I sat with your question for a good 24 hours before answering. The reason being that, in this situation, there are no “simple” answers. The story (as you’ve described it) seems to be both complex AND confusing. There seems to be so many “layers” here. I’m not sure exactly where to start.
So… I’ll just jump right in.
You wrote: “There has been ABSOLUTELY NO TRUST in our relationship in years.”
My insight: All relationships are based on trust. If you don’t trust a person, you can’t be intimate with them. If they don’t trust you, they can’t be intimate with you.
So, if you’re in a “relationship” where there’s no trust, then you have NO relationship. What you have is more of an “acquaintanceship” — two people going through the “motions” of a relationship but without the real “emotions” of a relationship.
Like love, trust is a gift.
It’s given from the worthy to the worthy. If there’s been no “trust” in your relationship, then there’s been NO relationship for years. So, before you can even think about what to do next…
…you have to deal with what’s happening inside NOW.
Today, you’re feeling the effects of all those years of mistrust, hurt, anger, resentment and pain. Along the way, you’ve hurt each other. You’ve disappointed each other and let each other down.
It’s not really important how it all started. It’s only important to learn how to end it.
How do you move forward with all these layers of complications, twists, turns, scandals, drama and history between the both of you?
Here’s your remedy: It’s called true forgiveness.
Why is true forgiveness the answer to ALL your problems? Because it alone frees you from the pain and suffering his previous actions brought on.
Notice: The quality of forgiveness I’m referring to is not the kind most people have come to understand. In fact, many of us are confused about true forgiveness.
About True Forgiveness
True forgiveness is based on the original Aramaic meaning of the word “to cancel.” When you truly forgive someone, you cancel AND release all past wrongs against you. You let go. You move on. YOU are transformed. THIS IS THE REAL MIRACLE — a total transformation INSIDE OF YOU!
It’s not that forgiveness will “right” a wrong of the past. It goes one step beyond that and frees you of the past, thereby transforming your future.
You should note:
The purpose of forgiveness is to heal you — not him… and not the relationship. It’s the medicine for your hurt. It’s the salve for your wounds. Just like any other medicine, no one can take it for you. Forgiveness is something you have to do for yourself.
You wrote: “Honestly, I don’t think I have been in love with him for years, I feel like he destroyed that a long time ago.”
Ask yourself this question: Would you be able to love him if the past were suddenly wiped clean? Because that’s what forgiveness does — it wipes the slate clean. So right now, as you sit reading this, ask yourself: Who would you be in your marriage IF the past were wiped clean?
Finally, you asked: “Do you think there’s a chance he will stop cheating?”
You know the answer to this question better than I do. So, let me rephrase the question a bit:
What you really want to know is… Is this a compulsive habit? Will he always cheat, no matter what?
Underneath that question is another question:
Is there any way I can make him change his cheating behavior and guarantee he stops?
And underneath that question is the reality: FEAR.
I can’t control him. I can’t change him. And this makes me afraid.
Marie, welcome to the reality of relationships.
You’ve just uncovered some of the deepest, darkest fears that we human beings carry around with us. When it comes to those we love, our loving them is NOT enough to change them, control them or make them love us back.
Now, back to your question: Is there a chance he will stop cheating? Of course, there’s always a chance. People change everyday — babies become toddlers, teenagers become adults, alcoholics become sober, and drug users go clean. It’s not up to you or me to put any limits on what a human being can do once they truly want to do it.
And therein lies the dilemma.
It’s never a matter of “can” he change. It’s simply a matter of IS he motivated to learn?
What do I mean by “motivated to learn”?
Well, in my opinion, I believe serial cheating comes mainly out of immaturity. So, it’s not so much about “change” as it is about “growth” — and for people to grow, they have to be willing to learn.
He has to be willing to look at his behavior and find out what’s driving it. He has to become willing to look inside and face himself. This is of course the scariest thing for people to do. To look within. To learn about ourselves. And yet, this is the only way we grow.
So, a better question is this:
Would he be willing to learn how to live within his own integrity and find ways to get all the love he wants honestly? Would he be willing to learn what it means to have what you want, and want what you have? Would he be willing to learn how to love himself (and others) in ways that perfectly match his desires and harm no one? Those are questions only he can answer. It’s not up to you. You can’t save him. You can’t force him to grow. You can’t change him.
What can you do?
You can love him (warts and all). Love him (shadow-side and all). Love him (failures, disappointments and all). Love him in spite of all the reasons not to love him.
1st Forgive him. 2nd Then love him. 3rd Then decide.
Do you want to continue on your life path with him as your partner or not? When you make a decision based on LOVE (not fear), it’s always the right decision. You don’t have to worry about the outcome, because everything flows to you without effort.
I have faith you found some insights and ideas here that are useful to you, as you move through your process of healing and recovery. For more insights on this topic, read my article: “Healing the Hurt You Didn’t Deserve.”