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I’m having a serious struggle with my now ex-fiancé. I broke up with him because of a long series of trust issues and eventually learning that he was unfaithful to me throughout our relationship. He claims that these relationships never progressed beyond flirting, including one of his previous ex-girlfriends. He kept secret accounts and even a phone to hide his exploits.
This has destroyed the world I built with him and I’m the one left picking up the pieces. It’s been over a month since I broke things off with him and I’m still trying to figure out where I stand in life, even with him. I know that it’s stupid, but I still love him. I know I shouldn’t be dating him and I know I can’t trust him, but even with time away and focusing on other things and people, he’s the only person I want to be with.
I feel he’s already moved on. He talks to other women and has admitted to liking them, though he claims to just be friends. However he keeps assuring me he wants to work things out with me. I agreed to waiting six months and then see how we feel about each other.
Am I stupid for holding out any hope for him or us? I feel like I must be. I know most people would have dropped him like a rock for that betrayal of trust, but I love him so much and am very forgiving. I’ve asked him to seek counseling (for himself) and I don’t know if he’ll do it or not. I’ve also suggested couple’s therapy, but he didn’t seem to care for the idea. I’ve seen little things he’s putting effort into to be a better person, but I don’t want to kid myself into thinking he’ll change for me.
Is it worth my time to wait for him? Should I even bother giving him a chance to be in my life?
Anytime someone we trusted dupes us, we feel stupid. It’s an awful feeling to realize that he could hide his unfaithful behavior in plain sight. Just because you didn’t see it at the time doesn’t mean something is wrong with you. Some people are that good at hiding their behavior.
However, now that you see it, you have to do something about it. Please don’t spend all of your time beating yourself up for not seeing the truth. If you continue to blame yourself, you’ll be placing the accountability on the wrong person. He is the one who needs to be accountable for not only being unfaithful to you, but also manipulating you with his lies.
This is not a safe relationship. He’s not someone who made one mistake and is working to repair it. He is living a pattern of infidelity and secrecy that makes him a terrible option for a lifetime of security and safety. Be grateful that you are seeing this pattern now.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland made it clear that when we are dating, we need to carefully evaluate the safety of the relationship. He said, “Life is tough enough without having the person who is supposed to love you leading the assault on your self-esteem, your sense of dignity, your confidence, and your joy. In this person’s care you deserve to feel physically safe and emotionally secure.”[i] Your future with this guy in his current state would leave you feeling physically unsafe and emotionally insecure.
That brings up the question of whether or not he can change. Yes, he can change. However, there are some conditions that make lasting change possible. Elder Russell M. Nelson explains:
“We can change our behavior. Our very desires can change. How? There is only one way. True change—permanent change—can come only through the healing, cleansing, and enabling power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. He loves you—each of you! He allows you to access His power as you keep His commandments, eagerly, earnestly, and exactly. It is that simple and certain. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of change!”[ii]
Notice that the conditions for lasting change include eager, earnest, and exact obedience. The only thing your ex-fiancé is consistently doing is making excuses for his behavior. He’s not willing to go to individual or couples counseling. He’s not stopping his behavior. He’s telling you things you want to hear, but continuing to act in ways that betray your confidence.
He isn’t doing anything to actually repair the damage he’s caused. He’s left you with no comfort or reassurance that he wants to be with you. His puny efforts don’t even begin to offer healing to the gaping wounds he’s created. President Spencer W. Kimball declared, “When dealing with transgression, apply a bandage large enough to cover the wound—no larger, no smaller.”[iii] If he’s going to be a safe partner for you, he has to make dramatic efforts to heal this relationship. It sounds like he’s moved on and left you to heal on your own.
Your love for him is real because you were real in your love. He was not real with you. He had secrets and didn’t give you everything. When you give all of yourself to someone, you experience true love. You are not married to him. You don’t have children with him. The only thing you owe him is an authentic reaction to his infidelity. You are better off finding someone who wants to reciprocate your willingness to give all to this relationship.
Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Author
Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in St. George, UT. He is the owner of Alliant Counseling and Education (www.alliantcounseling.com) and the founding director of LifeStar of St. George, an outpatient treatment program for couples and individuals impacted by pornography and sexual addiction (www.lifestarstgeorge.com). He is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, available at Deseret Book, and the audio series “Strengthening Recovery Through Strengthening Marriage”, available at www.marriage-recovery.com. He also writes a weekly relationship column for the St. George News (www.stgnews.com). He holds a bachelors degree from BYU in communications studies and a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Auburn University. He served a full-time mission to the Dominican Republic. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.
[iii] See Faith Precedes the Miracle (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1975), p. 178.