The Coaching Situation

My issues are around infidelity and my ability to trust again once I’ve made a decision to give him another chance. My boyfriend of 2 years, whom I very much love, cheated on me 10 months ago. I’ve been angry, sad, questioning, rude, including grief. He's told me many times how sorry he is and is very remorseful. He got really drunk one night and fondled and kissed a woman, enough to drive me wild. I have checked this out with others who were with them in the bar. He made me feel I was the most beautiful ONLY woman in the world. I don't want to question his every move. Can you help me with this?

I sent a few questions to get more information:

1. How easy or difficult it is for you to trust? How far back into your childhood can you remember feeling that your trust was betrayed? It’s not very easy at all to trust. I’ve been hurt many times by friends, co-workers and boyfriends over the years. This was the first man I fully trusted. My father was an abusive alcoholic, I didn't trust what he or mom said. You learn to believe dreams don't come true. When I was 7 and another holiday was cancelled, I thought, yeah right we’ll never go anywhere. I was right, we never did!

2. What was your relationship like with each of your parents and their relationship with each other? With my dad it was one of disrespect, lies and some hatred. I was proud when he quit drinking, but in his 60's he is still a cynical, miserable bugger. With my mother it was one of pity, mistrust, I felt scared and sorry for her. My dad still talks badly to her, but she's starting to tell him off. I’ve heard my dad brag about my mom and I think he loves her, he just doesn't know how to show it. Mom and I have a close relationship now, I've tried hard to get it that way. She’s helped me a lot with this.

3. What was your parent’s point of view on trusting people? Ha, good one! My dad doesn't trust anyone. Hmmm where do I get that from hey? My mom is generally very quiet and I suppose she trusts her family a great deal, and her girlfriends.

4. How do you verbally/physically express anger, sadness, rudeness, questioning, and grief. Mostly verbal anger. I don't take criticism well, my tone of voice is bad. I can be rude, hurtful when attacked or insulted. I'd lash out instead of sitting back to listen first. I’m trying to get better. In grief, I drank too much. I’ve quit drinking for 10 months. I also isolate myself and have done so with this. I’ve just started going out again. I don't want him to run away because I’m treating him like a child and wanting to know his every move. It’s hell being paranoid all the time, afraid that he’ll hurt me again.

5. Can you pinpoint how far back you felt those feelings? Think about how you felt as a child. As a child, I’ve felt at times that I didn't want to belong to this family. I envied the girls with nice clothes that we couldn't afford. I hated the families that got to go to places. We did nothing. I didn't feel pretty, I felt scared to go to bed, I was angry a lot. No friends would come over cuz of my dad.

6. Has your boyfriend explained what compelled him to do this? What attracted him to her? I’ve asked many times about this. He honestly can't recall the evening past a certain point. He says he’s disgusted with himself, especially when he didn't know who he was with, his friend had to tell him. I think he hates himself for what he did.

7. How's your boyfriend acted since then? How's he responding to your lack of trust? I’m shocked he's hung on, because I treated him badly. I said pretty bad things to him. Since we've decided to try again, he's been attentive to everything I say. We’ve had a couple open honest long talks. Feeling and trust were my main topics. His were he’s afraid we can't have a constructive fight and get over it, that I’ll leave. He's afraid I won't give him the space he once had. I want to trust him again, because we really had a good relationship.

8. Why do you think you can't forgive him and move on from this? I’d really love to forgive him and be a loving person. But I don't know how. Actions speak louder than words. All I can do is believe him until it happens again!!! You can say you love someone, but its different to show it. How do you show forgiveness???

9. Have you been able to express your ongoing feelings to him? Describe your communication. Yes, one night he didn't call. I told him how I felt and that I needed to build trust with him again, but he had to help. The lack of trust and worry comes up easily and I didn't want to second guess him. He said he understood. I’ve become more assertive, but I have to be less aggressive. I think he really wants to try, but doesn't like my demands. One was to go to counseling and the other was to talk to my mom, so she knows he’ll treat me with respect, keep me safe, that he loves me, and he's sorry. He agrees with counseling, but is leery about talking to my mom. He used to have a good relationship with her. Do you think I’m wrong for demanding this? I need him to Prove he loves me. Hope you can steer me in the right direction.

The Coaching Response

When you answered these questions, did you get some insight into your own reactions and behavior? Your difficulty in trusting your boyfriend is tied into childhood. As children, we look up to the adults around us, especially our parents, soaking up everything we see and feel. We don't know which behaviors, beliefs, and judgments are good or bad. Your perceptions of the world are in your subconscious and you become aware of them when they cause you pain.

You learned your parent’s beliefs that the world isn't to be trusted and as an adult, you find “evidence” to support this belief. You learned from your father not to trust anyone and from your mother that a man can’t be trusted. Your brain will try it’s hardest to counter with “but I have proof that he can’t be trusted”, so we need to get to look at the deeper issues.

Underneath the issue of trust is a fear of being hurt. All people make mistakes. We're all far from perfect, yet we still end up taking other’s imperfections personally. We do this because of our fear of being hurt. Everyone experiences hurt as a child to one degree or another. The result is that we try to avoid being hurt, yet everyone around us keeps being human and doing or saying things that we feel hurt about again and again. We each have our favorite methods to try and avoid pain, but they really don’t work.

When you experience emotional pain, you think the pain is because of the present moment. What’s really happening is that you’re re-experiencing past pain, based on old beliefs and patterns. Yet it feels so much like new pain that you'd swear there’s no way it could be from the past. You even have "evidence” to prove the pain is new. Finding "evidence” is part of the pattern of behavior you're experiencing. If you want to stop experiencing pain and develop trust, you have to be willing to let go of some old ways of thinking to make room for new ones.

Change involves persistence, being willing to let go of the need to be right, and being able to redefine your own behavior as well as what the actions of others means to you. If you don’t like something, change the way you think about it. I'd like you to do an exercise that helps you find some of your emotional patterns. Make a list of 3 major and 3 minor incidents where you felt hurt and betrayed in the past. Don't include this situation with your boyfriend. Then, starting with the first incident, write down the series of emotions, thoughts, and beliefs you had from when each incident occurred to what you think and feel about it now. Do this with each of the 6 items on your list.

Put these lists aside for a few days. When you do look back at what you wrote, you’ll see a pattern emerge around being hurt. You’ll identify some belief systems that support being hurt and see the repetitive behavior you have in response to each incident. Think about how these patterns and judgments appear in other areas of your life. How similar they are to your parents from years ago as well as now? See how you've modified them from your personal experiences, yet notice how the core beliefs are still the same.

Take the time to do this exercise in depth, because the success of the next step depends on how you did the first one. Take the situation with your boyfriend and write down the series of emotions, thoughts, and beliefs you had from when it happened up to what you think and feel about it now. Can you see how your feelings and thoughts are similar to the others? This is a unique situation, yet your reactions are the same. Even if he hadn't cheated, eventually you'd find other reasons to not trust and stay distant so you didn’t risk being hurt. Your subconscious belief is you’ll be hurt because you can’t trust anyone. Unless you change this, you’ll find more evidence in the future of why he can’t be trusted, whether the evidence is valid or not.

Your boyfriend’s behavior isn’t justified by any means. He has issues and fears of his own that led him outside the relationship. He will need to find out why he did that and to learn how to identify issues before they are projected outside of the relationship. His walking on eggshells increases your suspicions, because it’s unnatural behavior and is not healthy for the relationship. He needs to get past his guilt and trust issues to trust that you’ll work through this together with him. The more he acts normally, the easier it’ll be for you to feel comfortable with each other, based on who he is, not on the person he’s trying to be to please you.

Both of you need to learn how to communicate differently, to listen to each other so that each of you can express your fears without being judged. Any time something drives two people apart in a relationship, it's an opportunity for those people to get closer together. Always express to each other how you feel and what your desires are. If you want him to talk with your mother, express your desire and then leave it alone. Don’t make it into a demand. Making demands in a relationship are synonymous with control. Trust that when he's ready, he’ll deal with your mom on his own and in his own way.

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