Can we get past broken trust?

-- Question for John --

I found out my boyfriend had an account with an dating website. I found out he had the account and was looking for a girl for a relationship. I thought I was going to die. I read emails sent to him from girls. I was torn, I didn’t know if I should confront him or not. I, the one who was betrayed was worried about him thinking I was snooping.

Because I thought like this, for almost 3 hours I hardly said 20 words to him. He knew something was bothering me and kept asking what it was and to look at him. I lost all control. I told him I can’t look at you because I will hurt you! He immediatly asked if it was the on-line thing. It blew up from there. He keeps saying how much he’s sorry and loves me. I told him how it made me feel, like everything he has ever said or done for me and us was ripped apart. I can’t hear the words ” I LOVE YOU ” from him anymore, because they seem so empty and hollow. I told him he can’t love me, because what he did IS NOT love. I feel that this person I loved for the past 2 years never even exisited. I look at pictures of us together and wonder who that is, or how could I have been so blind?

He has deleted his account on-line, and claims he wants to work this out. I don’t know if I can. Inside my head there is all these emotions and memories of us that flash before me. I can’t make any sense of it. I think that I will always wonder what if I did find out when I did, whould things have progressed with this on-line interest. Everytime when I am not with him I will be wondering is he online with another account at some singles web page? Or when he leaves to goto the store, is he also gonna stop at a pay phone to call some girl? He indeed does know all of this. I don’t know if I can get past it. Am I making a bigger production out of this than I should, considering no sexual relations of any kind was involved? Regardless the pain still hurts.

-- Answer from John --

You have a right to feel confused and hurt. In fact, trust was broken. You both now suffer the consequences of that break. You are not making too big a deal out of it. I could even say you are not making a big enough deal of it.

But I am talking about making a useful deal out of it. I suggest you turn this into a very positive and useful deal between the two of you. Make a deal that could use this upsetting event as the very thing that takes your relationship to the next level of commitment and authentic intimacy.

It is entirely up to you what you decide to do with this incident. You can use it to tear away the last threads of positive connection between the two of you. Or you can use it to serve as a huge warning sign of action the two of you must take immediately in order to build real trust.

All relationships present challenges from time to time. People either face them and grow, or they cut and run. In the meantime, challenges build up in silence, and are avoided due to fear. Actually, people even cut and run due to fear. You are standing at a gateway and the choice is yours how you want to go forward.

If you want to turn this into the blasting powder that can blow away whatever silent issues were not being addressed — issues which obviously led him to think about other options — you can do this. He sounds willing. You have him at a particularly motivated moment. You can use this moment.

But the two of you need to engage in courage rather than fear to do it. If you choose to initiate this positive turn of events, invite him to join you in a process of getting more real with each other. You both need to learn to open up and communicate more authentically. This includes talking about things that are not working.

He obviously held back feelings from you — again, probably out of fear of losing you if he told you what he felt. You both need to open up and learn to use these kinds of challenging held-back feelings as important things to face and deal with in a relationship.

If you do decide to go forward on this basis, it will be uncomfortable at first. You will both be afraid at times. Courage will be required. But love is truly not for wimps. Things come along like this and a couple can choose to use it for positive change — or they can jump to the tune of fear. The two of you can move forward in a very positive direction if you use this event as your springboard for better communication. And I mean by that not avoiding conflict — I mean being more authentic and real, and dealing with uncomfortable feelings.

On the other side of that gateway — as you do indeed deal with the discomfort and begin to show your mutual courage — you will find a big surprise as well. You will also find that stronger intimacy emerges. Along with a more irreplaceable passion for each other — something that is valued and seen to be rare and unique by both parties. So you can use this to build up a stronger sense of solid trust. Because it will be based on talking about the authentic issues and everything will be out in the open. There will be no further secrets or withheld information.

If you choose to make this courageous journey, you will want to take along vital supplies. In this case, you do need to continue to get some outside support — such as this email, for instance. There are different levels of support available.

One is self-help materials — books and tapes. There are many fine authors. I suggest that you really do need more education here, to improve your ability to communicate in emotionally charged waters. We offer many free self-help materials on our website, in addition to this free email advice, including:

If you need further help than that, there is always coaching or counseling. If you want to do that, know that I amavailable by phone and work with lots of people around the country this way.

Ultimately it is up to you what you want to do with this situation. You can decide that it is just too difficult to deal with — or you can give the relationship its best chance for success, and be determined to use this event as a springboard for a more authentic, deep and proven sense of trust — which will emerge from your courage in facing the issues together.

You can use your fear to be a signal that you do want a deeper sense of trust. And use your anger — which I believe is there, and I sense that you may have some difficulty with it — as a strong energy for insisting that the two of you learn and grow from this.