My ex and I ended our relationship two years ago, but he recently told me that he still has feelings for me. I am ecstatic that he wants to work things out. I hurt him badly in the past by lying and cheating. I have been on a spiritual path and learned to forgive myself for my past mistakes. He is still hurt and resentful. He worries that I will hurt him again. I live in Sacramento, and he’s in Los Angeles. We are tied to our jobs for another year at least. He says he feels good when we are together, but apart, he struggles with his fears. How do I show him that the person he resents is gone when he only sees me on weekends, without the day-to-day me that proves I can handle this new relationship?
Could your focus be misplaced? Sharing a daily routine will not prove that you have transformed into a trustworthy partner. The key is your consistent patience, transparency and selflessness over time. Janis Abrahms Spring, psychologist and author of After the Affair, writes that trust “must be earned by the offender through bold, heartfelt, meaningful acts of repair.” Yes, that means you must engage in selfless acts of love for your partner every day. Leave him voice mails about what he means to you, comment on the qualities in his personality that you love, answer his inquiries about the affair or people you meet, tuck sweet handwritten notes into the glove box of his car. If contacted by the person(s) you cheated with, let your boyfriend read the text or hear the call. Ask him what you should do, and take that action in his presence.
According to Spring, loss of trust is not the only wound a cheater inflicts. A betrayed partner also struggles with the loss of identity. In other words, your boyfriend may feel that everything he believed about himself, you or the world, is a lie. So, while still reeling from the pain of betrayal, he is also wrestling with the question “Who am I?”
Hopefully, your healing process taught you why you chose to cheat. Some cheaters blame the erosion of emotional intimacy in their relationship. A conversation with a stranger who seems to “get” the intimacy-starved partner becomes the excuse for physical intimacy. Other people are attracted to chaos. The rush of having a secret, and the possibility of getting caught builds the emotional roller coaster they adore. If you feel most alive while scaling extreme highs and lows, reconciliation with your man will be difficult. Your need for drama will quickly squash the patience and compassion required to heal the rift between you.
The guy I’m dating is always late and then needs to take care of something at my house before we can leave. Once, he wanted to clean his car windows and asked me to get him a newspaper and Windex. Another time, he needed buttons sewn onto his jacket. Yesterday, he lost his phone, so had to use my printer to print out a Groupon. I get really excited for the date and then feel like, “Why didn’t he do all that stuff before he came over?”
He might be disorganized. He could also be passive-aggressive. Either way, his not-quite-ready-for-you behavior is built in to who he has decided to be.
You can try Band-Aids: Manage the situation by talking through a step-by-step preparation before each date. Or drive to his house and leave from there.
You can also accept that this shortcoming is not about you. The real solution, however, is for you to decide whether you can tolerate his behavior as is. If not, let him move on to someone who can.