Question: Dear Luise: I was an insecure child who was always looking for love outside my home. My parents fought when I was a child and that affected me. I have always been hypersensitive. All along I made the wrong choices…men who were wrong. I don’t know why I let myself be traded physically in return for some ephemeral feeling of security. At the end of it I feel like I have lost everything through my physicality in havoc-filled, unsteady relationships and, worse, one-night stands. I was going on a track of no return when I met someone who was a real friend. He showed me a mirror to my life and helped me see the error of my ways. To me he is a godsend, except that I didn’t realize it then. I plunged headlong into a marriage, which he silently attended as the best friend possible, and then I ran out on that marriage in a month. My friend was still willing to support me through and help me get my life back on track. I then did the unimaginable… uncaring, I broke the one promise I made him… that I wouldn’t sleep with anyone again till I had my own life in order. I cheated on him. The commitment was not in words, but in spirit and I broke it. He has been devastated. It acted like shock therapy for me and I over-worked myself trying to win him back. I realized that this was the only genuine thing in my life. I laid clear my past, all the details of which I still had not told him. Today, I no longer have the old life I once lived. I don’t move in those circles. I am not in contact with anyone else, nobody I know today knows about my past. It will be terrible to be confronted with it for either him or me. He was on the verge of a breakdown when I steered him back. As sensitive and intense, if not more, as me, I know he still hurts. We are together, have been so for the past two years (after the two havoc-filled years since we met)… but there are so many holes in our fabric. He says some innocence and trust has been lost permanently. I am determined to get it back. I want to hear his laughter as I did when I first met him. Needless to say, I love him more than life itself. But how do I convince him? He is always riddled by this insecurity that my pattern of life will not change. He is not sure, when I may betray him next, even though he is not irrational and acknowledges the changes and efforts I have made. He is a more stressed and quick-to-temper person now. We live in different countries due to our work and fight over the phone, but also love each other immensely. I am insecure that there are women better than me and ashamed that he may think someone else is better. This is irrational since he is still with me, but I guess I have a backlog fear of being dished the same fare that I handed out at one point. I am trying to move to his city quickly, to be completely available. I know the onus of this relationship is now on me. Still it hurts terribly when he brings up my past habits and behavior. I keep telling him we should forget about it and move on. I no longer want to make the mistakes I have made earlier. I want a stable and happy family life that I craved for as a child. More than that I want him to be happy and free, full of joy. The problem is, I know, even if he tells me to leave him sometimes, he needs me and is not the kind of person to ever look for someone else. I wish I knew how to rebuild the trust he once had in me implicitly. How can I rid myself of my guilt and any shadow of the past? I wish I could make him believe that the worst will truly never happen to him again. Please help me. How can I win his faith and love back? How do I become even stronger? It is true that I have had a pattern and that scares me… but the minute I think of him, I am sure I could never do anything misplaced ever again… besides… after experiencing true love… it is not possible to ever even desire anything else, which is how I feel. Most of all, I feel a loss of my innocence. I wish I could reclaim this innocence and give it to him. I know innocence can melt hearts and wounds away. Please help me. I know this is so complex… you don’t even know me. Perhaps you can get some idea about the situation, if not the depth of it. M.
Answer: Dear M. He is right…innocence and trust have been lost. When they are gone, they’re gone. That doesn’t mean that you can’t build something solid together but it has to be real, with all of the past acknowledged and then let go of. It’s possible for two wounded people to then heal and build a new foundation for a new life but letting go has to come first and be sincere and consistent.
Unfortunately, it’s also possible to revert to old patterns and old needs…you have to choose. Priorities have to carry some real strength behind them and both of you need to know that there are never any guarantees. Not with anyone, ever. We’re all fallible.
You can agree to give it your best, both of you. That’s the only option open for any of us, no matter what our track record has been. Some of us are probably a better bet than others but nothing is written stone. We can and do change!
The trap many of us fall into is feeling wronged and let down. We become victims and we feel sorry for ourselves. We get attached to all of that blaming and like it better than trying anew from a positive perspective. Again, it’s a choice if we do that.
Talk about it. Get your thoughts and feelings out into the open. See what’s left and what you want to do about it. Can you agree on an approach that will work for both of you? It’s going to take a team-effort. Blessings, Luise