Q: Dear Meredith,
I am a woman in my mid-20s and have been dating my boyfriend for almost 6 years. The last couple of years of our relationship have been complete chaos. When we met, I had just started my college career, and as much as I cared about him, I didn't want to be tied down by a title. The conversation was dropped until a year later when he asked me to put a title on our relationship and I did.
The problem is, during this first year, although we didn't have the title, we spent every single weekend with each other, told each other how much we cared for one another, and expressed that there was no one else we were interested in. During this time I was not with anyone else and I was under the impression he wasn't either. I even asked him multiple times and he assured me I was the only one. A few years later, long after we had become exclusive, my boyfriend decides to tell me that during that first year, he had been with multiple other people -- one of whom considered him her boyfriend. I was devastated to say the least. I can convince myself to get over his physical actions since we weren't exclusive at the time, but I can't get over the fact that he hid this from me for years and lied to my face when I directly asked him about it.
Since then, things have not been the same. I have huge trust issues with him that have only been getting worse as the years progress. He's made an effort to not lie to me anymore, but he continues to intentionally hide things that he knows will hurt me because he is afraid of my reaction. It's an awful pattern. I am so afraid of being surprised with bad news again that I constantly pester him when he's out with his friends or get angry and upset every time he goes away for a weekend without me. It's not that I necessarily believe he's with another woman again, it's more the fact that I think he's doing or saying something that makes me look foolish (like flirting with girls until they're willing to go home with him and then turning them down).
We fight constantly now, he's become extremely mean and hurtful when he's angry with me, and our physical relationship is far from what it used to be. I want to fix things, but I don't know how to trust him again. I also must admit that I have a hard time putting any effort into improving this relationship because I feel like after what he did to me, he doesn't deserve it. That leaves the burden on him alone and he's unwilling or unable to fix things by himself -- which is understandable.
I guess my question is: How do I let go of this resentment and work on improving our relationship and falling in love with him again? Am I just using his old indiscretions as an excuse instead of admitting that this relationship just doesn't work anymore?
Thanks for your help!
– Stuck, Boston
A: These indiscretions happened when you guys were like 18 (assuming you're the same age). You're very different people now. It is very possible that your boyfriend is truly horrified about how he handled himself back then.
That said, you guys are pretty miserable. You've grown up to two people who make a bad couple. You're fixated on all that could go wrong, and he gets mean and hurtful when he's angry. You don't have much of a physical relationship, and you're at the point where you're expecting him to lie.
You say that you want to fall in love with him again -- which means that you're not in love right now. It's time to sit down and talk to him about why you're staying together. Is it routine? Fear of being alone? Guilt? Or maybe you don't want to feel as though you've wasted six years? Don't point fingers during this discussion. Just ask questions about why this relationship continues.
Also talk about where you want to be in the future. When you picture your 30-something life, what does it look like? Is he there? Does he want to be? If so, why?
My guess is that the two of you are working your way to a breakup. And that's OK. I just want you to have some honest, grownup talks about why this is happening so that you don't have to second guess yourself 1,000 times after a decision is made.
Readers? Any hope here? Does the first year matter? Did he have to tell her about his extracurricular activities if they weren't committed? Should this relationship be saved? Help.
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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.