Q. I just found out that the woman I've lived with for over two years is cheating on me. I caught her and now she's promising it won't happen again. I'm not sure if I can ever trust her because she had lied to me when we first started seeing each other, telling me she was separated and in the process of getting a divorce, which I later learned was not true. In fact, she also had a previous affair while married, caught by one of her children kissing the guy in her kitchen. I'm sure she made the same kind of promises to her husband as she is making to me right now: "It will never happen again." Should I trust that someone who has established this kind of a pattern of cheating and lying won't do it again? She says she doesn't think there is anything wrong with casual sex and hasn't even acted remorseful about the affair. After I caught her, she told me there were things she wasn't happy about and that I should have seen the signs that she was thinking about an affair. I'm afraid she's more concerned about losing the financial support that I provide for her and her children.
A. What's most troubling is that LoverGirl shows not a scintilla of empathy for the distress she has caused you by cheating on you and rupturing your trust. In other words, there is no sign of an emotional bond. Without it, what else is there to a purely voluntary relationship? LoverGirl is so blinded by her own needs that, caught red-handed, she didn't just blithely fabricate an excuse of prior unhappiness but turned around and blamed you for not noticing her impending waywardness. Her vastly underdeveloped sense of responsibility for herself, however, has met its dream match in your overdeveloped sense of responsibility: Perhaps it is your own guilt speaking, but what makes you believe you should support her children just because you had an affair with her (while, unbeknownst to you, she was still married)? Sure, you're a generous guy, but you are infringing on her ex's responsibility for supporting his children. Trust is the bedrock of a relationship, and it is not possible to even begin to rebuild it with a person who feels she has not violated the terms of a relationship. And it's foolhardy to do so with someone who holds troubling beliefs about casual sex. Those beliefs, and her pattern of actions, predated you and likely will survive you. Next time, give yourself time to really know someone before you commit to living en famille.
He's Not the Man I Fell in Love With
When I met my boyfriend a year and a half ago, I was convinced he was The One. Now, only 18 months later, he is a different person than the man I met. This is not the intelligent, capable, charming man I fell in love with. We live together, and he is irritable, angry, short-tempered, not generous, affectionate only in a playful, platonic way, and emotionally two-dimensional. He's either happy or he's mad, and those are also the only two emotions he's ever able to guess are going on with me -- aren't we happy?" or "you're really mad, don't be mad." He seems to be turning into a child and treats me more like his mother than his girlfriend (expecting me to take care of everything around the house, making sure he has something to wear, even ordering pizza or anything that requires calling anyone). When he doesn't get his way he literally sulks in the bedroom. His last girlfriend says the same exact thing happened in their relationship -- he turned into a demanding, selfish, ungrateful child. I'd like to honor the commitment that I made to him (and I really don't relish the idea of starting my life over alone), but I don't feel I can make it work alone. If there is any way to bring back the incredible man I fell in love with, please tell me how.
A. SulkingBoy isn't a different person. He's always been there, under the thin veneer of charm. You just didn't notice because you didn't involve yourself from the neck up in the getting-to-know process before casting your lot with him. Maybe you were too eager for validation by a male who seemed to have some desirable qualities, or maybe you were tiring of soloing through life. Riding on hopes could lead a person to miss or discount signals of potential problems, like his limited development as a human being. It's not that it's never been done, but continuing in a romantic relationship with a child makes sense only when you get something extraordinary in return, say a brilliant or creative partner. In this case it would be a source of endless frustration for you, and your dissatisfaction would grow as the challenges of settled life -- home, mortgage, diapers, to say nothing of all those pizzas needing to be ordered -- began to mount. So before pledging yourself to some noble principle like honor, think about how fast honor can fade in the face of a seriously imbalanced relationship. Is this a relationship you really want to salvage? Are any of your needs met by it? Of course, we haven't even dealt with the fact that rescuing a relationship by yourself is like clapping with one hand -- not possible. When you rush to play house before observing a person in a whole range of situations, you wind up looking for reasons ("I'd like to honor the commitment... ") to stay in the relationship rather than doing the hard work of looking for a new one. The costs of leaving may be high (loneliness, for one), but they are a lot less now than they would be in a marriage, with property settlements to sulk over and with real children needing attention.