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Getting over the old betrayals

Posted by Meredith Goldstein  April 29, 2011 07:44 AM

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Q: My wife and I are approaching our 20th anniversary. We have a beautiful 5-year old daughter. It hasn't been a smooth 20 years. There has been a lot of admitted deceit by my wife, and most of it over finances. Since I took control, we are back into a good financial position and on the surface, we are moving ahead as one.

Three years ago, I found out about a non-physical emotional infidelity she had. She swears up and down it was just a friendship. It would have become physical, I believe, over time, but I do believe it didn't get there. We got past it, but it was rough. I felt very betrayed.

I recently found out about another relationship that started probably eight years ago and lasted for about two. I am less confident that this one was purely emotional, but so far, that is all she is telling me. She admits to wandering, wanting out, as we were not in a good place at the time. I can understand the want to get out. I can't fathom following through with it, but I do at least understand.

I am really torn on how to move ahead. On the surface, it's old news and doesn't affect where we are today. But, I can't get this out of my mind. I pointedly asked her if she could guarantee this will never happen again. She said she cannot. She doesn't want it to. She isn't trying to. But, she can't guarantee it.

Maybe I'm a fool, but I still want to stay with her. I'm at a total loss on how to proceed.

– Trying, New Hampshire


A: I don't have any easy solutions for you, T. And I empathize; it's incredibly confusing to find out about a cheat that happened years ago. Your wife has already processed it. You're dealing with it like it’s a fresh betrayal.

I'm going to suggest therapy (the "duh" answer) so you can talk this out over time, but I'm also going to advise you to focus on enjoying each other. After a betrayal, it's tempting to obsess over the possibility that something could go wrong again. Instead of thinking about all the negative what-ifs, I want you to find out whether the two of you are still capable of making good memories. Do you enjoy each other's company? Do you laugh? Can you be romantic? Because if you can -- if she's still with you because she's chosen you – you should be able to make new, good memories that minimize some of the bad ones.

I want you to figure out whether you're moving ahead as one because you can pull it off or because you really want to. And again, you do that by wallowing in the positive, not the negative. It'll give you better context.

Readers? Can he move on from the cheats? Should he? Did he tell us enough about why she wants to stay with him? How do you get over something that happened years ago? Will he even be capable of making new, positive memories? Discuss.

– Meredith


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ABOUT LOVE LETTERS: Welcome to Love Letters, the place for love advice (giving and getting). Globe relationship columnist Meredith Goldstein and Boston.com readers are ready to take your letters and tell you what's what. Have a question? Click here to submit or email us at loveletters@boston.com.
Blogger Meredith Goldstein

Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.

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