I have been in a relationship for about two and a half years. We got off to a rocky start due to my own stupidity. As there had been no declarations of love, nor any sign on his part that he was not seeing other women, I fell back into old habits with a former friend with benefits. Neither the fact that he had not said “I love you,” nor my gut feeling that he was still sleeping around excuse my behavior. I was 100% in the wrong, and I acknowledge that. When my indiscretion came to light, he was furious. He swore that he had not been with any other women, he said that he was in love with me and wanted to be with me exclusively, found it in his heart to forgive me, and I have been faithful ever since.
Unfortunately, he has been unable to trust me since this incident. I understand that rebuilding trust requires a tremendous effort on the part of the cheater, and I assure you I have put forth such effort. At his request, I distanced myself from everyone who knew about the “affair” (my closest friends), withdrew from all social activity (unless he was involved), and agreed to report my whereabouts to him upon request. At first, I felt like a prisoner, but when I realized how much emotional damage I had done, I obliged.
A year and a half later, I still do not have his trust. He reads my e-mail, he checks my text messages, he sends threatening messages to my male friends if they so much as comment on a facebook status, and still does not feel comfortable with me socializing without him. Furthermore, he has been fired from his last two jobs and refuses to take any job that would require him to work nights (because he could not monitor my whereabouts). Most of the available jobs in his profession require night shifts, and the financial stress is really taking its toll.
And now for the part that will make everyone hate my guts: I have a very strong (mutual) attraction to a male friend. Nothing what-so-ever has happened, but my boyfriend senses the tension and is irate. I am old enough to know that attractions are bound to flare up from time to time, and most of them are fleeting (even if they don’t seem so in the moment). I am willing to resist temptation and “work on” my current relationship. After all, there is no guarantee that the next relationship will be any better than the current. The hateful thing is that he is firmly convinced that I am sleeping with this man, and his constant accusations only make me want to prove him right. I can recognize that this is illogical and immature, and I am certainly capable of controlling my irrational impulse.
But I have to wonder… is it worth it??? Am I being disrespectful of myself by staying with a man who may never trust me? Yes, I made a huge mistake early in our relationship. But at what point do I regain some rights? At what point can I have a private conversation, a social life, and some help with the bills? I have to admit that a major reason why I am attracted to this other man is the fact that he is gainfully employed and financially responsible. But now that I’m reading my own words, it almost seems comical. “He has a JOB…. Woooooooow!!!”
And my boyfriend has some great qualities. He gets my sense of humor, he does almost all of the cooking and cleaning, and he tolerates my cats even though he has allergies. On top of that, I have MS and sometimes require assistance with basic things (like walking to the car). He is very understanding of this. I am also a full-time graduate student in neuroscience and I work in two labs, so I’m often stressed out. He is usually quite patient with me in this regard. I’m not so sure I’ll be able to find another partner who can tolerate a stressed-out graduate student with an incurable health condition.
So my question is: If anyone out there has been the “cheater” in a relationship, how did you manage to earn back your partner’s trust? Is this even possible? And is there any point at which you, as the cheater, have a right to say, “Enough is enough! You’re going to have to make the choice to trust that I’ve learned from my mistake, believe that I love you, and stop accusing me of bad behaviors in which I am NOT engaging.” Or should I just give up on this and go out with the other guy? The one who has a JOB.

(Screen) Name: AnnaK