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"My boyfriend was unfaithful to a prior girlfriend a few years before we met, and his infidelity resulted in the birth of a child."
BY Sarah Jaffe
Dear Miss Information,
I've been in a loving relationship for a year and a half, about half of which has been long distance. My boyfriend was unfaithful to a prior girlfriend a few years before we met, and his infidelity resulted in the birth of a child, who lives in another country with the child's mother. I found out about his son five months into our long distance relationship. When I confronted him, he immediately confessed and explained that he was scared to tell me when we first met --and the omission spiraled out of control. This revelation was very distressing, but he thoroughly explained the reasons for his lie and infidelity to his past girlfriend. I made the choice to forgive him. I also confessed to him that my prior serious relationship ended in a rampage of cheating, leaving me feeling foolish and deeply hurt. I don't think I have fully recovered. I know that I have trouble trusting and opening up.
Since then, our relationship has been much stronger and I feel he is someone I want to continue loving... possibly for a long time. He makes me feel like I can have a healthy relationship again. We challenge and compliment each other well.
Unfortunately, during my last visit, I came across some old flirtatious text messages (yeah, I was snooping, old habits die hard) on his phone. From what I gather nothing physical happened, but his flirting really hurt me. We thoroughly discussed it and I forgave him. I thought we moved past it, and we started to heal again. But every couple of months, I bring it up and I rage at him; he has not betrayed my trust since the texts. My gut is screaming at me that history is about to repeat itself. But I know my past issues make my gut rather faulty.
—Gutless or Gullible?
Let me get this straight: every few months you and your boyfriend, whom you only see in person for fifty percent of your time together, get in a blowout fight about lies and half-truths and fidelity, and this is the person who makes you feel like you can be in a healthy relationship again? No. Shut it down.
I’m not saying your boyfriend is a lying shit bag (necessarily), but this dynamic of you finding out unsavory facts about him and then him apologizing under duress while you hold a grudge is not pictured next to “healthy relationship” in any dictionary I can think of. He has a history of cheating, you have history of being cheated on. That’s no big deal: people change and grow. But the fact is, neither of you seems to trust each other at all, and that’s a big fucking deal. Trust is paramount when building a relationship, especially when the relationship is long distance – even for people with no hangups about it.
He didn’t trust you to stick around after he told you he fathered a child while cheating on his ex, and you don’t trust him not to cheat again. You can’t say you’ve forgiven him if every few months you rage at him about the flirty texts you found when you were snooping – and this is why you should never snoop, by the way: that way lies madness. But seriously, forgiveness means letting things go. If you can’t let it go, you need to hash this out again. What would you need to be able to trust him? The full truth from him? An honest conversation about your relationship? A GPS ankle monitor? A contract of what constitutes acceptable behavior, signed in blood?
If you love him as much as you say you do, and you want to make this relationship work, you need to both do some serious work: no more snooping and screaming from you, and no more lying and sneaky flirting from him. You don’t mention what the texts consisted of, and though people in relationships aren’t banned from chatting with strangers at bars, it seems to cross a bit of a line when there are loaded texts going back and forth between other parties. I’m assuming that there was a real flirtation going on here, and not just a friendly back-and-forth with a female friend or coworker, since continued rage over that would make you crazy and controlling, and I really hope you’re not. So until you can trust him, and he can earn it (and trust you in return), that mistrust is a loaded gun just waiting to go off and shoot the relationship in the foot. The other option is to go ahead and shoot that relationship clean in two: if you’re exhausted of second-guessing everything or wondering when the other shoe will drop, get out. You’ll breathe easier for it.
Here’s hoping that you’re not so gullible that your boyfriend is pulling the wool over your eyes, and not too gutless to do what you need to do to feel secure.
Image via Veer.