Ask Margot-Can I ever trust him again?

Her boyfriend confessed to cheating on her during a business trip. Should she forgive him—and can she ever trust him again?

By Margot Carmichael Lester

ear Margot,
My boyfriend admitted the other night that he cheated on me during a business trip last month. I’m devastated. He’s asked for forgiveness, and I know that’s the “right” thing to do. But I don’t want to do it. And even if I do, how can I ever trust him again? He travels all the time.
—Unforgiving in Uxbridge, MA

Dear Unforgiving,
Ouch! Having dated a cheater once myself, I know how you feel. And it’s awful. I don’t blame you for being devastated one bit, sugar! Betrayal is B-A-D.

But the simple fact that you’re writing to me hints at the fact that you may not be as steadfast in the “I don’t want to forgive” camp as you make yourself out to be.
It’s not unusual to take a hard line publicly, just to save face.
It’s not unusual to take a hard line publicly, just to save face. And it’s probably true that some part of you does want to kick the dude to the curb.

But taking the time to seek my counsel also shows that you do know forgiveness is right, and that another part of you wants to get on that path. The real question is, once you forgive him, do you want to forget him? And I think you don’t, or, again, you wouldn’t have written in. So here’s what you’ve got to do.

First, forgive. Address your own feelings of resentment and perhaps insecurity that resulted from his actions. Then focus on the positive feelings you have for him. Write those down and stow them somewhere, because when you feel the bad feelings rising up, you’re going to need this list to beat them back. When you feel like punishing him (and you probably will), don’t. Instead, talk to him about how you’re feeling without blaming him, like, “When I think about your cheating, I feel insecure and scared.” Being honest about your feelings helps salve the wounds and gives you both an opportunity to become closer in conflict, not farther apart.

Then, trust. He’s made a huge mistake, and he might do it again. What? That’s not what you want to hear, but none of us can predict the future. And that’s why this trust thing is so dang-all hard, right? Because you can only rebuild trust by trusting. This takes a little mental sleight of hand at first.

When he’s on the road, you have to assume he’s not doing anything naughty. When you can’t get him on the phone or via instant message, you have to tell yourself he’s just doing something innocuous. And you have to resist the temptation to do a drive-by or call or text 16 more times till he responds, OK? If you practice trusting him — and if he really does toe the line — you’ll find yourself actually trusting him again.

Here are some questions to answer next time you and your guy are apart:
  1. How do I feel about him right this instant?
  2. Do I trust him? Why?
  3. Do I wonder if he’s up to no good? Why?
If you’re like me, asking these questions will pull up some interesting facts about your own emotions. I’d ask myself these questions anytime I felt suspicious about any guy, and it usually turned out that I was just making stuff up. I couldn’t trust even if the dude wasn’t doing anything but playing a round of golf or something.
There’s no guarantee that he won’t sow some more wild oats.
And if you find that your answers relate to things he’s actually doing rather than to stuff you think he’s doing, then you may not be able to go forward in your relationship, because he really is a jerk.

Again, most of the work is yours. That’s because as long has he’s being gentlemanly, there’s not a whole lot else he can do to earn your trust.

Now, like I said before, there’s no guarantee that he won’t sow some more wild oats. So you are putting yourself at risk of getting burned again. But if you really dig this dude, it’s worth giving it another chance with your eyes — and heart — open. And should he transgress again, then you’re free and clear to get rid of the guy immediately.

Sure, being cheated on hurts. But continuing to see someone who’s been unfaithful twice is just asking for more heartache. We seek romantic relationships to lift us up, to make us stronger, to bring us joy. Not to feed our insecurities and make us crazy. With any luck, this guy realizes what a compassionate and loving woman he’s dating — and is lucky to have a second chance with. I hope your efforts are rewarded with his love, gratitude and fidelity.

Margot Carmichael Lester is a freelance writer based in North Carolina. Send your faith-based dating questions to
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