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Hey, guy, you may now be trustworthy, but she doesn't have to trust you

You may now be trustworthy, but she doesn't have to trust you

Q: I ended a long-distance relationship in a terrible way: by falling in love with someone else while my girlfriend was on the other side of the world, having an affair, and lying to both my girlfriend and the new flame. I went to see my girlfriend and ended it, then came clean to the other woman, who quite understandably wanted nothing to do with me.

I went through a period of intense self-reflection, got my life back into some semblance of order and was eventually taken back by the other woman. Although our reunion was intense and love was professed, she told me we still had serious trust issues to work through.

Then I had to go overseas for a month. We stayed in almost constant touch and hopes were running high. The week before I came home, she told me she still didn't trust me, could never trust me, and didn't want to see me again. I'll add that infidelity has plagued her family in the past and the above occurred as she was going through a difficult period with her job and finances.

I am a bit shattered. I know I deserve to suffer for lying, but I have also made a real effort at transforming.

Since she took me back I have been honest, and while this isn't noteworthy in and of itself, does it conversely merit being completely shut out? Whereas I felt like I didn't deserve to speak to her after lying to her, things feel different now given my current honesty. Or are they?

Hurt and Confused

A: They're different — for you. You're comfortable with your new, honest self because, hello, you're the one who knows exactly when you're lying.

You did apparently do all the right things to clean up the mess you made — but that only gets you halfway. The other half is up to her.

It's possible that, for her, nothing has changed. How is she to know whether you underwent "intense self-reflection," or just a shrewd campaign to win her back? She'll never be sure-sure either way.

All she has — all any of us has — is the sum of general experience (with people), and specific experience (with one person). In her general experience, people cheat and lie. In her specific experience, you cheat and lie. Some people can add new information and extrapolate a different outcome, and some people, emotionally, just can't.

When people are able to trust again in the wake of betrayal, it's usually a product of time. It's not just time for you to demonstrate, to her satisfaction, that your honesty isn't just an act, though that is important.

She would also need to spend time sorting through her own emotions and frailties, enough for her to be as rational as you're asking her to be. And that often adds up to more hard work than people are able or willing to take on. They want the sure-sure that doesn't exist.

Of course, this is all rhetorical; she doesn't want to see you again. Choosing not to respect her wishes is no way to regain her trust. All you can do is better yourself for your own sake. And, perhaps, thank her, for doing you the painful favor of knowing her limits so well.

Hey, guy, you may now be trustworthy, but she doesn't have to trust you 09/11/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 2, 2010 4:33pm]
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