Here’s a question someone asked.
I recently found out my boyfriend had cheated on me. I broke up with him but ever since then he has been trying to get back together with me.
He swears it was a one-time thing and will never happen again but I don’t know if I can trust him, I do still love him and would love to go back to the way things were before he cheated, but I don’t know if I’m making a huge mistake if I take him back. Should I give him a second chance?
The first thing I noticed in your question is that it seems like you were quite hurt and might still be struggling with some of those strong emotions
That’s completely understandable.
Before deciding, take time to pause and heal
First, I encourage you to take some time to work through those emotions and come to a place of feeling more grounded
We might use the word healing to talk about this process. It’s about taking time to pause rather than making quick decisions, work through the emotions this brought up so you can have a clearer sense of what YOU really want going forward
There’s not really a right or wrong way to approach this question.
There are a lot of important factors that weren’t mentioned in your question and that I wouldn’t be able to know without talking with you in depth. It’s not clear if your boyfriend told you about this or you found out about it and confronted him. It’s also not clear what your and his relationship history has been, separately and together. How to handle the situation would also be affected by whether you had previously discussed being exclusive sexually and what behavioral expectations you had verbally agreed to.
Still, in the end, it’s a decision that you’ll need to make. It’s wise to take time so that you don’t rush into a decision.
Connect with your desire
One of the easy ways important decisions get off track is by focusing on what we think we should do.
This is one of those life situations where there is usually not a right or wrong way to handle it. There are advantages and disadvantages to any path you choose.
Thus, deciding based on the “shoulds” can mislead you and make things harder.
One experiment you can do is to pause and get quiet. Feel your body and, if you can, go into a meditative state. Don’t rush the process.
One you are feeling relaxed, calm and quiet, then bring forward the question, do you WANT to go forward in this relationship or do you want to stay separated,
Notice what you’re feeling, Do you get a knot in your stomach or a happy feeling in your chest, Does your neck start to hurt, These can be indicators of your deeper knowing, your intuitive wisdom.
What I’m encouraging you to do is to connect with the part of you that that wants not the part of you that feels obligated.
It may be hard to do this in the midst of the strong emotions the situation brought up. Strong emotions can cloud our desire and make it easier to focus on the “shoulds” and obligation.
In other words, the stronger the emotion, the more mixed signals you’ll feel about the decision.
This is an important part of why taking some time and not rushing a decision can be so valuable.
Cheating reminds us of important relationship principles
There are several important relationship principles that your question brings up.
I hope that you’ll take them into consideration as you make this decision and go into your next relationship, whether that’s going further with this man or with someone else
Trust is built every day
The first is that trust is built up every day.
Trust is kind of like a bank account, specifically a rainy day savings account.
We need to put money or make deposits into that “trust account” every day. Every time that we’re with a person or connect with them
We need to be investing in the relationship and helping them to feel safe with us and being clear about our needs, asking for what we want, expressing our appreciation, our acknowledgement, as well as our concerns.
These things build up that trust “bank account.”
Then, sometimes in life things happen. One thing – like what you experienced – can make a big and unexpected withdrawal from that “trust fund.”
So, as you consider whether to get back into relationship with this man, in what ways were you both strengthening the trust you had for each other every day,
To be clear, we’re talking about how you related with and communicated with each other, not about money or possessions.
If you were both regularly building up the trust and intimacy between you, then perhaps there’s enough there to get back together.
If that wasn’t happening consistently, it may be a red flag warning that the situation might be repeated later.
If it wasn’t happening already, the pain of this situation could be enough to prompt you both to change those patterns of behavior. Or maybe not.
This is important in good times. And now it’s even more important because it will take some time to rebuild trust between you.
Clear, spoken agreements make a big difference
You did not mention in your question whether you and your boyfriend had clear, spoken agreements about being sexually exclusive and about what specific behaviors are cheating.
You might have. I mention it since I’ve noticed the vast majority of couples do not talk about these things. By not talking about it they open the door for problems.
Talking about expectations and having specific, spoken agreements is a fundamental principle of having a successful intimate relationship.
If you had not had these sorts of conversations previously, the difficulty is that the best time to talk about these things is before a problem happened, and to make a habit of periodically revisiting the topic. This way, it’s an intimacy-building exercise, not a confrontation.
However, a situation like this, although painful, can be helpful as it forces couples to be more up front and specific about their expectations.
Prevent further cheating by exploring unmet needs
Infidelity often comes about due to unmet needs. The unmet needs that prompt cheating are not necessarily sexual, but they might be. Or, the surface reason might be sexual, with the deeper truth being unmet emotional or other needs.
An unmet need does not mean you failed or did something wrong. Your behavior might have contributed to it, or not.
Still the bottom line is that each person is the one responsible for meeting their own needs.
The reason to consider this is that if your boyfriend’s cheating behavior was motivated by unmet needs, then it could continue even though he claims it won’t.
You can’t fix or change your boyfriend.
However, if you choose to get back into relationship with him, you could gently invite some exploration and self-reflection about the unmet needs that prompted the behavior.
Once there is awareness of the unmet needs, you can creatively address them together. If you don’t know what they are, then you can’t effectively prevent cheating.
This sort of conversation takes courage at any time. He may, especially at first, point to things – sexual or otherwise – that you did or did not do. Even if you approach him gently and lovingly, he might feel and react as if he is being accused, and not be open to the self-reflection. On the flip side, he just might be open to growing.
Thus, it may be a conversation that’s easier to have with the support of an individual relationship coach or during couples coaching.
Still a conversation, or several, with loving intention could go a long way towards a strong relationship where cheating doesn’t happen again.
The way forward after cheating disrupts a relationship
When you’ve been cheated on by a relationship partner, it’s painful. Take some time to pause, to ground and heal before making any decisions. Connect with your desire not a sense of obligation.
Keep in mind the important relationship principles of how trust is built, the value of clear spoken agreements, and the wisdom of exploring unmet needs.