At any rate, I was recently in a philosophical counseling/relationship education session with a young woman in this kind of quandary.
It seems the previous girlfriend of her current boyfriend of 3 years has gotten a hold of her. Let's call my client Janine. It turns out that the former girlfriend (let's call her Dacie-- I'm personally repulsed by the crude term "ex-") was being romanced by her boyfriend (let's call him Ted) all during the first year of Ted's and Janine's relationship, which all of this time has been presumed to be monogamous. And although it's true Ted never has sex with the former girlfriend, it seems that this was due to lack of opportunity more than anything, as she was the rejector.
But romance Dacie Ted did during that first year with Janine, in the form of flowers, candy, cards, invitations to getaways and bed & breakfasts, lingerie, etc. Dacie never responded much to these gifts, although she did choose to keep the tangible ones.
Well, Janine brought this up to Ted directly (good move), and Ted now says he only wants to see Janine.
Her question for me, as you might expect: should she trust him?
Many (including Janine's friends) have adviced Janine to "trust your heart": "Deep down, do you think he loves you?" they ask.
Janine, obviously confused, torn, and scared to trust her heart, brought the question to me.
I personally think that "deep down" is overrated. Even if he does love her "deep down," how does that translate into having the kind of relationship that Janine truly wants?
I emphatically don't agree with this advise. Why? Because Janine had been trusting Ted up until this point, and is understandably is in shock upon hearing the news of his betrayal during the first year. She has loved Ted during most of their courtship. He says he loves her. But the Ted that she has known is not the same Ted who has been dating her.
The Ted she loves was, in her mind, not capable of this kind of behavior. Now she learns that in fact he is.
Yes, two years have past since then, and his claim is of love and allegiance.
Talk is cheap. Relationships are difficult enough without major betrayals coming into play during the first year of courtship.
But it gets worse. Not only has Janine been shocked with this news, but she has been informed by Ted he done with the sort of "romancing" he shared with Dacie because "it didn't work."
He now expects Janine, loving girlfiend that she is, to accept this.
Now Janine, bless her heart, is the down-to-earth type. It never even occurred to her to expect sentimental presents as signs of devotion. But now she's re-thinking everything.
I think that this is perfectly reasonable. After all, although Janine doesn't see flowers and the like as signs of love, Ted obviously does. His refusal to share them with her is is likely a maneuver to protect his heart (not to mention his wallet) from further loss. Or worse, he truly felt more for the unavailable Dacie, and hopelessly in love, he showed it.
I think he's giving her good reasons to regard this relationship as an insecure one-- one which is perhaps based more on availability and convenience rather than feelings of love and devotion.
After all, where is the commitment (other than to monogamy, which more advantages him than her).
If she followed her heart, she would trust him. After all, she can barely fathom that this was going on. Her impulse is to trust because she's trustworthy.
Shirley Glass, the late expert on infidelity, points out that this the mistake that betrayed lovers make: judging your partner's behavior based upon your own character. A straying partner bases his behavior and decisions not your character and inclinations, but on his own, and based on these differences, he may well be inclined to behave in ways that you would not.
You would do well to remember that.
Mandy Aftel, author of Your Life Is A Story points out that all relationship conflicts can be traced back to a misreading of character. Unforunately, Janine's relationship appears to be a shining example of that.
She would do well to acknowledge her mistake now, painful as it may be, rather than later, when it the pain will be that much worse.
If she "trusted her heart," she'd likely hang in there-- and live to sorely regret it later.