Dear Neil: My fiance has cheated on me our entire three year relationship, having been faithful for perhaps two months in that three year period. He proposed to me a year ago and has admitted that he only gave me a ring because of all the trouble he was in with me. But he hasn't been faithful since then, either.
Because of all the years of lies and deceit, I find it next to impossible to trust him. Now he wants me to trust the "new him." Can you advise me on where to start in order to regain trust for him?
- Not Sure How To Do This in Charlotte, North Carolina
Dear Charlotte: I will tell you how it might be possible for you to begin to trust him again, but first I would like to caution you that your fiance does not sound even remotely ready to marry you, and I think it is not in your self-interest to be engaged to him at this time.
Proposing to a woman implies that a man is ready, able, prepared and wanting to be married to her. It is not wise to propose to a woman as a way of apologizing for bad behavior, because then the woman is not going to trust that it's a serious proposal and that the man really wants to marry her. By accepting his proposal, you essentially let him off the hook for all of his previous infidelity, in essence saying that you will forgive previous indiscretions if he shapes up from now on.
But he hasn't shaped up. Since past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior, it sounds like you're unlikely to trust him no matter what he says or does, because he has violated trust too often over time. Further, we have no real reason to believe that the "new him" is anything more than a tactic or strategy designed to get you to trust him because he hasn't been able to earn it through his own trustworthy behavior.
It sounds like this man is not ready to be in a committed relationship and that you will be destined to feel let down or broken hearted by him if you don't wake up and smell the coffee.
That being said, here's how it might be possible for him to regain your trust - if he were to do it 100 percent of the time, with no screw-ups, no lies, no deceptions and no exceptions. But I warn you, this solution is stark, and he is unlikely to agree to this and live by this code - and therefore I am suggesting he is not ready to be engaged to you.
The solution is for him to adopt complete disclosure toward you with total transparency. He would need to give you the passcodes to all of his electronic devices, including his phone and computer, social media networks, his day-timer or electronic daily calendar - with every change to his schedule religiously noted before it occurs - where you would be able to phone and check out the truthfulness of everything he says he is doing and everyone he says he is doing it with.
Furthermore, he would offer you access to all of his phone contacts, including the phone numbers to all of his friends and former lovers, especially all the women with whom he cheated on you, as well as his phone bills and a history of all his text messages. You would, at your discretion, be able to call or email any of those people anytime you wanted, just to verify that he has told you the truth, the entire truth and nothing but the truth - all the time.
This means that no secrets at all are to be kept between the two of you. Do you think he can do that? If so, he may be able to earn your trust back, because that is why someone would do all of this. But if he isn't willing to do this - all of this - my advice to you is to dump him, and to go find yourself someone who can actually be yours and only yours.
Neil Rosenthal will be conducting a one-day workshop open to the general public titled "To Love and To Be Loved" on March 2, in Westminster. For information and registration, call 303-525-8387 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Neil Rosenthal is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Westminster and Boulder. His column is in its 21st year of publication and is syndicated around the world. You can reach him at 303-758-8777 or email him through his website: www.heartrelationships.com. He is not able to respond individually to queries.