- Dr. Love in the Media
I Cheated. He Left.
February 21, 2012 Ask Dr. Love Advice Column
My boyfriend and I are both in college and have been together for about 6 months now. Two years previous to this, we dated in high school for 8 months. Just recently, he found out that I cheated on him in that past relationship. He has since broken up with me and called me a compulsive liar for not telling him. I did lie about it, but I knew he would end things. I wasn't in love with him the first time we dated and I have grown and matured during the time we were apart but I am afraid that nothing matters anymore. He is insisting that he can never trust me again and two years ago doesn't mean anything.
Needs Some Hope
I understand your sad story. However, you didn’t ask me a question. I assume you are writing to ask me if there is anything you can do to get your ex back.
Your story is especially sad because you were so young when the infidelity occurred. High school is a time for experimenting. You were only doing what was natural for a young woman. You’re paying for what happened long ago.
Now you’re older and you love him and don’t want to lose him, but your past is biting you in the butt.
Let’s see what we can do to put the past behind you.
Broken trustMutual trust is a shared belief that you can depend on each other to achieve a common purpose. More comprehensively trust defined as "the willingness of a party (trustor) to be vulnerable to the...(Click for full definition.) as a result of infidelity is a hard problem to tackle.
If you haven’t already done so, read my book Make Up Don’t Break: Dr. Love’s 5 Step Plan for Reconciling with Your Ex. In the book, I go into detail about how to handle an ex who feels harmed as of result of your having broken his/her trust.
I don’t have unlimited space to discuss your issue here in this column, so I’ll give you a few pointers.
First, don’t fall into the trap of trying to defend what you did or try to change his mind; that will only make him dig in his heels even deeper.
What you need to do is put your own agenda to get your ex back aside. If he feels that you’re all about twisting his arm, he’ll resist. What you want to do instead is just focus on him. The goal is to selflessly identify with where he’s coming from and understand him. Keep in mind that the majority of issuesIssues, in the words of the Serenity Prayer, are things you can change, either by making different personal choices and/or by finding ways to work with your partner more effectively. can be resolved when the wounded party feels truly heard and understood.
What does he need you to understand?
When he says that he can’t trust you, he’s talking emotional Morse code. What he’s really saying is that he’s afraid to be cheated on again.
He needs you to acknowledge this. You can do this by saying, “I think you’re worried that I would cheat on you again. Am I right?”
He’ll tell you, “Hell yes.”
Then tell him that you have taken his comments—that you are a compulsive liar—under consideration and you consulted a professional. Tell him that you have discovered that you use a very primitive defense mechanism—avoidance--in order to protect yourself from pain. This avoidance defense begins in childhood when a kid grows up with a punitive or abusive parent. The kid becomes so afraid to get into trouble that he/she learns to lie in an attempt to avoid an emotional or physical beating. Unfortunately, defense mechanism bites us in the butt. In the case of the avoidance defense, the very thing we try to avoid is what we end up heaping on ourselves in spades; but the punishment and pain we suffer down the line is far worse than what we would ever have received if we just faced the issue in the moment. Case in point, you lied way back when because you knew he’d break up with you. In the end, the avoidance and lyingA lie (also called prevarication, falsehood) is a known untruth expressed as truth. A lie is a type of deception in the form of an untruthful statement, especially with the intention to deceive...(Click for full definition.) is what made him break up with you.
Tell him that thanks to him you are now aware of the problem and you are working on resolving this unconscious defense mechanism.
Feeling understood and knowing that you are addressing the issue is your only hope of getting your ex back.
If it’s too late. Then use this experience as a healing tool. You’ve learned that you must risk being honest and risk a “beating” in the present, rather than avoid pain now, only to suffer a far worse beating later.
I hope for your sake that it isn’t too late for him to come around.
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