Some people enter the dating pool after having ended a relationship because of cheating. Some have been cheated on multiple times, by the same person or with several lovers. I’ve only been cheated on once (that I know of) and that experience was devastating. I can’t imagine how debilitating it would feel to be cheated on multiple times.
Last week, a 43-year-old woman called into a radio show where I was the guest. She shared her sad tale. She’s left her husband because he’d cheated on her with multiple women. A while later, she met a wonderful man who got along well with her only child, a teenaged daughter. They dated for a few years and got engaged. She was so happy that they’d be a family.
Then she learned he was also sleeping with her now-college-aged daughter. She was traumatized. Of course she broke off the engagement, but her daughter continued to see him. The caller became persona non grata and was estranged from her daughter. They never talked. Recently she got a text that her daughter was in the delivery room giving birth to a child by this man. She was hugely torn between grief that she hadn’t been able to support her daughter during her pregnancy nor be present at the birth, and elation at the birth of her first grandchild.
She asked me how she could learn to trust again.
I am not a psychologist, so I was flummoxed at what to say. Mostly, I empathized with her situation and told her how tough it must be for her. I applauded her strength to be able to explain the scenario calming and dispassionately, even though I’m sure it must still hurt. I told her how emotionally mature she was to recognize she had to learn to trust if she expected to be in a loving relationship, and how smart she was to seek input on this.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have many recommendations other than to seek counseling to help clear the anger and hurt that still lingered. I also suggested she list the signs which are clear retrospectively that she was with a cheater, so she’d better recognize them in the future. She should give that list to her closest pals so they could look for signs that she might ignore. And she should not just ask them to tell her if they’re seeing something she’s not, but they are required to say something, even if she doesn’t want to see it. She is not allowed to argue with them.
Why do women take cheaters back and ignore the signs that someone is cheating on them? We think that we love them so much, we can’t let them go. Or we think that we’ll never love someone else as much as we love them. Both are based on scarcity thinking and low self-esteem. I’ve learned it’s not hard to love someone, nor to have someone love you. The hard part is to have both people commit to a relationship and all that entails: working out the messy stuff as well as enjoying the good stuff. And trust is critical to working things through — you have to know the other won’t leave if you bring up something that’s bothersome.
So what would you advise this woman?
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