Boyfriend’s confession rocks his once-solid relationship

Staff Writer
Brownwood Bulletin
Jeanne Phillips

DEAR ABBY: My boyfriend of four years recently admitted that he cheated on me six months ago. I was blindsided. Until the day he told me, I thought we shared everything. The hollowness and betrayal I feel is sometimes overwhelming.

He explained that at the time, he was dealing with substance issues and depression, which I was also unaware of. Both have worsened in recent months. How could I have been so blind?

To complicate things further, I have a 6-year-old son who has grown to love this man as a father because my ex-husband walked out on us when he was born. He has been an amazing role model for my son, and overall, a wonderful partner -- or so I thought.

He says he's heartbroken over the pain he's caused me. He recently started receiving treatment for his depression through medication and therapy, and he has begged me to go to couples therapy to rebuild the trust that's been lost.

I was taught to believe that cheating is the end of a relationship, no ifs, ands or buts. I don't want to end the relationship, but I'm struggling with the decision because of what I was taught, especially when I confide in friends and they tell me to dump him.

I wish I knew what to do. I need an objective opinion. Can a relationship survive such a betrayal? Can we be happy again? -- HOLLOW IN NEW YORK

DEAR HOLLOW: The answers to your questions are yes and yes -- especially if both partners are fully committed and prepared to get couples therapy from a licensed professional. If you love this man and want to give this relationship a chance, quit confiding in your friends and start talking with the therapist. Your boyfriend is remorseful, he is also in treatment, and he is trying his best to get better and work things out. Please give him the opportunity to do that because, if you do, your story may have a happy ending.

DEAR ABBY: I am a 26-year-old single woman living alone during quarantine. I have no family who live in-state.

Admittedly, I've struggled with loneliness during quarantine, and my family knows this. For weeks, I have been fending off my dad's attempts to fly cross-country and visit. I don't think it's safe and have told him no.

Today, he told me that he is making plane reservations, it doesn't matter what I say or want. I know this comes from a place of love, but he is completely disregarding my feelings, especially since I have been extremely careful in quarantine and he hasn't been. Is there a way I can keep this visit from happening? -- HOME ALONE IN RHODE ISLAND

DEAR HOME ALONE: Yes, there is. Tell your father plainly you are afraid of being exposed to the virus because he hasn't been as careful about exposure as you have been. If he still insists, tell him he must bring with him proof that he has tested negative, and even then you won't see him unless you are both masked, gloved and practicing social distancing. He should also not plan on staying with you.

If that doesn't discourage him, when he arrives, see him outside and remain 6 feet apart in case he has been exposed at the airport or on the plane.

DEAR ABBY: Last night I visited my 47-year-old son. After a 23-year marriage, he is going through a nasty divorce. While I was there, he asked my opinion about what he should do regarding a "situation."

A 62-year-old female divorced neighbor, who looks much younger, befriended him, and they've been having sex and spending time together for several months. She hasn't been in any relationships for two years.

He told her he's not interested in a permanent relationship because he's still not in a good emotional place, but he told me the real reason is their age difference. She told him she wants to continue, hoping it will lead to something permanent. He wants to be friends with benefits but doesn't want to hurt her feelings by telling her this.

He's a decent guy and feels he's being deceptive. I suggested he be honest and tell her it's because of the age difference. What do you recommend? -- MOM IN THE MIDDLE

DEAR MOM: Does your son think it will hurt the woman's feelings less if he monopolizes her for months -- or more -- and breaks the news later? For some people, a 15-year age difference is no big deal. But the longer this arrangement continues, the more hurt she will be when she finds out how much it matters to him.

I agree with you. Honesty is the best policy. And you know what? If she's as worldly as I suspect she may be, she may agree to continue the arrangement just the way it is.

DEAR ABBY: I am a quilter. I have created hundreds of quilts as gifts for friends and family over the last 30 years.

Earlier this year, my husband's uncle passed away, and my mother-in-law brought his quilt over and gave it back to me. When my mother passed recently, I was given her quilt back, too. Looking at them makes me sad, but I can't bear to just throw them away.

My question is, what do I do with them? And what can I say to people about not returning these gifts I made without hurting their feelings at the time they've lost their loved ones? -- HURT IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR HURT: This is the first I have heard about returning personal gifts to the givers after someone passes away, and frankly, I am surprised. I wonder if the same would be true of gifts of expensive jewelry or clothing?

If it happens again, all you have to say is how sorry you are for the person's loss but that you don't "need" the quilt back and suggest it be donated to a hospital, nursing home, senior center or orphanage. Consider contacting a local church for information on where they might be needed.

As to what to say to these grieving relatives, remember that when a gift is given, it is the recipient's -- or the recipient's survivors -- to do with as they wish. Try not to take it so personally.

DEAR ABBY: What do you say to a guy who resurfaces 10 months after our first encounter and wants to know if I want to "see" him again? He didn't mention going to dinner or a movie or anything -- just seeing each other every 10 days or so. -- UNDECIDED IN FLORIDA

DEAR UNDECIDED: I'm not you, but this is what I would say: "What do you have in mind? A hike? A picnic at the beach? A socially distanced dinner?" And if his answer isn't something more than getting together for sex, I'd pass.