Can She Ever Fully Trust Her Boyfriend?



Barb asks:


Two years ago, and a few months before we started dating, my boyfriend came very close to sleeping with a married friend. They had been drinking at his home and although he was very close to being fully intimate with her and was in stages of undress, claims he stopped it right before they slept together. They then went to sleep and never really spoke about it again although he did promise not to tell anyone. They remain friends and her husband does not know. Recently, it was his 29th birthday and we made a small barbecue at my apartment. During the barbecue, I felt uncomfortable and sensed that she was ignoring me. She and a friend wanted to go out dancing while their husbands went home. I told my boyfriend to go with them because I was still cleaning up and because I am studying for the bar and truly couldn't take off any additional time. I also noticed he had been drinking a lot and the girls had made me feel unwelcome. Although I explained that I would go to a closer place, he said he believed that they would not switch plans and so he did not ask if we could go to a closer bar—he left with them although I was visibly upset.

I got angry because he got back late and was very drunk. I repeatedly asked him that night and the next day if anything had ever happened with either of the girls. He kept insisting that nothing had ever happened and that he was not at all attracted to either of them. Eventually, I forgave him after a few days of tense interaction. About a week later, in the context of a conversation where I told him that I really wished he opened up more, he told me that they had almost been intimate before we starting dating. Although I asked numerous times if their dancing on his birthday was at all risqué, he insisted that it was not.


When I confronted the girl, she told me that they were dancing very closely together but that nothing more serious had happened. He explained that they danced very closely but that she initiated and he pulled away after 15 minutes. It has been a couple of weeks and I told him that I would try to make us work, after his repeated statements of love and begging for forgiveness, but I still wonder if I can ever trust him again. I believe that he has always been faithful to me, but I also think that when he is drinking, he loses control and has and continues to make major mistakes. While evidence indicates that he may at times drink too much, I do not think he suffers from any serious alcohol abuse problems although he does have a family history of the disease. 


A lot of my concern stems from the fact that his intimacy and ongoing friendship with a married woman makes me believe that he lacks the appropriate respect for marriage, something we have been discussing quite seriously. I believe he kept her in his life because he is somewhat lonely for more friends and because the mistake happened one time when he was single and wanting a warm body (she initiated) and they have been friends since they were 12 years old. I also believe that he does not have any particular attraction to her. I also understand that people, myself included, make romantic mistakes. At the same time, we have the sort of relationship structured on honesty and trust—the kind that is built on a close friendship. I have not decided whether I should break up with him over this given my feelings that he disrespected and lied to me. He has, and despite this episode, continues to be the most supportive and loving boyfriend I have ever had. At the same time, I do not know if it makes sense to stay with someone who it may not make sense to trust.


I think you're trying to rationalize a situation that, on its face, shows all signs of being problematic and a threat to your relationship.


Let's first address your boyfriend's long-term friendship with a woman that he almost slept with. Girl, no. You don't have to be The Cool Girlfriend here. You are well within your rights to put your foot down and say you're not comfortable with her or that you don't like her. Women are always accused of being possessive or territorial or just plain crazy if they express anything other than effusive praise for another woman. You can defend her right to equality in all forms and still think she's sketchy. Those are two different issues.


What I sense is that your man and this woman have a co-dependent relationship that stems back to childhood. She's comfortable to him and vice versa. Maybe he's the one that got away for her. Maybe she for him. Neither is important. She married someone else and he's with you. That means that their days of seductively dirty dancing are over.


That he still hangs out with her is not so much a sign that he doesn't respect the marriage and a huge glaring sign that he doesn't respect your relationship or you. It's fine that these two wish to remain friends. While I'm not a big advocate of close male/female friendships (key word being close) they are not required to sever ties because they're in relationships with other people, They are, however, expected to alter the boundaries of their friendship out of respect for their significant other. Neither of them are doing that.


Whether there's an underlying attraction is irrelevant here. They serve as crutches for each other, a safety net should their respective relationships fall apart. They are also each other's guarantee that they will never fully commit to anyone. That's your biggest hurdle here, not the fear that he might cheat or doesn't respect marriage. It's not possible infidelity that threatens your relationship, it's his willingness to acknowledge that his friendship with this woman is inappropriate.


I could suggest that you ask him to scale back his friendship with this woman, but you shouldn't even have to ask, It should have been a given. You can try this approach, but something tells me he'll just lie and agree then sneak around behind your back. Confronting her is useless because she, too, will just lie to you to preserve the friendship.


My closing thought: Until this relationship is out of his life, he'll never be able to fully commit to you in the way you need in order to feel secure. Until he becomes cognizant of the fact that this thing with his female friend is unhealthy, he's not going to get why you're so worried.


I think you know what to do.


What do you guys think? Share your thoughts in the comments. All opinions welcome.

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