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Boyfriend cheated on me, and now HE is so distraught


smdmidwest
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This question doesn't fit any of the other questions I've looked for under here. At first it sounds like it does, but the context will explain why I say that.

 

About 2 months ago, my boyfriend of 4 years told me he had to see me, that it was very important. He came over, sat me down, and he started crying. He told me he cheated on me a couple of weeks before and it was tearing him apart because he loved me so much. I had no inclination of it - the signs weren't there before it happened. We have had great intimacy, we've had a great connection and great chemistry every second of our relationship. It was just a moment of stupidity and lust for him, and I know that to be true. His behavior changed after he did it, and with the knowledge of why now, I can make sense of it all.

 

One thing to note at this point: he's NOT in love with this other person, and she's not in love with him. They can't be together. They barely know eachother, and I know her, and this isn't an occasion where he has feelings for her. It was just a dumb decision of selfishness on both of their parts.

 

Strangely, I ran through my cycle of emotions about it rather quickly. I love him and I know that. I didn't get mad at him. I cried with him. We talked, we cried some more. I asked him the range of questions about it all, including whether he felt he wanted us to be "open" in some way and he stated unequivocally that he didn't want that. We both soul searched for a week, and I came to the conclusion that I loved him and wanted to make this work. And he did the same - he kept reassuring me how much he loved me and how he regretted it, and how he couldn't sleep for those 2 weeks and how he took our relationship for granted.

 

It's only been about 6-8 weeks, and things are still understandably strained. He making more of an effort, as am I, but when we're together I can see the sadness and guilt in his eyes. Sometimes he still gets up at night and wanders downstairs to sleep, and he told me it's because some nights he's just lying there staring at me and can't forgive himself. He gets choked up even talking about it. I keep trying to do things like we used to in order to remind him that I love him and that this hasn't changed. But he's a very introspective guy that can hold onto emotions for a while.

 

Fast forward to today, we've had lots of conversations, several date nights, a dinner with my folks (I wanted to remind him he's still an important part of my life), etc. But he's so different now. He's quieter, he seems a little distant when we're together, he just feels off. I can't tell if he's lost all the confidence he used to have, if the event has him worried because he wants to do more of it, or if his psyche is so devastated that he's involuntarily trying to make ME be the one to breakup with him. Maybe he feels like I haven't punished him enough? I'm just not sure. Conversations about it yield him crying and telling me how much le loves me and that he just keeps thinking about how he hurt me and hurt our relationship. It's starting to feel like I'm dating a whole different person. It's really weighing on me. I am seriously fine with the fact that he cheated (it's strange to say that but it's true) and I keep reassuring him that I love him and want us to move forward. But what is super worrying and devastating to me now is that it may still rip us apart because HE can't get over it.

 

I just don't know what to do. Has anyone experienced this before? And how did you deal with it and make things better?

Edited by smdmidwest
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Did he have sex with her or ? What exactly did they do together? I ask since I've read about exchanged texts or make out sessions constituting cheating as well for other couples. I'd also go over your reasons for overlooking that type of deception or behaviour from him.

 

You seem to have processed it unusually quickly for the average person. The reason I say this is because your initial feelings and thoughts may be "how do I preserve the status quo and preserve this relationship without doing more damage". You may actually still be in shock and in a type of survival mode, your brain working to preserve your sense of normalcy in a chaotic situation. As soon as he lets his guard down, your insecurities may jump out and you may not have processed the entire situation and your feelings about it because you were working so hard to regain normalcy and control earlier.

 

Take your time and think it through. You won't be able to force him out of his sense of guilt. That's something he has to work through also. The more you try to hasten the process, the more suspect you become but he won't sense that at first and he won't feel he has a say in calling you out on it because he's so guilt-ridden. Slow down and let things happen naturally. If you're meant to work things out together, it will work itself out with very little doing from you. All you need to do is continue being your confident self and do not let your insecurities engulf you at a later time.

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Tough situation.

 

First things first: I really like your attitude and approach to all this—says a lot about what you you're made of. Some may give you a lashing, given the emotion that cheating evokes, but I trust that you have a good handle on your feelings—and, by the sound of it, a good perspective on his. That he came forward on his own volition and took responsibility is a good start.

 

Trouble here is that, right now, he doesn't quite share your mindset, by the sounds of it. This is why cheating, among many other reasons, can be so hard to come back from. It stirs so many feelings in both people, and often those feelings are at odds with each other. While most often it is the person cheated on who just can't let it go, as you're learning sometimes it's the other way around.

 

Your situation reminds me a bit of a close friend of mine, who cheated on his girlfriend—one time thing, selfish choice—and then told her. She processed it pretty quickly, was ready to move forward. He tried, couldn't. It was like he couldn't accept that someone would accept the awful choice he made—and, in the end, he broke up with her. Interesting footnote to that story: Five years later they reconnected, today are raising two children in what I'd say is one of the best marriages I've ever seen.

 

But I digress...

 

I think you have to just keep doing what you're doing, moving forward with compassion to both you, him, and the divide between you. Can he join you on that path? That's the lingering question, and one that will be answered in time—not through endless rehashing of the past, the guilt, the shame, the feelings. If he continues veering down that road—waking in the middle of the night and then moaning about it all in the morning—what I'd say is that you tell him, calmly, that you'd like him to talk to a therapist about it, so you're not cast in that role. There's a line, not so thin, where circular "communication" about such matters just magnifies the very thing that needs to be moved away from.

 

This is a hard path, no two ways around it. Most can't walk it, but many do. You kind of have to accept that it's a process, ongoing, and that the big question on both your minds (Will we work again?) isn't going to be answered tomorrow or next week, but over the next few months. The answer might not be the one you want, which is the hardest part of all this, since only he can figure out if he can forgive himself as you have.

 

But that's where the faith comes in. There are times in all relationships where one person is more sure of things than the other, and right now, despite him being the one who veered off course, that's the role you've got to be okay playing for a while. Think you can hold the line a bit longer, while steering him to address these matters with a third party? It's himself he's reckoning with at the moment, not you, and sometimes we all need some help with that.

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Thanks for your thoughts. It was some mouth stuff. And like I said, one thing I'm certain of is that there aren't feelings between them. It was just a stupid moment.

 

But you're right, I might still be in shock. After his distant behavior for the week or so between when he did it and when he told me, I thought he was coming by to break up with me, especially with the way he pitched his NEED to see me the night before. So it was a bit of a surprise when he told me what happened instead. So yes, you're right, I didn't have a chance in that moment to react with disdain or disapproval because I was so focused on thinking he was going to break us up, that when he told me my mind almost felt relief. I've thought about seeking some therapy to work through it all on my end.

 

But that all said, I do feel like I forgive him for it. And my biggest concern now is that his own guilt and internal strife may yet rip us apart. Maybe I'm trying too hard now and that's bugging him because he feels like I should punish him more. But the reality is that I've never seen him cry like he did since then, and I want to help him through it. I guess maybe I just need to let him deal with it at his own pace, and that I should focus on dealing with my own emotions about it all.

 

Also, I know I'm new around here, but I very much appreciate you folks listening to me and offering some advice.

Edited by smdmidwest
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Tough situation.

 

First things first: I really like your attitude and approach to all this—says a lot about what you you're made of. Some may give you a lashing, given the emotion that cheating evokes, but I trust that you have a good handle on your feelings—and, by the sound of it, a good perspective on his. That he came forward on his own volition and took responsibility is a good start.

 

Trouble here is that, right now, he doesn't quite share your mindset, by the sounds of it. This is why cheating, among many other reasons, can be so hard to come back from. It stirs so many feelings in both people, and often those feelings are at odds with each other. While most often it is the person cheated on who just can't let it go, as you're learning sometimes it's the other way around.

 

Your situation reminds me a bit of a close friend of mine, who cheated on his girlfriend—one time thing, selfish choice—and then told her. She processed it pretty quickly, was ready to move forward. He tried, couldn't. It was like he couldn't accept that someone would accept the awful choice he made—and, in the end, he broke up with her. Interesting footnote to that story: Five years later they reconnected, today are raising two children in what I'd say is one of the best marriages I've ever seen.

 

But I digress...

 

I think you have to just keep doing what you're doing, moving forward with compassion to both you, him, and the divide between you. Can he join you on that path? That's the lingering question, and one that will be answered in time—not through endless rehashing of the past, the guilt, the shame, the feelings. If he continues veering down that road—waking in the middle of the night and then moaning about it all in the morning—what I'd say is that you tell him, calmly, that you'd like him to talk to a therapist about it, so you're not cast in that role. There's a line, not so thin, where circular "communication" about such matters just magnifies the very thing that needs to be moved away from.

 

This is a hard path, no two ways around it. Most can't walk it, but many do. You kind of have to accept that it's a process, ongoing, and that the big question on both your minds (Will we work again?) isn't going to be answered tomorrow or next week, but over the next few months. The answer might not be the one you want, which is the hardest part of all this, since only he can figure out if he can forgive himself as you have.

 

But that's where the faith comes in. There are times in all relationships where one person is more sure of things than the other, and right now, despite him being the one who veered off course, that's the role you've got to be okay playing for a while. Think you can hold the line a bit longer, while steering him to address these matters with a third party? It's himself he's reckoning with at the moment, not you, and sometimes we all need some help with that.

 

Thank you for the thoughts. You're probably right. Even writing it down, I realize I'm trying too hard with this all, and that may be contributing to his guilt. He maybe feels like he doesn't deserve someone like that. It's obviously something we both need to figure our way through. It's such a process, and with me I don't have to deal with the feelings of guilt and I've already accepted that he cheated and am okay with it because he told me and because of our conversations, so I may be moving along faster. It's just going to take time.

 

Thanks so much for your thoughts, I certainly want to push him toward a therapist, and possibly would like to talk to one myself as well. In fact, I already have an appt for Saturday for me.

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Who is the ENAer whose signature line is about just backing off and how you’ll be surprised with the results that brings? She’d probably be a good one to chime in here...

 

It’s a long road back home, but many have successfully made this journey you’re on...wish I had some advice but all I have is well wishes!

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Sounds like he's not into you, so sabatoge the relationship. That's why he told you, so will leave. That guilt he appears to show is really him not letting go the intimacy and familiarity, cuz if it was love, he wouldn't have made the choice to cheat on you.

 

Whether tomorrow, or next week, you're still you, and he's still him, and will still face cheating on you as an option. What you are seeing is only the tip of his iceberg

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You are trying way too hard to hang on to him and making too many excuses.

 

First of all, he cheated on you and you are trying to make him feel good about it. Think on the absurdity of that for a moment........ It's not your job to patch up the relationship. It's his job to patch things up with you and work hard to regain your trust. But he doesn't have to work, he betrayed you and you are just handing yourself, your trust, the relationship back to him on a platter. You might not recognize what you are doing, but you are basically competing for his attention and desperately clinging on.

 

Second, cheating is more than just selfish, it's showing you the ultimate lack of respect. He took you for granted and he was right. Not only are there no consequences for him, you are turning yourself inside out to make it all OK. Your message to him is that you are so weak and codependent, that you will totally sweep cheating under the rug. Consider for a moment that the reason he has gone cold isn't that he is so guilt ridden as that he is taken aback by your lack of self worth. Yes, not how you see yourself, but how it looks to him.

 

Third, what's already mentioned. Consider that perhaps he has been wanting out of this relationship, but doesn't have the guts to end it like a decent human being. So he cheated, then he told you about it - sabotaging the relationship thinking you'll dump him. Yet....here you still are clinging on. So now he is being distant and cold and...... you try to dance harder for his wandering attention - look at me, I'm pretty, I'm the perfect gf, cheat if you want, I'll love you no matter what you do to me, I'll cook and clean and arrange dates and pretend all is just perfect, I will not call you out on your bs, let alone dump you.

 

What I'm getting at is that your generosity and instant forgiveness isn't quite as clean as you think it is and might not be interpreted like you think. At the same time, it's quite a normal reaction many women have to this situation - try harder because the rejection of cheating hurts badly and you want to prove to him, show him what he stands to lose - wonderful you. Problem is, it doesn't work and once the shock wears off, you will wonder every time he is late or gone out with friends or whatever, just what he is doing and with who. You just aren't there yet. The only cure for cheating is what you aren't ready to do yet - consequences....specifically kicking him out of your life and finding a guy who actually has character. Cheaters don't. The whole "he confessed" so it makes it OK to cheat is absurd. Sorry. I know it's reading harsh to you and not at all what you want to hear, but I hope at some point you'll remember what I wrote...when you are ready for it.

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OP if you talk to anyone here that has been cheated on... this tends to be one of their most traumatic experiences... so I find it odd that you seem so oddly detached from your feelings around this.

 

I say this because 6 to 8 weeks later, you are more concerned about how he feels than how you feel. You are overcompensating trying to make this work, to show him he is loved... meanwhile, he is walking around in a cloud of self-pity and shame, sucking the energy out of the relationship, not doing anything to move through his own feelings around this.

 

I think it's big of you to forgive... and I think it shows your capacity to have empathy.... I also think it's a little bit of denial, codependency, and low self-esteem on your part that you are minimizing your feelings about this just two months later.

 

Intuitively, you suspect that he will either do this again or is behaving this way in order to get you to break up with him. I wonder if it goes back further and he thought that if he told you about the cheating, you would break up on the spot... he probably never considered that you would want to stay in the relationship.

 

Proceed with caution, honor your feelings, and if he doesn't change... give him what he wants.

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Thanks for your thoughts. It was some mouth stuff. And like I said, one thing I'm certain of is that there aren't feelings between them. It was just a stupid moment.

 

But you're right, I might still be in shock. After his distant behavior for the week or so between when he did it and when he told me, I thought he was coming by to break up with me, especially with the way he pitched his NEED to see me the night before. So it was a bit of a surprise when he told me what happened instead. So yes, you're right, I didn't have a chance in that moment to react with disdain or disapproval because I was so focused on thinking he was going to break us up, that when he told me my mind almost felt relief. I've thought about seeking some therapy to work through it all on my end.

 

But that all said, I do feel like I forgive him for it. And my biggest concern now is that his own guilt and internal strife may yet rip us apart. Maybe I'm trying too hard now and that's bugging him because he feels like I should punish him more. But the reality is that I've never seen him cry like he did since then, and I want to help him through it. I guess maybe I just need to let him deal with it at his own pace, and that I should focus on dealing with my own emotions about it all.

 

Also, I know I'm new around here, but I very much appreciate you folks listening to me and offering some advice.

 

I don't think your desire to want to help him through anything is healthy or helpful although after two months I can imagine you might be impatient and a bit annoyed seeing him mope around. I don't know the entire nature of your relationship or its dynamics but I do feel like you're moving through this very quickly and I'd be alarmed at the level of helping you seem to want to do. His confessing his mistake was two months ago now so I understand where your desire to just get on with things comes from. You're tired of seeing him mope around. It's not entirely your decision on whether you can make the relationship work so, yes, do give both of you some room to come to that conclusion.

 

Sometimes the will is there but the couple just can't put words into actions. It does take two to tango. I don't think it's unusual for a lot of people not to be able to live with themselves. I think those cracks will be there for a long time. I'd make room for that.

 

I wouldn't be surprised if his respect for you over time dwindles because if he's hard on himself now, he may later on keep asking himself what kind of woman is able to accept that in another person.

 

Don't be surprised if he turns it on you and eventually loses his feelings for you. I'm being very frank here. It's a rock and a hard place and in the process of appearing forgiving, you're also inviting more disrespect towards you by your actions continuing this relationship alone. Not everyone deals with guilt the same way or wrongdoing. I think you're in a hypervigilant state now and not completely relaxed. That's maybe something you might want to cover with your therapist and any issues or strong feelings of unrest or impatience (non-relaxed). A person can't sustain that kind of unrest and mental/emotional disturbance for long. You shouldn't constantly be on guard or on the look out in your relationship or constantly yearning for a different dynamic. There should be a limit to your patience eventually. I hope it works out for you but these are the things that run through my mind if I put myself in your shoes.

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It sounds like are still in shock and not thinking straight and still trying to backpedal and rationalize. You need to get to your doctor for STD testing and do not have sex until you know the results. It doesn't matter if he "doesn't love her", he crossed a boundary.

 

But you need to ask yourself why he decided to not only do this but decide to hurt you and adding insult to injury, tell you all this replete with crocodile tears. By sticking with him and coddling him you are acting like a doormat, not an understanding gf. Your reward for this forgiveness will be more cheating and heartache.

He told me he cheated on me a couple of weeks before and it was tearing him apart because he loved me so much.
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I can't help but think if someone forgave me so quickly and felt it some how necessary to make me feel better about my guilt, I might lose respect for them.

 

I am not saying to break up with him. But I do sense you are being far too generous with all of this and this is what's confusing him. He may not even know why.

 

But I suspect he might feel better if you were righteously angry and took your time process this. You do realize you are entitled to this, right?

 

It appears that you have made so many excuses for him (maybe even more than he's made for himself) makes you seem rather selfless.

 

People want to be around people with self respect. I sense the way you are going about this isn't showing him that.

 

People feel uncomfortable around others who give their power away. People also want to be with someone they can't walk on.

For this to turn it's self upright, he needs to work to earn your trust. You haven't even given him the opportunity.

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I have seen infidelity bring couples more closer together. The problem is, you are sweeping it under the rug, and he is traumatize by his own actions. Your let's move forward attitude is you rejecting his grief, and that is devastating. That's why he is the way he is emotionally, he can't move forward unless you both address this together. This needs to be talked about in many discussions of the how, why and what now.

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First off I would like to say I am terribly sorry you are going through this. Many of us have been cheated on and know first hand how much it can hurt. The sting of betrayal takes a long time to heal and so you can see why so many of us are worried about you more than him.

 

Obviously he confessed to relieve his own guilt. It wasn't some honorable thing, it was self preservation on his part. Sure he wanted to come clean and try and make things right but make no mistake he did it mostly for himself.

 

You cannot be his therapist as you have been trying to do. BUT you do need to be the catalyst for him seeking out a therapist to work through his issues, which by the way go deeper than his cheating. Tell him if he really wants to work this out and make the relationship stronger and trusting once again he MUST make an appointment with a therapist as soon as possible. This would be the only demand I would make and the rest is up to him to show you he has changed, he sees what brought him to think letting some strange girl go down on him was somehow not going to devastate you and ruin the relationship. This is on him so let him punish himself and heal himself.

 

You need to slow way down on all the decisions you have made. Right now you don't even know who you are, you certainly aren't the woman you were before he uttered those words of confession. Cheating changes people.

Take some time away from him so your head can clear and absolutely stop trying to make him feel better. Keep your appointments with your therapist and be brutally honest in the sessions. The one thing that helped me a lot is that I asked for homework. Books to read, exercises to run through and stuff like that.

 

I am all for forgiveness and growth but it needs to be healthy and what you wrote is not healthy. If done correctly I think this could actually make your relationship stronger but as it is now there are two damaged people and one of them doesn't even know where all her injuries are yet.

 

Be good to yourself and do not let fear of losing him keep you in this relationship.

 

Lost

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It takes two to tango. You did your part and then some. Your approach sounds codependent to me. You cannot make things better for him, that's his job. To me it sounds it's all about him, him, him. I got exhausted on your behalf just by reading what you wrote about his behaviour. You have given him a second chance and he is squandering it. Imo, he perceives your response to him as masochistic and he is taking you for granted once again. Once again he is putting his feelings above yours. There is nothing that you can do other than let things unfold. Or break up.

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One thing to note at this point: he's NOT in love with this other person, and she's not in love with him. They can't be together. They barely know eachother, and I know her, and this isn't an occasion where he has feelings for her. It was just a dumb decision of selfishness on both of their parts.

 

I could be wrong but my guess is he only told you because you know the person he cheated on you with. In spite of him coming clean to you, it still seems it's all about him and his fear of getting caught.

 

Keep in mind that one doesn't cheat by chance, they cheat by choice. A slap on the wrist relieves him of any consequences, and he'll more than likely continue to cheat, but will simply find better ways to cover his tracks.

 

Hopefully you'll give this more thought, along with holding on to your self-respect.

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