Intimate Inquiries

Dear Sandy,

Recently, I found out that my boyfriend cheated on me. After listening to his explanation, I think that I might be able to forgive him. I love him and he loves me, and I think that if there’s a possibility of us getting past this then we should at least try.

At first my friends supported me, but then I told them I might forgive him and they told me that I’m weak, that I’m disrespecting myself and that they’ll have no respect for me anymore if I stay with him. Every time I talk to them, all they bring up is whether I’ve broken up with him yet and when I say that we’re just not talking they get really mad at me. It’s gotten so bad that I almost feel uncomfortable telling them how I feel.

I feel betrayed by both my boyfriend and my friends. I have absolutely no one to talk to now and I have no idea what to do. Should I listen to my friends and just break up with him? Or should I try to piece our relationship back together?

-Devastated

Dear Devastated,

This decision is not one that your friends or anyone else (including me!) can make for you. Every person is different with respect to how far they can be pushed and every relationship is different with respect to how much strain it can handle. In order to determine those limits for yourself, you should take some time apart from your boyfriend and give yourself space to think through these questions:

1. Did he tell you? When? If he came straight to you after he cheated, then it’s likely that he’s telling the truth when he says it was a mistake. If the incident happened months ago and he’s just telling you now, you need to be wary of his trustworthiness. Whichever way you spin it, not telling you is just a euphemism for lying by omission. Finally, if you found out on your own and had to approach him about it, the sad fact of the matter is that this is likely not the only thing he’s been keeping from you.

2. Was this a one-time thing? If he has cheated on you more than once or has held onto a prolonged affair with another woman, you’re pretty much guaranteed he’s going to do it again.

3. Can you forgive him? Even if he came straight to you after it happened and it was only a one time mistake, the most important question here is whether or not you can let go of what happened. If you agree to take him back and to continue on with your relationship, you are committing to forgiving him. That means that after a period of working things out together, you guys are back to normal. If you can’t commit to that, then you can’t commit to getting back into a relationship with him.

4. Can you trust him? Again, if you agree to take him back, you’re committing to making the relationship work, not committing to bitch at him any time he exchanges words with another girl. If you don’t feel like you can trust him because of what he did, then you would be causing one another some serious pain by trying to prolong this relationship.

This decision is a big one, and it’s magnified even more by the fact that it’s solely in your hands. While he’s the one that made the mistake, you’re the one that’s going to have to decide whether there’s a possibility of making it work. If your answer is “no” to even one of the above questions, then getting back together will spell trouble. If your answers are “maybe” to some, then you should take at least a few weeks away from him. You need to be certain of these answers as “maybe” can’t prop up a relationship for long.

This is a situation where you’re going to need to lean on the people around you for support. The behavior of your friends here is totally inappropriate. It’s obvious that they think they know what’s best for you, but being a friend means they need to support you in whatever decision you make.

Explain to them that you’re giving this some serious thought because it’s a serious relationship. You need to vocalize the fact that their behavior is hurting your feelings and making you feel isolated — chances are they’re not even aware of it.

Dear Sandy,

I’m going with my boyfriend to visit his family over Thanksgiving break and I’m pretty nervous. Any advice?

-Cold Turkey

Dear Turkey,

Visiting the boyfriend’s family for a weekend can be intimidating. No doubt, your boy has told you to just be yourself but it certainly doesn’t hurt to put your best foot forward, especially when it comes to making a first impression.

Before you go, take a glance at a few of the latest headlines so you’ll have something timely to chat about if conversation wanes during dinner. Also, have him tell you a little bit about his family if he hasn’t already. You don’t need to have him quiz you with names and pictures, but getting to know what his family is like will help you avoid taboo topics and give you a feel for what it will be like. Knowing one or two things about his family members will also help you keep the conversation going.

Another pointer to look for when listening to him talk about his family is how to dress. If they live on a farm, you’re probably not going to score any points by wearing pumps and pearls. Conversely, if family dinners are an elegant affair for them, you may want to step it up a notch.

However casual his family is, you’ll always want to err on the conservative side.  This is not the time for your black eyeliner, your pushup bra or your deep-v club dress. If they’re a jeans and t-shirt family, wear a sundress or dark jeans, a nice top and flats – don’t come in ripped Levis and an Ed Hardy tank. If they’re uber conservative, make sure you’re not baring unnecessary skin.

When you arrive, remember to smile and take the initiative to introduce yourself to his parents.  Call them by Mr. and Mrs. until they tell you otherwise. While you might feel like you’re old enough to go on a first name basis, you never know how they might take your assumption.

After you’re welcomed into the house, don’t wait for your boyfriend to take the time to introduce you — go ahead and introduce yourself to the rest of the family. Each time you meet someone, repeat their name out loud so you can avoid an embarrassing moment of forgetting someone’s name.

If a family member starts a heated debate on something during dinner, do your best to stay out of it. While you might have some strong opinions on the subject, it’s never good to kick off a relationship with conflict.

Offer to help out following dinner and at least take your own plate into the kitchen. If you end up getting caught alone with his mom here, start with a compliment about dinner, the house or something she’s wearing. Everyone loves to get compliments and it’ll get her talking about something she enjoys.

If you’re staying overnight, remember that you’re a guest in their house and you should respect their rules. Don’t pitch a fit if you get stuck in the guest room without your boyfriend and don’t be a pain in the ass if they’re not fans of allowing you to drink underage (even if your family does).

Finally, as I’m sure your boyfriend has already told you: be yourself and have a good time. These are real people and they’ve invited you to their home because they want to get to know you — so let them!