“Help: I’m terrified my BF is going to cheat”

Dear Sarah,

I’m not even completely sure what my question is, but I feel compelled to email you with my concerns. My boyfriend and I knew each other for a hefty eight years before we started going out (although we did have a mutual crush when we were in fifth or sixth grade). We kept in touch over the years while we each were with different boyfriends and girlfriends. That is, until we both ended up being single at the same time and decided to go somewhere with it. We’ve only been dating for a few months, but deep inside my gut I have a bad feeling (I have a pretty strong intuition, especially with guys). I feel like he’s going to cheat, but I don’t know if it’s just my fear of being hurt creating problems out of nowhere in order to “protect” myself from falling deeper.

He’s very honest and open with me, and when we were still “just friends,” he admitted, without prompting, that he had cheated in the past. I dug a little deeper, and he poured his heart out to me and told me how his father was unfaithful and that’s why he has two stepbrothers. He said this was the reason why he never wants to go back to how he was, why he’s going to be better because he is not his father. Since we’ve been dating, he suggested discussing our past relationships so we would feel more secure. It hasn’t happened yet though, but part of that is my fault—if I wanted to, I could start that conversation.

I sincerely do care about him and I guess that’s what concerns me. I’m afraid of being hurt though I know that some pain comes with all new relationships. I’m also afraid to bring it up with him, because I don’t want to hurt his feelings by saying, “I feel like you’re going to cheat on me” since it’s such a touchy subject for him. I’m sorry for my silly whining—I guess I just want some reassurance or some blunt honesty.

Thank you so much!

Anxious in Ohio

Dear Anxious,

Sometimes it feels like the stars are aligning—against us. He cheated, his father cheated. . .queue the foreboding music. But this isn’t a Hollywood movie, his deception isn’t inevitable, people make mistakes and—hopefully—learn from them. That sounds like what your boyfriend is trying to do. Which is awesome and strong.

Still, you have all these icky feelings to contend with. Everyone feels a bit vulnerable in a new relationship. Add to that, the jagged nugget of your boyfriend’s personal history which is sitting at the bottom of your stomach making you a little ill with uncertainty. What will help you feel better: time, talking yourself off down off the ledge of your own racing brain, the power of love. What won’t help you feel better: snooping though his phone or computer, grilling him in an accusatory way.

But I think you know this—and as you said in your letter, you don’t want to hurt him by discussing a “touchy subject.” Nevertheless, it’s OK to ask for reassurance. Now sounds like a good time to have that relationship talk that he suggested. Remember though, while sharing is great, if the conversation starts to turn into an inquisition or is picking at emotional scabs, it’s time to change the subject or—better—stop altogether and reassure each other with a long, quiet hug.

Love, Sarah

Have an issue that could use a mom’s-eye-view? Our advice column features a real live mother of three who is ready to discuss any of your burning questions judgment—and baggage—free. Email [email protected] with the subject line “Dear Mom.” Please include your first name or nickname and where you are from. Questions may be edited for clarity and length.

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