"Can I trust my man who has cheated before?"

(PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES/GALLO IMAGES).
(PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES/GALLO IMAGES).

QUESTION

I’ve been with my man and father of my two children for almost five years but I can’t trust him. He’s cheated on me so many times and I keep forgiving him – but I’ve never actually trusted him again.

As a result of these trust issues, I’m insecure in our relationship. When he goes out with his friends, I worry that he might be lying and really going to his nyatsis.

How do I overcome these trust issues? Why is trust important in a relationship and how can we, as a couple, work around the issue so that I don’t feel so insecure? WORRIED WIFE  

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MOVE! EXPERT ADVICE

While cheating in a relationship is universally seen as a negative, the question of what to do when your partner’s been unfaithful is a tough one. It’s always easy to say what to do in the abstract, like many who’d say drop him like a bad habit.

Or some may even say stand by him, forgive and forget. But when it’s your relationship, suddenly what seems clear-cut and simple becomes a lot more complicated. However, if you both decide to give the relationship another chance, it’s important that you both be all in. As such, we advise as follows:

TRUST AND HONESTY

If your man truly wants to save the relationship, he’ll have to opt for rigorous honesty, and commit to a path of trust restoration. And no, trust is not automatically restored simply because he says the infidelity has stopped. Trust is regained through consistent and sometimes emotionally painful truth-telling and accountability.

Basically, he must commit to living differently and abiding within certain boundaries, the most important being ongoing, rigorous honesty about absolutely everything, all the time. He needs to start to fearlessly tell the truth no matter what, even when he knows it might upset you.

DECIDE IF YOU WANT TO RECONCILE

Forgiveness is a choice. It doesn’t mean what he did is fine, nor does it mean that you are fine with it. How much you trust your partner is partly about what he does, and partly a function of whether you have confidence to handle it if he disappoints you again.

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Ultimately, it’s about how much you trust yourself. The sobering reality of forgiveness is realizing that you’re forgiving an imperfect person. There are no guarantees that he won’t do it again or won’t find more cunning ways of cheating so that you won’t find out.

Or if you were to leave him, there’s also no guarantee that you’ll meet someone who won’t cheat on you. Fact is, our imperfect nature makes all of us susceptible to cheating. The only way to determine if you’re ready to trust again is to honestly assess if you’d be able to handle it if he were to cheat on you again.

If you both decide to reconcile, the process will demand that he cooperate with any measures you agree to put in place to make it difficult for him to cheat again.

If there’s disagreement in this regard, not only will it be difficult – more likely near impossible – for you to risk being vulnerabe and trust again, but reconciliation won’t be achieved. If this is the case, then there comes a point where you will have to draw a line and say, “This is it. I’m done. I’m not mad at you. I’m withdrawing my feelings and emotions from this relationship. You can do whatever you want with your life, but I won’t be part of it. I won’t live like this anymore, ever.”

MAKE YOUR MOVE

Be honest about whether you really want to put this behind you. Or is there a payoff you get by letting the situation drag on with indecision? Do you enjoy playing the victim or subjecting your partner to a life sentence of guilt even if he is sincere, genuinely apologetic and has taken positive and realistic steps to reconcile and rebuild trust?

It’s unfair to claim that you’ve forgiven him and continue with the relationship, but keep throwing the cheating in his face. You need to take your time healing before you embark on the process of reconciliation, otherwise you’ll eventually run him away.

Ask yourself if this is going to be a life sentence for him. What will it take for you to forgive him, heal and move forward? Have you communicated what you want from him, and is he doing everything he can to show you that he is willing to put in the hard work?

It’s not fair on either of you to remain in a relationship where your genuinely repentant partner is slapped with his mistakes all the time, or that you stay in a relationship that is toxic and one you should clearly get rid of.