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Saturday, October 6, 2012

Carolyn Hax: Sincerely, Unable to Forgive

Once in a while, I read Carolyn Hax's advice column in the Washington Post. And once in a while, I blog about it. If you missed any of her past posts, you can read them here and here.

Here's the one published today.

Dear Carolyn:

Three weeks ago, I received a text from my boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend (she took my number from his cellphone). She indicated they were having sex during the first two months of my relationship with him. At first he denied it, then said, “It was only twice.”
I knew him for a year before we dated. He knew I had serious trust issues because of past betrayals, yet he did this to me anyway. I feel reasonably certain he would not betray me again. He had told friends that he would like to marry me someday. I love him and I feel sad for him (he is quite despondent), but I just can’t get past this. Part of this is my pride. Ugh, that woman is a beast. You should see her mug shot . . . it makes Nick Nolte’s look cute.
Inability to Forgive
Carolyn's Answer

That beast did you a favor.
Not because she exposed your boyfriend as a liar or cheater, though he certainly seems to have made an earnest try at both, but instead because she got you to the edge of a less black-and-white view of fidelity and trust. Can you take the last steps on your own and enter that realm?
The first thing to consider is that your boyfriend “did this to me.” Without the power to read your boyfriend’s mind, I still feel confident saying he didn’t sleep with his ex with hurting you in mind — or with you in mind at all. A lot of relationships trail off, vs. end cleanly, kind of like addictions. Even the ones that are over over over today often got there after a relapse or two or four yesterday. Of course, people should fully disengage from one person before they tee up the next, but no decision about human beings should be built on “should.”
The next thing to consider is that vilifying the ex is middle school stuff. Her texting you was, too, but she’s beside the point. Besides, your boyfriend loved her once, and unless you like the idea of being the Noltebeast his next girlfriend despises, integrity demands a more charitable disposition toward her. You’re angry at your boyfriend, not the messenger.
Next, pride is an even more useless distraction. What people think of you doesn’t amount to a gob of spit.
Do you trust your boyfriend or not? Do you value your relationship or not? And, since you cite trust issues — can you trust anyone? This is all that matters.
So, if you can look at your relationship and all you know about it and say, “Count me in,” then go to your boyfriend, say this isn’t how you would have scripted it but you’re nonetheless glad he finally told you at least part of the truth. Then ask him for the rest of it, since his initial denial and his at-gunpoint “Errrrrr only twice!” follow-up left a grimy film on your opinion of him. Then see what he does, says, admits or denies. Then see how you like the weather in Gray World.
While Carolyn's answer is right on the money, here's what my answer would've been.
Dear Unable to Forgive,
I'll keep it simple. While you may question the ex-girlfriend's motive for telling you about your boyfriend's alleged indiscretions, there is no smoke without fire. Don't shoot the messenger. Instead, focus on the person who you're really angry at- your boyfriend. 
Never forget, you're boyfriend is the one who hurt and betrayed you. He even admitted it to you. So talk about it with him, then make a decision as to whether this is something you can forgive. In your decision on whether or not to forgive, consider his remorse, whether or not he has a 'tendency' to cheat, whether or not he has self-discipline, his honesty (or lack thereof), and whether or not you can 'truly' let it go. If you forgive, you'll have to decide if you can ever "trust" him again. If you can't forgive AND trust him, your relationship or "rumored future marriage" would never work.

Lastly, calling the ex-girlfriend a beast is waaaayyy besides the point. Focus. 


Ladies, it beats me how every time a man cheats, we focus on the "other woman" and not the main perpetuator, the cheater, your man. Often times, we'd rather fight the "other woman" than the man. While "the other woman" is quite wrong for 'being' with a man who's committed to someone else, she doesn't owe you anything- she's not committed to you-your man is.  Again, the focus should be on the person who owes you loyalty.
Your thoughts?
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