Q. I have been in a long-distance relationship with my boyfriend for six months. We are both going through divorces with our spouses. I moved to another country and he still lives with his soon-to-be-ex-wife due to financial reasons.
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I found out from his wife that they slept together, which he confirms. He said it was a one-time mistake and he loves me very much, and begged that I not end our relationship.
He knows how I feel about cheating. My philosophy is NO second chances. Why should his case be an exception? I love him very much and thought we had great communication and understood the relationship.
He will be visiting me soon to discuss his infidelity and any steps to build back trust, but I do not know if he deserves a second chance. Please advise.
A. When it comes to complicated emotional situations, it is unadvisable to make absolute rules.
You can believe that infidelity is wrong, insist that you would never engage in it and refuse to tolerate a partner who does.
But the world is very different in theory and in practice.
There are some huge red flags that this is a tenuous and vulnerable relationship. Neither of you is divorced yet. In fact, your boyfriend still lives with his wife!
That period before divorce is one of great tumult, pain and uncertainty. In general, it is a bad time to get involved with somebody new.
I would question why your boyfriend even has a new girlfriend when he is not yet divorced. Assuming you knew you were entering into a relationship with somebody still in his marriage and even remaining in the marital home, you knew that this kind of situation was open to all kinds of pressures, including the possibility he might return to his wife.
What’s more, in this already tenuous situation, your relationship is long-distance. And you have further widened the distance by moving to another country! That doesn’t make much sense if you are trying to nurture a partnership.
Yours is far from a solid, defined relationship. It is a fairly new, long-distance relationship during a tumultuous time. You have huge hurdles to overcome. And now, the aftermath of his sleeping with his wife adds further pressures.
So, should this be the exception that deserves a second chance? Only you can decide that.
I think every case is an exception. In other words, every case needs to be considered individually.
What are you trying to preserve or work out? If you are not going to be together soon, what is the point of continuing? If this relationship is to have a chance of working, you must find a way to be in close proximity.
Otherwise, he will be without you nearby, living several feet from his wife. Not that it’s OK for him to betray you, but his betrayal with her can be fairly easily rationalized.
Only you together can decide whether you’ve got something worth salvaging and whether you will take the steps needed to salvage it. You need a plan for going forward. You have moved to another country? It is hard to see how you will be more than pen pals or occasional visitors. Either he must join you there or you must return.
Dr. Gail’s Bottom Line: When it comes to recovering from infidelity, there are no hard-and-fast rules.
Any ideas, suggestions in this column are not intended as a substitute for consulting your physician or mental health professional. All matters regarding emotional and mental health should be supervised by a personal professional. The author shall not be responsible or liable for any loss, injury or damage arising from any information or suggestion in this column.
Dr. Gail Saltz is a psychiatrist with New York Presbyterian Hospital and a regular contributor to TODAY. Her most recent book is “The Ripple Effect: How Better Sex Can Lead to a Better Life” (Rodale). For more information, please visit www.drgailsaltz.com.
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