Cheaters gonna cheat

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My boyfriend cheated on me three times. I forgave him. After the last time, he changed. We’ve been together for two years now and are stronger than ever. I trust him, and I know he loves me. I know that he would never cheat again, but he acts like I will. How can I reassure him that I would never cheat?

You can ply him with every sweet word in the dictionary, but it won’t help. Your boyfriend can’t be reassured until he admits what you don’t want to hear: He still struggles against the temptation to betray you. By pretending that the problem is yours, he distracts you and himself. In the process, he creates a split between the man he is and the man he wants you to think he is. Our lifework as humans includes the integration of opposing internal forces, so splitting is troublesome. Secret behavior like cheating is a symptom of a split.

Forgiving your man three times for cheating doesn’t make you an especially loving person nor the best girlfriend ever. It just means you are willing to put up with cheating. Low self-esteem could lead you to tolerate a cheater, and low self-esteem propels some people to cheat. It’s time to peel back the layers of your lives. You and your man should make separate appointments with two different psychotherapists to learn how to pull yourselves together, as individuals, and as a couple.

My wife and I are divorced with shared custody of our children. I have always appreciated your advice for parents. Our eldest daughter starts middle school in August. I know she’s a good kid, but I want to set appropriate ground rules. What do you think is the right age for kids to date?

You mean “hang out,” right? The word “dating” is outdated. Group activities help preteens learn to socialize, so clubs, youth groups and community service are ideal. But I’m not a fan of preteens hanging out one on one with a crush, because too often it escalates at the speed of light. Preteen (and many teen) relationships resemble supernovas. In the space of, say, three weeks, two kids crush, fall madly into infatuation, experiment sexually, then break up. Afterward, at least one of the pair hits the wall: depressed, angry, confused and sometimes suicidal. Their emotions and behavior resemble adults divorcing after a 20-year marriage, not kids ending a 21-day relationship. The reasons why it happens include the developmental stage of the adolescent brain, our culture’s fascination with soft porn, the accessibility of social media, and parents distracted by careers and their own roller-coaster relationships. Your daughter may be annoyed when she hears you won’t allow her to date in middle school, but you’ve done her a favor. Now, all she has to say is, “My dad’s so mean! He won’t let me date!” and she’s free of a potentially harmful situation.

My ex-boyfriend set me up with a friend of his, and we had a great coffee date. When we parted, he asked if I would like to go out again. I said yes. I sent him a text saying I can’t wait to go out again. He didn’t text back. I called saying I hoped he was OK. He never responded. My ex-boyfriend says he doesn’t know anything. I don’t believe him. Why did he set me up with a loser? Why did this guy ask me if I wanted to go out if he had no intention of following through?

You had coffee together, not a child. Why are you so intent on feeling rejected? Celebrate your desire to date instead of obsessing about a few hours on one day with one man.

Meditation of the Week

“Film is a record of the ever-changing face of God,” says a character in the film <i>Waking Life</i>. Where do you encounter the Divine?