My boyfriend of six months revealed that he’s never been faithful to anyone, not even his wife of 10 years, whom he cheated on constantly because he married too young and made himself stay for the kids. Once he divorced, about a year ago, he decided never to lie or cheat again. He said he wants a future with me, wants to be honest about everything, and if there’s anything I want to know, I should just ask. I believe in loving someone unconditionally and without judgment, and I have a lot of respect for him for telling me the truth. I’m just not sure if the chance is worth taking: whether he’d be unfaithful and break my heart into a thousand pieces.
In a new relationship, any guy can put his best foot forward, but maybe it takes a guy who really loves you to put his worst foot forward: warning you that you could be waiting for the other shoe to drop — off the side of some other girl’s bed.
Of course, he could also be warning you so that if he does cheat, well, you were warned. Commendable as it is that he’s resolved never to lie or cheat again, he’s been divorced a year and seeing you for half that time. That’s a seriously short stretch of never — especially for a guy who’s never been faithful to anyone. And while he talks a remorseful game, he still explains his marital infidelity with the howler “I did it for the children.” Paternal sacrifice is admirable, but more so when working three jobs to keep a roof over the kiddies’ heads is what a father’s been doing — and not a string of bar floozies.
While many are quick to blame their cheating on a bum relationship, there seems to be a cheater personality. As I wrote in my column “Charlotte’s (Tangled) Web,” researchers Todd Shackelford and David Buss found three personality traits common to people prone to getting some on the side. There’s narcissism — being self-absorbed, self-important, lacking in empathy, and predisposed to exploiting others. The other two are low conscientiousness and high “psychoticism,” clinical terms for a personality marked by impulsivity, unreliability, and an inability to delay gratification. So, any of this seem familiar?
Clearly, the last thing you should be engaging in is “unconditional love.” Sounds beautiful, but that’s love minus discernment, which isn’t love at all, but projectile sentimentality. Seeing whether he’s turned over a new leaf takes ongoing discernment, even beyond to social psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky. For you two, the hot new thing phase might end sooner or later, but this at least gives you some sort of marker to go by.
It’s a good thing and a bad thing, having your relationship front-loaded with news of his zipper management issues. For day-to-day peace of mind, you want “I wonder if he’ll ever cheat” to maybe be a footnote on page 33 of your relationship story, not in bold type at the top of page one. On a positive note, you should be less likely to let monogamy slip into monotony.
2009, Amy Alkon, all rights reserved. Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, #280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or e-mail AdviceAmy@aol.com (www.advicegoddess.com)