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46.CONFUSED & HURT



Q: I recently found out that my partner of the last four years has been cheating on me. By his own admission, the cheating has been over a period of three years, involving at least 12 men that he remembers.
From the start, we were committed to a monogamous relationship and therefore had unprotected sex. (One of the first things we did is run to the health clinic and get tested for HIV and STDs. Luckily, we both tested negative.)

When I first found out, it was as if someone close to me had died. I cried for a week straight. Now he is asking for my forgiveness and wants to be "us" again. I am willing to give him another chance. This is the first real relationship both of us have had. He claims that he did not have much experience before and just wanted to have some stories to tell. That, along with raging hormones, caused him to act the way he did.
Is there any way to forget about the past and start anew? Will I always have these feelings of doubt in my mind, or will that pass?

Confused and Hurt

A: Dear Confused Sir,

In fact, since you've decided to continue your relationship with this man, I suggest that you not forget the past -- at least for the foreseeable future. I think you'd be wise to retain some doubtful caution while involved in a relationship with someone who had lied to you so enthusiastically and endangered your health so cavalierly (I mean, we're not talking about a one-time blunder after too many martinis on a business trip -- we're talking about a systematically dishonest approach to having a relationship). If you acknowledge the past and work with your boyfriend on the serious problems that have recently come to light, you may be able to "start anew."
Now, allow me to add something: Your boyfriend acted like an extremely selfish, unbelievably immature jerk. I can't help but wonder whether being single wouldn't be better than being involved with someone like that. ("Stories to tell"? Spare me! Whom was he planning to tell? He wasn't going to tell you, apparently.) I hope you've considered that possibility, too.

But maybe he has changed -- people often do -- and for your sake, I hope he has. I hope he has learned that if you love someone and are in a monogamous relationship with him, you talk to him -- or do him a favor and break up with him -- when your "raging hormones" (a pitifully poor excuse) are in danger of turning you into a habitual liar and a remorseless cheat.

There are people who might advise you that "men are men, and men can't control their sexual urges" -- thus forgiving your boyfriend's behavior. Don't believe it. Sure, some guys can't control their sexual urges. But a real man is at least honest with his boyfriend about this sort of fundamental personality trait.

Dr. Luv



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