I have quite a few conversations with my readers on the topic of commitment, often around the issue of people not taking their profile down as you enter a committed relationship.
While emailing with one reader this week, I was reminded of something my wife did that was very helpful early in our relationship. I’m hoping passing along her approach will be helpful to others who are now considering entering a relationship after having been cheated on.
Here was her approach:
- As we started to enter a committed relationship, she was open and honest with me about how much hurt she had felt when she had been cheated on by someone she totally trusted
- Throughout the early months, as she was feeling insecurity, she didn’t hold it in. She would talk to me about it. Never accusing me, just a conversation to say, “I’m still struggling with my past affecting my view of relationships”.
This was just a natural approach for her but I’d like to talk about some of the benefits we saw in the first few months because of her approach.
It’s Not Just Stating the Obvious
I almost didn’t write this article because I was thinking to myself, “Telling people to talk about having been cheated on is stating the obvious”. Letting them know that may be stating the obvious, but I think this approach is much more than that.
I think the goal in discussing how you were hurt shouldn’t be to get them to understand your past; it should be to have them understand where you are today. It shouldn’t be:
I was cheated on in such-and-such a way.
Instead, it should be much more along these lines:
I was cheated on and here’s how I’m dealing with it today. This is how it made me feel and I should warn you that I might react poorly in situation X or Y but please try to be understanding.
My wife was very clear with me that certain things were going to make her suspicious and that she was going to struggle to trust me fully. She gave us a very strong starting point as I understood more clearly what she was going to be sensitive to. So don’t just make it about the past. Make it about what you can do to ensure you have a more successful future.
But when and how do you bring something like this up?
Honesty and Timing
Approached the wrong way, having this conversation can scare someone off so here are my thoughts on approaching this situation:
My opinion is that this should come up as you begin to see the relationship start to move to the next stage of the relationship. My wife brought this up about halfway through our first date. I think anyone could have seen that we were totally smitten with each other from the start and looking back I realize she was using the first half of the date to feel me out; to be sure that her initial feelings were going to stick around.
However, the first date may not be the best point for you. It might be your second or third date or maybe even longer. The point is this: as you see yourself ready to make a commitment and you feel that commitment will be returned, it’s time to have the conversation.
Now you can talk about having been cheated on much earlier than this. However, getting brutally honest about how you felt and how you see that affecting your relationship, I think that needs to come at the point where you’re both committed to each other or very close to that point.
It seems that many readers are more willing to open up to me than to the people they date! I’ve said recently, a lot of times when I get an email asking for advice what I want to tell the person is, “You need to send this email to the person you’re dating!”
The point is that we often hold things back from the person we’re dating even though we might be willing to share those feelings with a stranger. Maybe we’re worried they wouldn’t accept us or that we’ll sound odd. Whatever the reason, in this case you need to be as open and honest as you can be.
And again, honesty doesn’t just mean being honest about how you felt in the past. You need to be honest about your concerns: both concerns of being cheated on again and your concerns of overreacting to normal situations because you’re been hurt in the past.
I imagine a lot of people already do what I’m describing above. However, if you stop there, I think it can create challenges in your new relationship.
With my wife, when she was feeling vulnerable, she let me know. When she was angry because she was thinking about the past, she generally let me know. This isn’t to say she was never caught off guard by her emotions or that I was always understanding of where she was at. It’s just to say that being intentional about where you are and how you are feeling is a good thing.
I think the big benefit here was she was enabling me to understand where she was and to be understanding when emotions got high. We weren’t having these conversations ever day or even every week. It didn’t consume our relationship but it was very helpful to maintaining the health of it.
So don’t think I’m saying that every day you need to be talking about where you’re at emotionally. But on the bad days, let them know. If you are feeling suspicious, let them know. You don’t have to attack, just come from the place of wanting to understand the area where you have concern. They already understand where you’re coming from and should be happy to help relieve your fears.
Another Benefit to This Approach
Today, a lot of women struggle to get the men their dating to take their profile down. Women who have been cheated on can understandably be particularly sensitive to his profile being up as they are entering a committed relationship.
I think taking the approach discussed here makes it much easier to have the conversation. Something like:
Even though I trust you, your profile being up really hurts me. You know how sensitive I am about that sort of thing and I feel horrible right now
What guy is going to leave his profile up after that?! Because you have laid the groundwork for where you’re coming from, hopefully an issue many women struggle with is resolved very quickly for you.
How I Benefited from this Approach
Had my wife not been open with me, I think our relationship would have been much more difficult! I’d like to think we’d have made it through it just fine, but it was so valuable that my wife wanted me to understand exactly where she was at. This made handling the situations over those first few months so much easier.
What about you? Have you been cheated on and then gotten back into the dating world? Am I way off in my thoughts? Or any suggestions that I’m missing? Feel free to leave a comment!