How to Strengthen Your Relationship/Am I wasting my time?
I'm 23 years-old, and I've been with my 29 year-old boyfriend for 5 years. I'm an emotional wreck, which I believe partly to do with work/financial issues. But mostly because I've had problems with my boyfriend shortly after we started dating with him doing things he shouldn't be doing on the internet.
On at least 10 separate occasions throughout our relationship, I've caught him saving photos on his computer of his female friends in their bathing suits, having cyber sex and saving the screenshots of their conversations, etc. Up until two years ago those were the only issues we argued about. We never bickered about little things around the house, etc. So about two years ago, we were in the middle of trying to move into a house from our apartment, so we had to move in with our own parents- we were living separately for about 4 months. In those 4 months, I cheated on him with a good friend and I confessed to my boyfriend immediately after. It definitely hurt him, and I believe I cheated on him because I felt inadequate in our relationship- like, I can't please my boyfriend and my friend makes me feel pretty. There's no justifying cheating, but unfortunately I didn't feel that bad for doing so because he had been dishonest with me on and off for 3 years. I wanted to break up with him because I felt that, with him constantly doing dirty things behind my back and me cheating on him, we obviously don't love each other enough to not do that.
It's easily the most regrettable thing I've ever done, no matter how my boyfriend treated me. So I stopped talking to my friend, who now lives on the other side of the country so there's no doubt in my boyfriend's mind that I'm cheating on him. I have nothing to hide, and don't plan on doing it again.
Months after I stopped talking to him, my boyfriend and I were trying to patch things up and I thought it was going well. But I had a gut feeling that something was wrong. So of course, being insecure, I looked through his phone- sure enough I found dirty conversations with him and two of our mutual female friends. "Send me a picture of you in a bikini for my birthday," "You've never thought of stripping before? You have boobs, beauty, and personality," "When am I coming over?" This happened last Summer, and I feel like I still haven't gotten over it. He's lied to me so many times that I feel like I still can't trust him. I get mad at him and nag about every little thing now, which I feel may partly be due to stress from work- but it might be because I still don't trust him. I never broke up with him before for the things he was doing, even though I caught him so many times, because I didn't think it was a major thing that warranted us breaking up and not trying. And now I feel like, he's given me a chance to make it up to him for cheating on him, so why shouldn't I give him the chance? I honestly feel like he doesn't feel like it's a huge deal talking dirty/having cyber sex with other girls since it's technically not cheating. But I want him to realize that it upsets me and it IS wrong.
Is there a way to fix our relationship? Am I doing something wrong or is there something I can do to help me forgive him? Or have we just completely betrayed each other's trust and are wasting our time trying to trust each other again?
First, let me just throw this out to you. It came to me a week ago, and maybe you would be interested (http://couplescommittedtolove.com/a/2014/04/air-your-internet-laundry-or-not/
), or maybe not.
You say that he's technically not cheating. Not true. Cheating is whatever you decide it is. You two decide where to draw the line, and if he steps over, it's cheating. You told him how you felt those first three years, and he continued. At that point you needed to have told him to straight out stop, or you would break up. And, then follow through. By not taking a stand, you have shown him that you will accept this behavior, even if you don't like it.
As a result, you became fed up and went elsewhere to feel good about yourself, fixing a wrong with another wrong, cheating on him. That didn't make things any better for either of you. Now, not only do you have reason to mistrust him; now he has reason to mistrust you.
Things seemed to be going well, you said, but obviously they weren't because you felt the need to check his phone. And, you were right, he's still flirting online. Now, you distrust him even more. And, if he finds out you snooped in his phone, he'll distrust you more. It's an endless cycle that you two are participating in, and it won't get any better until you do one of two things:
1. You end it and walk away from this dysfunctional relationship, or
2. You both call a truce and decide you won't blame one another if you both can start from square one and begin to work on your trust issues.
Of course there is a third option. You continue in this relationship the way it is now, with cheating, lying, snooping and mistrusting. You will find you both becoming more and more unhappy. I would suggest you talk to him about trying to patch up this relationship without attacking one another (http://couplescommittedtolove.com/a/reports/make-it-all-about-you/
). If you both can't do it, it's time to walk away.
Here's one more link you might be interested in regarding trust (http://couplescommittedtolove.com/a/reports/trust/