Q: I have been dating my boyfriend for seven months. We are in love and things have been going really well. I’ve been in several monogamous relationships over the last 20 or so years, but up until this one I’ve never really felt the support of a community of friends. We have many friends who are couples and singles, and have a very supportive network. It felt like we had a very solid foundation to start out on. That’s why it’s hard for me to understand why what happened, happened.
This week, I found out that my boyfriend, for all intents and purposes, cheated on me. He went to a bathhouse and was seen there by a friend of mine, who called to tell me about it. Information my friend conveyed to me confirmed it was him, and later my boyfriend, when confronted, admitted to having been there, although he swears that he didn’t do anything with anybody. My heart was broken! I am still reeling from the effects of this. I never saw this coming. He said the reason he did it was because he wanted someone to find him attractive, as he hadn’t been feeling this lately in our relationship or when he looks in the mirror at himself.
I do find him attractive and think he is very sexy. One of the problems with our sex life is that we don’t live together, so our opportunities to be intimate are somewhat limited because of that and because of our very busy schedules. And there are times we do manage to find time to get together, but we’re both exhausted and so we wind up cuddling on the couch and watching TV rather than having sex.
He has apologized and I believe he truly feels remorseful for what happened. The difficulty for me lies in whether or not I will be able to trust him again. How do you get over something like this when it’s happened to you? How can I trust him again? And I guess, the biggest question, how can I determine if I even want to try?
Bewildered in Berkley
A: From your own words, I hear that you and your boyfriend are “in love” and have a “supportive community of friends” that creates a “supportive network” for you both. That sure sounds like a lot, and would for me be a reason to want to be able to forgive and keep this relationship. Regarding the forgiving part, I’m able to forgive when: First, I feel like the person is truly sorry for his actions (you say that you believe he is “remorseful”). Secondly, I’m able to understand what’s behind the offensive behavior. Your boyfriend did tell you that he didn’t feel good about himself when he looks in the mirror and that he doesn’t think you find him attractive (not that that makes it OK that he betrayed you, but it does explain what was behind his going to the bathhouse). And thirdly, that the person – your boyfriend in this case – is willing to look at what was behind his behavior and change things so it won’t happen again.
In this case, he doesn’t feel good about his body, but also he doesn’t think you find him attractive. You have a part in this as well. He needs to hear that you find him attractive and turn him on sexually. And probably, for him, not having sex says you don’t find his body attractive. You both need to have a conversation about this.
You talk about your busy schedules, fatigue and lack of time together. Good, healthy relationships take a commitment, need to be a priority, require time and energy and good communication. It sounds like these ingredients are lacking in your relationship. If you are looking for this – or any other future relationship – to be long term, you will need to include these components. If you are having problems with working with these issues, I suggest that you seek couple’s counseling.