A Matter of Trust

Once you lose confidence in someone you love, can you ever get it back?

The last time I was in love like this, I was 22 and a hopeless mess. I'd loved everything about that man, and when it ended, I thought I'd never find anyone like him again. And I was right—I didn't. Thank heavens.

Now, for the first time in 30 years, I'm a hopeless mess again. Just the smell of this man I'm with melts me into a puddle. It's disgusting, I know, but I swoon when he walks into a room. I find myself gazing at him when he talks. And this isn't a new relationship, either. We've been together for years now. I keep thinking things will settle down and turn normal, but that isn't happening. We're at the same fever pitch we had when the relationship was brand-new.

I know this all sounds kind of great—right?—and, for the most part, it is. I love feeling this way. I never expected to be this crazy about anyone ever again. I assumed this kind of feeling was reserved for when you're very young, when you didn't know any better.

So, yeah, it's wonderful. Except for one small thing: I don't trust him.

Several months ago, I discovered something about him that I had not known. It's not horrific, but it's something about him—a secret part of him, really—that bothers me a lot. It turns out? He's way into online pornography. I mean, way into it. I came upon this discovery by accident, and when I did, I immediately spoke to him about it. He owned up to it, and then he did something I hadn't expected: He promised he'd never go down that road again, which to me seemed like an awfully large promise.

"You don't have to tell me that," I told him. "I guess what I really want is for you to just talk to me about this part of you. Be honest with me."

Nope, he said. There'd be nothing to tell me. He was done with the online netherworld.

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I was uncomfortable with this for weeks. How could he keep a promise like that? And who was this man I thought I knew? He's someone who flosses every day and makes his bed and folds his towels just so. Now there was this other part of him, a darker part. It felt like I didn't really know him.

I talked to him about it a couple times and he told me I could trust him, that he really still was that towel-folding, good guy I knew, and that he understood why I was bothered by what I had discovered. He tried to reassure me the best way he could. I remember him looking me straight in my eyes, the sun shining into his bedroom where we were talking. You can trust me, he said.

Weeks later, I blatantly spied on him. I know, I know, "be careful what you look for…" but I couldn't resist. I checked out his online history and – insert your favorite string of profanity here –discovered that he'd been up to his old tricks. He had lied to me. He'd looked me straight in the eyes and lied to me.

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You can imagine how things have been. "Rocky" is putting it mildly. We're seeing a therapist, he's incredibly sorry and he's been seemingly more open with me since The Incident, as I think of it. But I don't know if I can get over this.

I hate to get my wisdom from Facebook, but I saw a quote on there the other day that read, "Losing someone's trust is like crumpling a piece of paper. You can smooth it out, but it'll never be the same." I know that's true. We'll never be the same.

If I were reading this story, my reaction would be unequivocal—dump the guy. He lied. You've been in love like this before, and you got over that. You'll get over this.

But that's just it. When I was 22, I figured I'd run across dozens of men I'd love to the end of the earth, to my very core. Thirty years later, I know that's not so true. So I've stayed.

For now.

Some days we feel smoothed out. I feel very loved, and heaven knows I love him something awful. Then other days I see the wrinkles. His betrayal just jumps out at me in the middle of the night, or the middle of a conversation, and I'm not sure I can go on with this relationship. How am I ever going to know I can trust him when I've already learned I can't?

It's a terrible kind of limbo: Am I going to get over it, or are we doomed? Since I can't decide what to do yet, my feeling is that I should do nothing. Wait. See what happens. Hope that maybe our crumpled-paper relationship will somehow be better than the perfect white sheet it was at first.

Maybe now that we've seen each other at our worst and loved each other through it, we'll be stronger. Maybe this is how real relationships work: You take the good, you take the bad, you take 'em both and there you have the facts of life. The facts of life.

So that's where it is now. I wait, a hopeless mess.