Several hurting women recently sent e-mails with the same theme: they discovered that their boyfriends have been communicating and flirting with other women online. I have decided to address their issues in one article.
Their specific relationship details are very different, but they have these 5 things in common:
1. They've been with their boyfriends for quite some time—from a minimum of 1.5 years to more than 3 years.
2. Until they discovered the files that proved their boyfriend’s dalliances, the guys never told them about their online communications.
3. Their boyfriends' secret communications were with women they recently met and/or are with women who they were previously involved with.
4. These women felt hurt and betrayed not just by the quality and consistency of their boyfriends' communications with other women, but also by the fact even though they asked their boyfriends to stop, they still kept on flirting with them anyway.
5. These women feel that they really do love their boyfriends and are willing to put in extra effort so they'll stay together, but the boyfriends aren't showing enough signs that they want to give up what they're doing.
BETRAYAL HURTS--BIG TIME
When someone you love and trust betrays you, your world changes. In fact, you're often no longer sure if there's anything about the world that you can trust again. This is why I feel for all these women who are going through the effects of betrayal. And, yes, I will readily admit that, in today's world, technology has made more of these betrayals possible. However, it's not control over technology that's needed, but something much more old school: self control.
Your partner's values and character are your most important indicators for whether you'll have a relationship that lasts. The Internet, instant messaging, Facebook, and text messaging--these do not turn good guys into bad guys. Instead, they simply bring out more of who they already are.
To the betrayed women who sent me e-mails (and this also goes for the betrayed men out there): No matter how bad you feel right now, I want to assure you that this too shall pass. And as this situation passes, I pray that you find healing, hope, and growth--no matter how small--in these three insights I want to share with you now:
1. ASK YOURSELF THE RIGHT QUESTIONS.
When you've been betrayed this way in a relationship, your initial reaction will be anger, but the question that will haunt you most afterward is this: "What's wrong with me?"
This question can take several forms:
- "Wasn't I attractive enough?"
- "Wasn't I loving enough?"
- "What did I do wrong?"
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Dear hurting, betrayed heart, now is the time for you to ask the better question: "What's wrong with him?"
He knew he was already in a relationship. Yet he chose to flirt with other women, to seek out his ex-girlfriends--in short, he chose to spend his time and energy on things that hindered the growth of your relationship. This is the same time and energy that he could've used to add to the love and excitement of the relationship he already has with you. There's obviously something wrong with him, and it's usually one of three things:
- he has a weak character, and obviously lacks integrity;
- he associates excitement and romance only with forbidden things, not with real relationships; and
- he doesn't value the relationship he has with you enough.
All these issues are things he can work on with a counselor or coach--not with you, the girlfriend. It's never your job to help your man change or help him grow up. That's his job and his responsibility alone. Only he can change himself.
2. ACCEPT THAT HE MAY NEVER CHANGE.
The things that people do while they're single or in a relationship do not magically stop when they get married. This is why a cheating boyfriend becomes a cheating husband and why an irresponsible girlfriend becomes an irresponsible wife (and mother).
Marriage, having a child, or any other external situation, does NOT have the power to change us. Only we can change ourselves. When you come to accept this fact about your cybercheating boyfriend, the question now is: Do you really want to stay? Remember, you teach everyone the way you are willing to be treated. This is especially true with the man you love. The things you allow or are willing to put up with will be his subconscious basis for the way he will treat you. He can only respect and love you based on the way you love and respect yourself.
3. LEARN THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN FORGIVENESS AND TRUST.
Forgiving someone who hurt you is not the same as trusting him again.
Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself: When you forgive someone who has betrayed you, you are not saying that what he did is now okay. Instead, your forgiveness is about you saying "I will no longer limit my life based on the betrayal that this person has done."
Forgiveness frees you to hope again, to trust again, and to love again because you have let the pain of the betrayal go. It's something you might have to do daily for some time, but it's what you need to keep that person and that memory from needlessly torturing your mind and heart. Your trust, on the other hand, is not something you give away. It's something that a person who hurt you will need to earn.
Can you say you've forgiven someone even though you don't trust him anymore, even if you don't get back together? Yes. Because it is not healthy for you to forgive and forget--instead, you should forgive and learn.
Yes, some people will betray you no matter what. And yes, there are also some who decide to change once they see the real effects of their betrayal. Just remember that this dating/exclusive relationship period is about you really getting to know each other and your deciding whether he is the kind of partner that you can actually build a lasting & loving relationship with.
(Photo from Closer courtesy of Columbia Pictures)
Get in touch with Aileen Santos, the Relationship Coach:
Find me on Facebook through www.LoveAndLifeSkills.com and e-mail your questions, situations, and success stories to TheRelationshipCoach[at]FemaleNetwork.Com.
I'm sorry I can't respond to you personally, but I WILL READ YOUR LETTER. I would also love to answer your questions in detail in this column (and maybe even in articles and books) so that we can both help many other women who might be in the same situation. Please DO let me know, though, if you just want me to read your letter and not answer it here. Otherwise, I'll change the names and some details and go for it.
Please also feel free to click on the “share” and “like” buttons above so you can share these insights with your friends—they’ll love you for it!
DISCLAIMER: The material contained in this column is an expression of opinion and is not to be construed as legal, medical, or professional advice. This material may only to be used for personal entertainment purposes.
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