DEAR ABBY: My boyfriend of four years recently admitted that he cheated on me six months ago. I was blindsided. Until the day he told me, I thought we shared everything. The hollowness and betrayal I feel is sometimes overwhelming.
He explained that at the time, he was dealing with substance issues and depression, which I was also unaware of. Both have worsened in recent months. How could I have been so blind?
To complicate things further, I have a 6-year-old son who has grown to love this man as a father because my ex-husband walked out on us when he was born. He has been an amazing role model for my son, and overall, a wonderful partner — or so I thought.
He says he’s heartbroken over the pain he’s caused me. He recently started receiving treatment for his depression through medication and therapy, and he has begged me to go to couples therapy to rebuild the trust that’s been lost.
I was taught to believe that cheating is the end of a relationship, no ifs, ands or buts. I don’t want to end the relationship, but I’m struggling with the decision because of what I was taught, especially when I confide in friends and they tell me to dump him.
I wish I knew what to do. I need an objective opinion. Can a relationship survive such a betrayal? Can we be happy again? — HOLLOW IN NEW YORK
DEAR HOLLOW: The answers to your questions are yes and yes — especially if both partners are fully committed and prepared to get couples therapy from a licensed professional. If you love this man and want to give this relationship a chance, quit confiding in your friends and start talking with the therapist. Your boyfriend is remorseful, he is also in treatment, and he is trying his best to get better and work things out. Please give him the opportunity to do that because, if you do, your story may have a happy ending. (c) DEAR ABBY
Huh. I have an interesting take on this. I can’t begin to justify infidelity, but I think this is a case of imperfection and disillusionment. The letter writer thought her relationship with him was solid, but things were going on that she didn’t know about. But it’s through these things that a relationship can grow stronger.
There’s a huge difference between screwing up and having no remorse about it, versus having regrets and feeling lost. From where I stand, this guy is oozing guilt and remorse. I see the letter writer’s current situation as an opportunity to strengthen her relationship and have faith that things will be okay.
In myth, Psyche was a beautiful mortal woman who was condemned to death by a jealous Aphrodite, a powerful goddess. Aphrodite tied her to a rock and sent Eros, the winged god, out to kill Psyche. Eros fell in love instead and rescued Psyche, taking her to his cave.
Eros and Psyche entered into a relationship in which Eros never allowed Psyche to see what he truly looked like. It was a level of intimacy he didn’t allow.
Interestingly, Psyche confided in her friends, and they all filled her with doubt. (The letter writer’s got to study this myth!) They whispered to her of how ugly and deformed he must be, and they made her insecure in other ways, too.
One night while Eros slept, Psyche lit a candle and beheld him. Oh, what a beautiful winged god he was! Alas, some candle wax dripped onto him and woke him, and he was angry that she’d violated his boundary. He flew away.
She was heartbroken and wanted to get him back. But this is the point in the story that matters, not what happens after. When she saw him by candlelight, she really saw him, for the first time, flaws and all. Yes, he was handsome, but he wasn’t perfect. It was disillusioning to Psyche, even though he was a god. She still loved him, but I’m sure it was an adjustment. It’s the difference between blind love and love that comes from trust and strength and togetherness over time, I guess.
I’d really like to see that happen for this letter writer! People are imperfect and make mistakes. Those who want to fix it and have regrets are the ones who we need to cleave to, not abandon.