, but I’d really appreciate hearing what you think you would do in this situation. — No Longer Perfect
Everyone who has ever cheated on a significant other one time years ago and is wondering whether he or she should come clean, I want you to read this letter again very carefully and then ask yourself whether the clear conscience is worth the hurt feelings, ruined trust, and perhaps even the loss of what may well be a “perfect relationship”? Because rest assured, the LW’s reaction here is normal. It is more than likely what your significant other’s reaction would be. And, I’m sorry, but if the cheating was one time, years ago, at the beginning of a relationship, maybe even before exclusivity/monogamy was established, then WHAT IS THE POINT in coming clean now?! The only benefit I can think of is to clear your conscience and, wow, the act of confessing just so you don’t feel guilty anymore seems almost as selfish and thoughtless as the actual act of cheating. So if you’re thinking about confessing, take my advice and DON’T. No good truly comes from it. Just suck it up as a lesson learned, don’t ever cheat again, and devote yourself to being a good partner.
Now, to you, LW: I know you’re hurt now and you feel like you can’t trust your boyfriend, but to throw away what you call a “perfect relationship” of almost three years because of a mistake that was made so, so long ago, before you and your boyfriend really knew and trusted each other like you do now, before you’d established the relationship that you have, and perhaps even before you’d discussed whether you were exclusive and monogamous — I say that because if your boyfriend truly didn’t know how “serious” you were, that would indicate that you two hadn’t yet discussed it — then that’s kind of ridiculous. I know it doesn’t seem ridiculous to you now; it seems like the biggest thing to rock your world — and maybe it is — but in the big scheme of a great relationship, this is a pretty minor bump. Honestly. It’s not like he was carrying on a months-long affair. It’s not like he even slept with someone else, or emotionally cheated, or fell in love with someone other than you. He hooked up with some chick weeks after beginning a relationship with you.
And since that time — over two and a half years later — you have gone on to establish a strong, wonderful, loving relationship. Do you know how hard that is to come by? Wonderful, loving relationships don’t just fall in people’s laps every day. They take work to find and work to keep. And right now you’re being asked to work a little bit — it’s an unfair position that your boyfriend’s thoughtless behavior put you in, but hey, life isn’t fair. If you aren’t willing to put in a little work to keep this relationship, I have some unsettling news for you: your chance at having a successful long-term relationship in the future is pretty slim. Why? Because no relationship is without bumps. No relationship is, in fact, “perfect.” Perfection is a fantasy. If a perfect relationship is what you’re seeking, you’ll spend your whole life looking for it and never being satisfied.
So what do you do from here? Forgive your boyfriend. Quit thinking about actions he can take to even the playing field or any of that bullshit, and move on from this. Love isn’t an even playing field. Sometimes things work in your favor and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes you’re in the dog house and sometimes your partner is. Start keeping score now, and you’re just setting yourself up for a crappy time. Decide, instead, to forgive and move on. And as you move on, remember that more mistakes will be made. Sometimes you’ll be the one to do or say something stupid because, hey, you — like your boyfriend and like your relationship — aren’t perfect either.
Of course, if you try and just can’t seem to find it in your heart to forgive, or if you can forgive but simply cannot learn to trust again, then maybe this relationship IS over. And that’s OK, too. Relationships end all the time. With luck, you and your boyfriend will move on to find partners who are a better match for you. (If you read that sentence and can’t wrap your head around either of you being with someone else, then I highly suggest you give forgiveness an honest effort before moving on). Good luck.