Dear Wendy: Is There Trust After Cheating?

I recently found out that my boyfriend had been sleeping with his married boss. I always had suspicions about their “friendship” and little details just started to come together, making the puzzle whole. Even though he denied it at first, he finally admitted to the infidelity. He said that that last time he slept with her was when we first started casually dating and he hasn’t since then. I really like him, may even love him, but how do I trust him now, especially when he’s around her all of the time? His place of employment is not just a job to him, but a career, so he’s afraid he’ll lose his job if anyone found out, which is his excuse for initially lying to me about it. I want to work through this, but I don’t know how I can trust him anymore. — Trustless

Your sign-off name says it all. You can’t trust the guy, and for good reason. He didn’t just cheat on you; he cheated on you and then lied about it over a period of time until enough details became apparent that any denial on his part was beyond ridiculous. And we can speculate all we want about whether he’s actually telling you the whole truth now — for the record, I suspect he’s not — but what it comes down to is: he doesn’t really trust you either. If his excuse for lying to you was that he feared news of the affair with his married boss would jeopardize his job, he obviously didn’t trust you to keep the secret. So, you have two people in a relationship who don’t trust each other, one person who slept with a boss he’s not actively trying to get away from, and a relationship that began with a series of fabrications. I’m not quite sure how you go about trusting your boyfriend again, but I guess my question to you is: why do you want to? It seems you’d have a better chance at a happy, successful relationship with someone who doesn’t jump-start it with a bunch of lies.

I’ve been in the most absolutely perfect relationship for 1.5 years and have just found out that my boyfriend slept with a mutual friend about a month and a half ago. He confessed and he cried and he apologized and I forgave him mainly because I saw the state that he was in that night (I had to go home early because I was sick so he walked her home that night). He turns into an awful person when he drinks and he was that same awful person when he slept with her. He doesn’t remember a thing about the whole night — just that he woke up next to her. He’s promised that he will never drink anywhere near to that extent again, and I believe him.

I genuinely never thought this would happen to me, purely because we were in that relationship that everyone wanted to be in and now I feel completely betrayed. I just want to know, does time actually heal wounds or is that just bulls**t? Am I ever going to be able to stop picturing how it could’ve happened or think every time he kisses me that he kissed her too? I want to spend my life with him because I love him more than anything in the world, but if he was capable of cheating (even when drunk and “not in control”) and I never have and never will, then do we still love each other the same amount? — Confused

The thing with cheating is it’s really rarely ever about “love.” It gets far murkier when alcohol is involved, but it’s pretty safe to say that your boyfriend’s “transgressions,” to borrow a Tiger Woods term, don’t reflect how much or how little he loves you. It’s quite possible a person can cheat and still love his or her partner as much as that partner loves him. That said, what he did is pretty effin’ messed up. And I’m not just referring to the sleeping with a mutual friend part, which, of course, is pretty awful in itself; I’m referring to his blaming the alcohol like that’s some sort of excuse.

He may very well turn into an “awful person” when he drinks — a person who’s quite unlike the sober version you know and love, but the fact is he’s still the same person. It’s still him doing those awful things. So, before you even think about rebuilding trust with this guy — before you start contemplating whether you can move past his cheating and create a future with him — he’s got to get help with his alcohol problem. Until he can prove to you irrevocably that alcohol is no longer an issue and that that “awful person” inside him is well under lock and key, I wouldn’t even consider continuing a relationship with him. I know it’s tough, but you’ll be far better off in the long run if you give him the space he needs now to battle his demons than if you stay with him and enable him to befriend them.

*Do you have a relationship/dating question I can help with? Send me your letters at [email protected]