Dear Wendy: “My Boyfriend Cheated On Me Without Protection”

About two months ago, I left my 39-year-old live-in boyfriend of three and half years. When I left, I was pissed and hurt that, for four months, I spent all my spare time helping him get ready to open his bar, and then, once it opened, he was out at all hours, drinking, hanging with customers and not letting me know when he’d be home or what his plans were. I am 31 and we both want to have kids soon (marriage isn’t an issue) and this behavior had been going on for three months when I left. I understood that the bar-ownership meant late nights, but I wasn’t OK with him coming home at 4 AM half-drunk every morning without so much as a text the night before. Anyway, the night I left, I told him why I was leaving and asked him to give me some time. I came back 5 days later having made the decision to work things out. But three weeks later, I found out he had sex with some bar chick on the floor of the bar office THE NIGHT I left. Now, I understand that I left and (in his mind, anyway) he had free reign; I can get over the fact that he f**ked some other girl. What I can’t get over is that he didn’t use a condom, didn’t tell me and then had sex with me after I came back. I have gotten the full battery of tests and I’m negative, but that’s not the point. My issue is that he deceived me in such way that it put my health at risk. We’re still together two months after the fact. But … am I crazy for not being out of my mind with anger that he screwed some random chick after I left? Am I crazier that my real issue is that he put my health at risk? How do you rebuild trust after something like this? — Illogical Scientist

I’m not convinced you aren’t “out of your mind with anger” that he screwed someone else. You’re at least flirting with the anger or you wouldn’t be writing to an advice columnist about it. And as big of a betrayal as it was for your boyfriend to have unprotected sex with someone and then sleep with you five days later without warning you about what happened, my hunch is the “real issue” isn’t so much that he put your health at risk — which is, of course, huge — but that your trust has been completely shattered and the relationship you thought you were fighting for doesn’t seem to exist any longer. You spent five days soul-searching, trying to figure out if your relationship was worth a continued investment and the work you knew it would take to build a future together. You decided it was, and then three weeks later you learned that while you were digging deep for answers, your boyfriend was doing a little deep-digging of his own, without much — if any — thought or concern about you. How do you rebuild from here, indeed?

All I can tell you is that rebuilding trust after a betrayal like that is a long, hard road. It’s one that takes full commitment on both sides. It takes a shared vision of the future, and it takes sacrifice — including the willingness to give up parts of one’s lifestyle that led to the betrayal. You have to decide for yourself if there’s anything at all your boyfriend could sacrifice, change, or do for you that would help you trust him again. If there is, he needs to know what that is and be willing to do it. And if there isn’t — and believe me when I say most of us reading your letter (myself included) hope for your sake there isn’t — you need to leave him. You aren’t married and you don’t have kids, which makes leaving a dirtbag partner much easier. You’re only 31. Why waste time on a relationship that’s DOA when you could be out finding someone who will actually show you the respect you deserve?

I’m a 22-year-old guy who has definitely made some mistakes in the past in regards to dating. About a year ago, I got drunk, cheated on my girlfriend whom I loved very much, told her, and lost her because of it. The experience really taught me a lot and I have spent the last year trying to grow up and become a better person. I am now so past that BS and regret what I did every day. Unfortunately, now the problem is my best friend Dan. Dan has been my best friend since middle school, and he’s always been a great friend to me, but the thing I’m starting to realize is that he has not always been the best influence. He drinks every day, usually getting pretty wasted, and sometimes does really stupid stuff because of it. He’s also dating two girls who have no knowledge of each other, while stringing along and sleeping with other girls whenever he feels like it. I know and like both of the girls he’s dating and I hate being involved in covering up his lies and watching him cheat on and manipulate them when they have no idea. He was the guy I was hanging out with when I cheated on my girlfriend and I feel like it was partially because his a-hole mentality rubbed off on me a little bit. As I am trying to grow and change, I think all his negativity might be a bad influence to have in my life, but he’s always been my dude and we have so much fun together. I’m not sure what I should do about the situation. Should I talk to him about his behavior? Or should I cut him out of my life even though it means losing a really good friend? — Bro BS

First, kudos to you for learning and growing from your past mistakes and making a concerted effort to be a better person. Part of being a good person means sometimes making difficult decisions about the people we choose to surround ourselves with. Do those people foster more goodness in our lives, or are they toxic? If they’re toxic, is there any way we can turn the tables and, rather than let them be bad influences on us, work towards being a good influence on them?

While your letter doesn’t really indicate how Dan has been a “really good friend” to you, I’ll take your word for it that you at least care a great deal for this person and want what’s best for him. So, instead of directly cutting him out of your life, why not attempt to talk to him about his behavior and express concern for the direction his life has taken? You’re one of the best people to have this discussion with him since you’ve consciously changed the direction of your life recently. You can’t change Dan’s behavior — and you can’t turn the steering wheel for him — but at least he’ll have some context when you tell him part of living on the straight and narrow means clearing your social life of weeds like him. (For the record, it also means taking responsibility for your own poor choices and not putting the blame on others, no matter how intoxicating their influence may be.)

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