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Dear Em & Lo: Should I Give My BF a 2nd Chance?

Fri, Jan 15, 2010

Advice, Dear Em & Lo

photo by batega

Dear Em & Lo,

I am 26 and have been dating my boyfriend, who is 23, for almost 3 years now. About 6 months after we first started dating, he got drunk and naked with a girl but told me he realized what he was about to do and stopped. Although I was crushed, we worked through it and have had a great relationship since. Over the recent holiday, which he spent with me and my family, I found some suspicious emails on his computer between him and a girl from his work who I know has a crush on him. I confronted him about them and he swore up and down that he hadn’t done anything with her, but admitted that things between him and me had been strained, that I had been taking him for granted because of all my school work (I’ve been taking a lot of tests to finally get my veterinarian degree), and he just liked the attention he was getting from her that I wasn’t giving him. But I eventually found an email where he talked about the sex they’d recently had. I confronted him again and he lied until I told him I had seen the whole email. He finally admitted to it. I broke things off immediately. But we’ve been talking ever since and he says he  wants to try to regain my trust and is willing to do whatever it takes to make me fall in love with him again, including counseling. He has cut off contact with this other woman and has said he accepts responsibility for what has happened. I know I haven’t been the most attentive, available person, but he never said anything to me about it bothering him and so I thought we were ok. Do you think he deserves another chance from me? I do still love him. Am I an idiot, weak, etc, if I try to make it work?

– Torn

(This was an abridged version of the letter. Read it in its entirety after the jump.)

Dear Torn,

If all you say is true then we think your boyfriend is an asshole: he cheated on you, lied about it until you cornered him to come clean, and probably cheated on you earlier (because if he tried to lie about sex with this recent fling, there’s a good chance he lied about the previous one — seriously, how many people do you know who are capable of thinking straight and making the right decision once they are already naked in bed with another person?!).

Relationships go through highs and lows, but if he never communicated his disappointments to you, then how were you to know there were any serious problems that needed addressing? Even if he had communicated his disappointments to you, that’s no excuse to cheat — if anything, he should have broken things off with you before the affair or else tried to get you to agree to an open relationship.

The fact that he’s only 23 isn’t in your favor, unfortunately. Not to make excuses for him — because a committed relationship is a committed relationship, no matter how many candles on your cake — but when you’re that young (whether you’re male or female), there’s a greater compulsion, partially hormonally induced, to try new things and new partners.

We’d say there’s a good chance that if you stick with him he’ll hurt you again (he seems to really want to have his cake and eat it too). Of course, if you really love him and want to be a saint and forgive him this time, who are we to poo-poo that? It might work…for a while. But are you guys really going to end up together forever, eventually getting married? So few couples who date young end up doing that. And if they do end up married, they often end up divorced soon thereafter because they never had a chance to experiment and experience life with different partners and get it out of their system.

You’re about to embark on a new part of your life once you graduate — you should be free from worry and have a partner (if you have one at all) who supports you during the hardships of your final year of school. But maybe finishing up school without him would make things harder for you. Good luck with whatever you decide to do. If you choose the second chance route (though really it sounds like a third chance to us), we’ll keep our fingers crossed that it works for you. But if you stick with him and he does it again, we won’t hesitate to say we told you so.

All our best,
Em & Lo

Unabridged Letter:

Dear Em & Lo,

I am 26 and have been dating my boyfriend, who is 23, for almost 3 years now. I am American and he is British, but I go to Veterinary School in Scotland and met him while at a party. He came to my house in America this year for Christmas with my family and the day after Christmas I used his computer to check my email. When I got on his laptop, there was an email open between him and a woman he works with once or twice a week. I knew she had a crush on him, but I thought it wasn’t a big deal, as I trusted him, and we had even discussed her before. I skimmed the letter very briefly and he had written that “things with the girl (me) were dubious but that things with the girl’s (me again) family were great, making it awkward. “ He also wrote that he missed texting her and having coffee with her, which had been happening for about a week or so. I forwarded the email to myself quickly, since I hadn’t read the whole thing but thought I might want to.

I confronted him about it. He swore up and down that he hadn’t done anything with her, and said that things between him and me had been strained, that I had been taking him for granted, and he just liked the attention he was getting from her that I wasn’t giving him. I asked to read the whole email, and he said he had deleted them.

I read the copies I had sent myself, where he flat out said “I can’t stop thinking about last Tuesday, it was great curling up in bed with you, and the sex was awesome too”. I confronted him and he lied until I told him I had seen the whole email. He admitted he had sex with her the night I left to come back to the US for vacation. I told him it was over and he needed to move his flight up to go back to the UK.

Since then, he has left, but we have been talking a lot. I still love him but I am having issues. About 6 months after we first started dating, I had gone on a quick vacation with friends, he got drunk and brought a girl home with him. They got naked and then he says he realized what he was about to do and stopped. He told me about that incident right away and although I was crushed, we worked through it. It took me a long time to trust him, but I eventually got over it and we’ve had a great relationship since.

The last 3 months I have been finishing my final year of vet school, doing rotations at the small animal hospital. I have to be there at 7 am, usually leave around 7 pm and rarely get lunch or coffee breaks. To complicate matters, I had been studying for the National Board Exams, probably the most important exam I will ever take, as it decides whether or not I can practice in the US. So I know I haven’t been the most attentive, available person, but he never said anything to me about it bothering him and so I thought we were ok. I asked him yesterday if the fact we weren’t having sex as often as we normally did was a part of it and he said yes.

I guess my questions are: I know that I wasn’t being the most GGG girl in the world the last 3 months and I’m not sure it counts as an excuse, but I have never been so exhausted or stressed as I was then, especially in Nov and Dec. We were having little fights and not having sex more than 1 or 2 times a week. However my boyfriend never tried to tell me how he was feeling (neglected, unappreciated), he admits himself now that he should have tried rather than turning to someone else.

How much of what happened, i.e. he starting to see another woman, sleeping with her, coming to my house for the holidays and continuing to email her is my fault? Do you think he deserves another chance from me? I do still love him and he has said he wants to try and regain my trust and is willing to do whatever it takes to make me fall in love with him again. He is willing to do some counseling, has cut off contact with this other woman and has said he accepts responsibility for what has happened. I haven’t been able to get an appointment to see a counselor myself and was just hoping maybe you could give me a little advice. Am I an idiot, weak, etc if I try to make it work? I am going back to the UK in a few days.

– Torn

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11 Responses to “Dear Em & Lo: Should I Give My BF a 2nd Chance?”

  1. Spes Says:

    Torn,
    You should check out “Confession: I gave a cheater a second chance”. It was posted 4/22 but easily found by entering the title into the search field at the top of the this page.

    2 points:
    1st: You’re not weak or an idiot. So stop telling yourself that right now. Just because someone hurts us doesn’t mean we just stop loving them. Leaving can be very painful, even when it’s the right thing to do. (Not that I’m suggesting a course of action for you in particular.)
    2nd: I hate bringing age into any discussion, but he is young. And so are you. But more so him. He may need time to grow up before he can learn to be a trustworthy and decent person. Or not, some people simply don’t learn.

  2. AlanK Says:

    He told you that his bad behavior was your fault, because you [fill in arbitrary reasons]. That is all you need to know.

    Leave. Now.

  3. Spes Says:

    Alan has a point. If you ex-guy claims to be taking full responsibility, but still puts any blame on you, then he’s not really taking full responsibility. Cheating is ALWAYS an active choice. No one can MAKE their partner cheat. ‘Justifications’ are just excuses for poor behavior. I am certain that if he doesn’t take full responsibility for his own actions and weaknesses, then giving him another chance will, indeed, just cause you more harm and it will not be a healthy relationship.

  4. vizslalvr Says:

    “How much of what happened is my fault?”

    None. If he had a problem with your intimacy level, it was his responsibility to communicate that to you. Not to have sex with another woman behind your back.

    “Do you think he deserves another chance from me?”

    No.

    If you cut off contact and realize that this relationship has absolutely zero chance of working out long term (because it doesn’t. Period. He does not respect you or your relationship.), you will get over him. By continuing to contact him you are staying in love with him and hurting only yourself.

    As far as Em & Lo’s advice, I think it’s b.s. of them to say in one breath that him being young isn’t an excuse but that “young love” never works out and that you will inevitably get divorced because you want to try new things. C’mon, 23 isn’t that young. I’m 22 and I’ve dated and had enough sex to know what I want.

  5. Madamoiselle L Says:

    I agree Em and Lo. He got drunk, got naked….with an other girl….and then “realized what he was doing” and just “stopped?” If so, he was the first straight 20 year old man in history to do this with an other woman.

    You said, you wanted to “fall back in love with him?” If you have already fallen OUT of love, most of the battle is over.

    As for his age, it excuses NOTHING if you two decided you were exclusive and both agreed VERBALLY (that isn’t something one simply “assumes he knows.”) I was MARRIED at 23, have never cheated and gave up my nasty ways (well, HE still gets my nasty ways, but no other man does.)

    If you are old enough to say, “you are the only one for me” you should be old enough to stay with the decision OR be old enough to go to your lover and say, “I can’t do this monogamy thing now, I want to see what other people are like, let’s see other people.” Sorry, cheating because of “age” isn’t an excuse.

    Talk it over with him, but as this has happened more than once, and he NEVER let on until caught, I see a pattern here, and it doesn’t benefit you. (How many times has he NOT been caught? That would be my question. And how many more times will he do it again, hoping to not get caught.

  6. Johnny Says:

    Having feeling for this guy is neither weak nor idiotic – we can’t help what we feel. Taking him back, however, would be both.

    Unless, of course, you re-wire yourself to see multiple partners as normal and healthy, like I did. It took a long time and was hard work, but it’s saved me a ton of pain and jealousy. My GF doesn’t feel that way, but if she suggested we open up the relationship, I’d be delighted.

    If you can convince yourself that multiple lovers is a normal and healthy relationship configuration, then go for it. Otherwise you’re doomed with this guy.

  7. Jay Jay Says:

    I hate cheating, but I really hate cheating when the cheater holds his or her significant other for their own cheating. I understand that your schooling/work might have mixed things up in your relationship and changed a lot of what he was used to, but he should have spoken to you about that and been honest from the get go. Additionally, the fact that he appreciated the attention from another woman in wake of your own decreasing attention to your relationship should have been a tip off to him that perhaps he is not meant to be in a relationship at this time. Again, not your fault. Especially if he didn’t feel the need to come to your with his concerns about you, himself, and your relationship together.

    To be honest, he doesn’t even sound all that remorseful over his actions. I am sure he is upset that what he did led to the demise of your long term relationship, but he seems more fixated on the facts that you now understand what your career focus has caused him to do. I’m not a big fan of second chances, but I also don’t believe the whole “once a cheater, always a cheater”, and perhaps if he were to just be a man and say, “hey, I fucked up big time, I am more sorry then you will ever know, and I will work my ass off to prove myself in your eyes again. I am committed to you and this relationship and one day you will be so happy you chose to trust me again.” then it would be worth the consideration of allowing him back in your life, but it doesn’t seem like he feels this way at all.

    And in parting, the whole “we don’t have sex as much as we used to” bit is concerned, I have news for you: 1 or 2 times a week is NOT that bad! There are a lot of folks that would kill to have that much sex in their own relationship. Besides, I don’t care if you guys only have sex 1 or 2 times a YEAR, that is NEVER an excuse to go find it elsewhere without the consent of your partner.

  8. Neeva Says:

    One very practical thought: Had you sex with him after his cheating? Then you may want to get tested for stds.

  9. Pepper Says:

    Based on the situation, I would say no, she should not get back together with him. If she had “neglected” him (although sex at least 1-2 times during very busy period seems far from neglect) when she had nothing going on, then maybe I could see them doing all right together if they both stepped it up, but in this case, it was not a normal thing for her to be so busy–she was studying for extremely important tests, and she was exhausted all the time. Occasionally in a relationship, things like that come up. A GGG partner would understand his significant other’s situation, support her and suck it up for a while. He wouldn’t cheat on her. This one’s a liar and complete asshole and doesn’t deserve a second (technically third) chance.

  10. MGM Says:

    There are two sides to every story.
    That being said, you probably don’t know his side at all. Most notably, all the other times he lied and cheated and kept quiet about it. Don’t assume you know everything there is to know.
    Also, he sounds like he doesn’t know what he wants. In my opinion, people who cheat in relationships are usually in denial about wanting to get out, therefore they cheat.

  11. Heather Says:

    Sounds to me like you want a level of intimacy (much like in a marriage) where the sex can have highs and lows, but it isn’t a make or break thing in the relationship. At 23, he just may not be ready for that. It’s not your fault and you’re not a bad girlfriend. Don’t feel bad about going to school or being successful.

    He doesn’t seem to appreciate the thing you do, but rather focuses on the bad. The therapy solution may just be him trying to make you happy, but he really needs to make you BOTH happy in the relationship for it to work.


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