I’ve been open and honest with my boyfriend by admitting that I’ve cheated in past relationships. Now he says it’s my fault that he feels hurt and angry when I go out with friends or even chat with the butcher. How do I convince him that I love him and I won’t betray him?
You can’t. You can tell him a thousand times that you love him. You can tell him over and over that you’ve learnt your lesson and you’ll never cheat again. None of it will make any difference. He doesn’t believe you. And he has got a point. Why do you need to convince him? The more defensive you are the less he will trust you.
Whenever we vigorously defend our position, we send a subtle message that conflicts with what we are saying. Defending our actions so earnestly means we have underlying doubts about them.
Shakespeare illustrated this in his play Hamlet. Ophelia is desperately defending her honour to Hamlet. Hamlet is unconvinced and says to his friend, “Methinks, she protests too much.” This is a timeless saying that we still use today when we feel suspicious about the defensiveness of another. How do you know with certainty that you won’t cheat on him again? I am sure you didn’t approve of cheating before you cheated. And yet it happened. Your defensiveness means you still feel guilty about it. You have not healed. Whatever impelled you to cheat has not been dealt with.
Your boyfriend has some issues of his own. He feels very insecure. He thinks his girlfriend will cheat on him. It’s not personal. No matter who is his girlfriend, he will have these insecurities. Your admission about cheating just triggered the fears that were already in the back of his mind.
You cannot do anything about his insecurities. He is the only one who can address them. At the moment he is not ready to do this. He is blaming you. He sees the cause of his discomfort as external. He doesn’t realise his problem is within him.
Don’t bother to tell him this. It will make no difference. The only thing that ever makes any difference is love and acceptance. And that is your task. You need to learn to love and accept yourself so you can love and accept him. Only then might you find him awakening and beginning to change.
To accept yourself, you need to address your guilt. There’s a good reason why you cheated and you need to find what it was. Most likely you were feeling loss, loneliness, anger, abandonment or something similar. Accept and explore this feeling.
When you are at peace with yourself, you can stop being so defensive. Instead, reassure him that you love only him. Explain that you need to go out with friends and talk to people. This is a part of who you are.
Don’t allow him to control you with his moodiness or accusations. Ignore his dysfunctional feelings apart from saying that you understand he is afraid of being betrayed and you know he has these uncomfortable jealous feelings. Tell him very clearly that they are his feelings and he needs to deal with them because you are not doing anything that justifies such feelings. Be a broken record if he continues to blame you. Walk away any time you feel threatened or uncomfortable.
Accepting him as he is gives him the strength to change if that is what he wants. if he doesn’t want to address his jealousy, a healthy, functional relationship with him is impossible. If you value yourself, you will leave and find someone who values your honesty.