Q: Love your column Meredith and all the differing, yet fitting comments...
I have a problem that I've never seen addressed in this column. My boyfriend and I have been dating for about 5 months, and not too long ago we were discussing past relationships, what went wrong, what we didn't like (i.e. what we don't want to happen again in our relationship,) etc. I was hurt pretty badly in my last long term relationship because I was cheated on. So it came up that my boyfriend had cheated on a previous girlfriend, and I can't help but raise the red flag on this issue. He said he had other long term relationships, including a marriage, where he didn't cheat before this one where he did. Now, I have never cheated. But that's not to say that I'm proud of everything I've done in all my relationships -- I realize that we all have things in our past we're not proud of. But, I do not understand when other people cheat. While I really do appreciate his brutal honesty (I didn't directly ask the question, it just came out in conversation while drinking a bit) because I know a lot of people would just lie and say they never had, it really makes me hesitant and nervous to get seriously involved with him. He said he did it because he was unsatisfied in the passion department, and he felt stuck in the relationship at that moment. I would never, ever peg him as a cheater, and I don't have any concerns right now that he is doing that, but I can't help but wonder ... am I being judgmental and/or unfair in holding this against him when it had nothing to do with me, or am I being reasonable to assume that a leopard can't change his spots?
I'd really appreciate your advice, as well as any comments from readers who have cheated on someone before and then gone the straight and narrow with a subsequent relationship...
-- Wary in Ware
A: WIW, I’d take it as a good sign that a) he told you about his past and b) he seems to understand why the cheating was wrong. And my guess is that his cheat happened a long time ago.
There are a million ways people screw up relationships. They watch too much TV. They keep their opinions to themselves. They withhold physical or emotional intimacy. They get overly critical. Cheating gets the most attention because it’s sexy – and because it’s easy to identify who’s to blame.
You can obsess about all of the ways this good relationship might go wrong – or, you can trust that you both want this to work.
To answer your most basic question, there are a variety of reasons people cheat. Those reasons are always unique and complicated. I’m sure readers will agree – there’s often no rhyme or reason.
What you’re not allowed to do is punish this person for something he did years ago. My advice: stop preparing yourself for disaster. This admission isn’t a red flag -- it’s a tiny yellow flag. He probably has a few of those about you, too.