I sometimes hear from women who feel deep regret about cheating on the man who they love. Not only do they know that this was a huge mistake, but they are afraid that, because of this mistake, he will never feel comfortable marrying them.
I might hear a comment like: “last fall, I went away for a semester abroad. I had reservations about leaving my boyfriend, but this was a once in a lifetime opportunity and he encouraged me to go, so I did. We have been together for three and a half years. I love him dearly. I am very close to his mother and sisters. I anticipated that we would get married once both of us graduated with our masters’ degrees. Unfortunately, I did something very stupid. While I was overseas, I started up a flirtation with one of my classmates. I stayed with this guy’s family while I was there. And while we didn’t sleep together, we kissed and we most definitely had a relationship. I never intended to leave my boyfriend for this other guy. And I always knew that our relationship would be over once I returned to school. I just got so caught up in the other culture. I felt so free there. I almost didn’t even feel like myself. The other guy sent me a text the other day. It wasn’t even an inappropriate text. Just a friendly text. But my boyfriend saw it and casually asked who the other guy was. It wasn’t even an accusation. But I just started sobbing. And it all spilled out. My boyfriend was devastated and he told me that he was going to ask me to marry him on my birthday, which is only a couple of months away. But he said that now I have ruined everything. As if this infidelity wasn’t bad enough, I was finally going to get what I’ve been wanting for so long – a proposal. And now I feel like I am never going to get it. Even on the off chance that he could ever forgive me, which I doubt, I don’t think he could ever marry someone with this much of a lack of integrity. Plus, if his mother knew about this I am sure that she would break off all contact with me and demand that her son do the same. My heart is broken. I don’t know what got into me, but I do know that I love my boyfriend and that if he would give me the chance, I would make a good wife. Is there any way that he would ever change his mind?”
Well, I can’t predict what anyone might do. It is understandable that he would be hurt and hesitant. If the roles were reversed, you could understand how devastated you would feel and how it might make you feel insecure in the future. Because that is one the biggest challenges that you face – restoring the trust. People who have been cheated on have the tendency to believe that it might happen again. And so they are always a little suspicious even if they really love the other person and want to believe that they won’t cheat again.
So that is going to be your challenge – to show him, likely over time, that you would never cheat again. You might try pointing out that you were never unfaithful in all the years that you were dating. You might try to explain that it was the circumstances and the once in a lifetime experience, but I doubt that he will fully understand that. The thing is, couples do overcome cheating. And people who cheat once sometimes never cheat again. In order to make him believe this is so, you need to be open to whatever he needs from you in order to make him feel secure. This might include not leaving for long periods of time again, at least for a while. It will also likely mean that, for a good deal of time, he’s going to be wary of you until enough time has passed for him to believe in you again.
But this doesn’t mean that he won’t ever do so. Some people choose to take a chance and trust. And this is especially true if you’ve shown yourself to be trustworthy after the dust has settled a bit. Understand that you will need to be truthful and upfront about everything. You never want to give him a reason to distrust you.
As far as his mother goes, there may be a chance that he doesn’t chose to tell her. Honestly, it is no one’s business but your own. If he does chose to tell her, then you will have to regain her trust in the same way that you will regain his – by conducting yourself with integrity and showing him that you can and will be a loving and loyal girlfriend who enhances his life.
Once you have very gradually restored the trust and shown him that you are the type of woman any man would want to worry, then you can worry about the engagement, but I wouldn’t place my focus on getting engaged until then.