I have been in a relationship with my kid’s father for almost 9 years. Two years ago, he slept with another woman and there is a possibility he is her twin’s father. I don’t know how to forgive him for that still. And also about a week ago, I found out that he had been talking to other women and has gone on a date with one of them about a month ago. He says he loves me and wants this relationship to work, but I find it hard to believe because this isn’t the first time I have caught him. I think I stay because we have children together, but I do not trust him. I am willing to trust him again, I just want to move past it, forgive and forget. But I find this hard to actually accomplish. I am in love with him and I want this to work, but I’m afraid he will do it again. Please help, and thanks for listening.
Thanks for the opportunity to serve. There seems to be much more to your question than the actual question you are asking. First thing that comes to mind is the fact that your partner may have fathered children outside of the primary relationship. It seems to me that you’d want to confirm if this is a fact or not. Why is this important? Well, for one thing, the “not knowing” whether or not these are his twins could hamper the rebuilding of trust between the two of you.
And speaking of trust…
You say that you want to stay (or have stayed) in the relationship because you have children and yet you don’t trust him. This brings up a couple of red flags.
Red Flag #1: A relationship without trust is NOT a relationship.
This is because “trust” is the foundation and the substance that all relationships are built on. So to say you are in a “relationship” with someone you don’t trust is the same as saying you are living in a home without a roof. It may have the “structure” and yet it’s missing a very important component. There’s no security, no safety and no true intimacy without trust.
So Job #1 for you is to realize that when the trust was broken two years ago… so was the relationship. And since the trust was never repaired, neither was the relationship. So in essence, you’ve both been living in a broken relationship for some time now. The challenge with living in a relationship without trust is that it’s like living in a house with a broken window — the lack of security only makes things worse.
What does this all mean?
It’s my opinion that this latest indiscretion is simply a continuation of his previous. Your partner is no different today than he was two years ago. His pattern of behavior remains the same. You’ve got to be willing to come to terms with this reality. And when I say come to terms, I don’t mean get mad or angry. I mean it’s time to come out of denial about what you are dealing with.
Red Flag #2: Staying for the sake of the children
To teach is to demonstrate. This means that teaching is done in many ways. I believe, above all, teaching is done by example. History has taught us that our children do not listen to what we say… they follow what we do. I’m convinced, more than anything, it’s the example you set that sets them up for success or failure in life. And one of the most important areas you teach your kids is in this area of relationships. Think about it. Isn’t it by actually watching YOU that they learn how to be and what to expect in THEIR future relationships? I want you to also ask yourself two more questions. When they become adults, would you want them to make the same decisions you’ve made? Are you living the example you’d want them to follow?
Why these questions are important.
If you stay in a relationship out of love for your children (and not out of love for your partner), you create the kind of home that provides the basic needs — but lacks the emotional substance. That “emotional substance” is the sense of trust, affection, respect and mutual support that sets a healthy example for your children to model. And while providing the basic needs has its price… being able to provide that emotional substance is priceless.
What does this all mean? Well here it is in a nutshell.
ONE: Stay for the love — not the fear of loss.
It’s my opinion that you stay in a relationship because you love the person you are in the relationship with. It’s the love that holds you, binds and keeps you trying. Let the love in your heart be the reason — not the children. Why is this important? Because if you believe you are sacrificing your happiness for your children, eventually you will become bitter about it. This means you will have to “lose” in order for your children to win. And that type of arrangement has a tendency to backfire in the long run. So don’t use the “children” as the excuse to stay. Let the love you feel for your partner be enough to stay… in spite of all the reasons to walk away. Because here is the beautiful truth: At the end of the day… love is stronger than betrayal. (I’ve come to believe that it’s the only thing that actually is).
TWO: It’s time for the monogamy talk.
From your email, it appears to me that you and your partner are on two different pages when it comes to monogamy. It seems that you believe it’s necessary part of being in a marriage and in love and your partner does not.
Here’s the thing to keep in mind.
Love and monogamy are NOT attached like Siamese twins. They go well together like peanut butter and jelly — but they are two separate things. So of course, a man can love you and NOT be monogamous, and a man can be monogamous and not be in love. That’s because monogamy is not hardwired into humans like in penguins. This means that monogamy is a choice (a very intelligent one if you ask me). However, because it’s a choice… people can choose to be monogamous or not. Some people believe monogamy is the way to go and others don’t. The challenge is when people lie about their true beliefs.
This is why…
Deception is the real dysfunction of your relationship. What I mean is this. If he’s not a monogamous guy — you need to know the truth and be willing to face this together. You need to talk about it in a safe non-judgmental way. If you don’t feel you can talk about this by yourselves, then I suggest you find a gentle therapist to help facilitate this process of disclosure because it’s more important to know what you are up against (even if it’s unpleasant) that you bury your head in the sand.
THREE: Whether you stay or walk away — forgiveness is totally needed.
IF you stay and rebuild, then forgiveness is necessary; and if you want away, forgiveness is still necessary. Why? Because forgiveness is for you. How could this be true? It’s true because forgiveness frees you from your own painful thoughts, your own negative judgments your own contempt and your own suffering. So when you forgive others, you are the one that benefits. In other words… forgiveness is not a favor you do for him. It’s something you do for you. (Interesting right?) Once you recognize that forgiveness is for you… the willingness to forgive happens naturally.
But notice I said “until you become willing to forgive.” Here’s the thing: Many people say they “want to forgive” but when it comes right down to it, they are not “willing to actually forgive.” It’s sort of like the difference between wanting to lose weight vs. joining a gym and going to workout every day. One is passive and the other is active. When you are willing to forgive, it means you are willing to do what it takes to actually do it. This includes giving up the things that block forgiveness… like anger, pride and the need to punish. To read more about this, read my article: The Secrets to Forgiving Infidelity.
I must warn you that when it comes to forgiving a cheating man… reading about it is not enough — for the same reason you can’t lose weight by reading about it… you can’t lose the weight of unforgiveness by reading about it either. You must experience it, practice and become inspired to do it. If this make sense to you, then check out my home study coaching program called Infidelity Recovery 101. This course guides you through my six steps of recovery… from anger to healing, from bitterness to forgiveness and from suffering to finding happiness after infidelity. Remember: You can still do this on your own — but you don’t have to do it alone.