My Boyfriend Was Cheated On and Has Trouble Trusting Women. What Should I Do?


I have been dating a guy I met online for about 3 months now. He has been divorced for 16 years. I have never been married. He’s 42, and I am 40. Unfortunately, his ex-wife cheated on him, and married her lover the day after their divorce was final. My boyfriend seems to be VERY obsessed with never allowing anything like that to happen to him again, and is easily upset by any talk of men I dated before him, even though all of those relationships were extremely superficial and I maintain absolutely no contact whatsoever with any man I ever dated before him. My boyfriend has many good qualities, and I really like him a lot (I’m starting to love him). I just wanted to know, in a general way, what does it take for a man to get over being cheated on by an ex-wife, particularly if it has been many years now, and he still seems to be putting up walls? Most of the information I have found on the internet dealing with divorced men pertains to issues surrounding the recently divorced, and most of the information about cheating has to do with divorced men who cheat, not men who were the cheatees rather than the cheaters. Do you have any general advice for a (never married) woman dating a long-divorced man who has trust issues going back 16 years to an unfaithful first wife? I REALLY want my relationship with him to work out. What should I do?


If you were ever cheated upon, what would your partner have to do to convince you that he’s safe?

Dear Vicki,

Great question. Straightforward answer. All you have to do is look at it from another angle.

If you were ever cheated upon, what would your partner have to do to convince you that he’s safe?

In a lot of circumstances, there’s not much someone can do explicitly to instill trust. I think back to a girlfriend of mine who had a boyfriend who was polyamorous. This arrangement pretty much meant that he openly cheated on her while she remained faithful to him, hoping that he’d change. She was free to do the same, except she didn’t want to. This experience scarred her and all of her trust issues came to surface when she started dating a very flirty burgeoning dating coach. She could never believe that a man like me who appreciated other women wouldn’t cheat on her, and she broke up with me (about three times, to be exact.)

I only share that story as an example of how you can have your heart in the right place, but still not do anything to assuage someone with deep seated issues.

On the other hand, my wife was cheated on by her ex-husband and other long-term ex-boyfriends. How she managed to trust me, even when she found a pair of panties in our new hamper after a business trip, is beyond me. But the main reason, I’m guessing, is that I haven’t given her any reasons to doubt my integrity.

And ultimately, Vicki, that’s really all you can do. You can’t erase his past, his hurt, or his shame. All you can do is make him feel safe and loved and lucky.

You can’t erase his past, his hurt, or his shame. All you can do is make him feel safe and loved and lucky.

He may never “get over” the experience of having blind faith in a partner; I know my wife hasn’t. But, if he’s emotionally available — and thereby, a suitable partner — he’ll realize that you have nothing to do with his ex-wife. To keep you at bay because of an awful mistake made by another woman 16 years ago, would effectively mean the end of your relationship. He’s gotta let you in.

The woman who let me in, despite her trust issues, became my wife. The woman who didn’t is just another ex. Which is just a longwinded way of saying: do your best, but it’s not really up to you.

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  1. 21

    I have this same problem only my bf isn’t worried about cheating — he’s just emotionally unavailable. He went from the greatest the first 2 months (when I think he let his guard down) to pretty miserable this last month.

    I had to end things. His divorce was nearly 10 years ago and he’s 42 as well. He admits that he can’t let anyone get close (including friends) and only has let his children in.

    It’s very sad. I love him. But like what others have said – this is something I can’t fix. As much reassurance as I give — that doesn’t help. He actually said he feels pressure from it. So in this case and in many like it — love only goes so far.

    I’m terribly sad as I thought this was the love of my life.

  2. 22

    I was recently cheated on numerous times in my mid twenties all while we had a young child.   She actually used our child to prevent me from finding out.   She had to study so I had to stay at home and watch our infant daughter.   She actually was cheating instead.   I trusted her very much and was blind-sided by the cheating.   When I found out, she kicked me and her own infant daughter into the streets to be with someone else.   I had no food, no money, no car, no shelter.   Everything was stripped from me except our child and that was because she didn’t want to be a mother anymore.   

    Its been five years now.   I haven’t been on a single date for five years.   Either rejected, loss of confidence or simply lost the way to close the deal.   What I now do is work hard and focus my life as a single father.   I am still in my twenties too so I feel alone a lot.   My friends are in serious relationships and even though I want to be in one, I am the lone one now.   I truly feel for this story because I know I will be in that position one day.   

    Since being alone, I face many obstacles.   Everything depends on me and I worry more about not leaving a good enough “foundation” for my daughter if I happen to pass away.   I often feel that because of what her mother did to the both of us, it was my fault that I wasn’t “good” enough for our family to be intact.   So when I meet anyone, I am happy but it  disappears  almost within a week when I am reminded what giving “trust” did.   

    I am doing better now.   I have a car, shelter, food and all the basics covered but I don’t know how to approach women nor allow a women to enter my life risking the   chance of everything collapsing  again.   I am in a way lucky that my daughter was an infant when we were in trouble as if it was to occur now, she would  definitely  remember it and would bring her bad memories.   As her father, I will take the bad memories away and hope she won’t ever go through what I had to go through.   Many people say that I am like a robot now who shows no emotion other than when I am with my daughter where you can actually see the human inside.   This mindset is what brought the both of us to pull it through so I have no choice but to stick with what works.

    1. 22.1

      Gary, I’ve been in your position. I pray you give yourself that chance again in the future. God bless.

    2. 22.2
      A random 40 year old single guy

      If I were you I would accept the fact that I have piss-poor taste in women and then once I let that shame sink in long enough I would forgive myself for lack of due diligence.   Then I would seek out a dating coach to help me learn how to vet women better.

      You always take a risk trusting another human being, but it’s always a calculated one.   A woman like that? well that is just the very antithesis of calculated risk.

  3. 23

    Pamper him with love and constantly remind him how much you love him. The little things count to a insecure man. When you meet a man who’s been takin advantage of by a women he ones loved it can be hard because the min that any ways are shown by you that have been seen in his pervious relationship could cause a lot of issues. summit to him and show him you will always be there for him

    1. 23.1
      A random 40 year old single guy

      Careful, validation is important and key.   If it’s insincere validation it can have the opposite effect.

  4. 24

    I’m sorry I’m sorry, did you just equate being cheated on to that of a rape victim? SERIOUSLY?????? Those two things aren’t even on the same level. I get what you were saying but if you can’t see that theres a huge difference in a rape victim and a man who’s been cheated on then there’s something really wrong. just for the record, after 16 years, that man should get over it, I mean really! Geez!  

  5. 25

    @Christina – I don’t think ARNybody’s post meant to equate rape with cheating in terms of level of trauma but in terms of people’s response to trauma and the ways other people tell the victim to just get over it.   I think your attitude is insensitive to this letter writer.   As Gary’s post shows, when a man is cheated on by his wife, it takes away more than just his ability to trust.   It takes away his pride and the fundamental confidence that a man has that he can be a good partner, provider, lover, and friend.   He has doubts that maybe it was him who was inadequate and has trouble closing the deal with other women because that sense of shame is still there.   It’s difficult for men to deal this type of shame and insecurity because it goes to the root of manhood and they deal with emotions differently – more often than not closing off and shutting down to avoid pain, fear, and shame to their fundamental sense of manhood.   And because of the sense of shame, it makes it harder for them to ask for help.   I feel a lot of compassion for these men and hope you do too rather than just judging them as weak for not being able to get over it. It’s people like you in society that make it hard for men to just get over it.

  6. 26

    Christina #24 – I’m sorry too, but I’ll have to take his side on this issue. Maybe women these days value their body more than their mind, but I’m sure most men would rather be raped by a complete stranger than live in a reality where their wives are unfaithful.
    Maybe you are downplaying the issue because you’ve never been cheated on, had a relationship longer than 3 years, or perhaps you’ve been the cheater in the past. But finding out that your spouse has been cheating on you is devastating to a person who’s been faithful their entire life. The experience changes you permanently, like a scar that never healed quite right – still itching years after the fact.
    The cheatees cannot help but go through the whole experience over and over again in their head, thinking it was their fault. That they did something wrong. How many rape victims believe that it was their fault? Not many. The psychological damage is just as great, if not greater. Some people find themselves kicked out of their homes, just to find out that the new guy moved in the day after. That’s just as bad as having the rapist move to the same street as the victim.
    We’ll never trust others 100% again, no matter how great the new woman is. But there are a few of us who are intelligent enough to not let our new partners know that.  

    1. 26.1

      I completely agree that cheating is very traumatic and I totally understand the blaming yourself thing! However, from what I understand, it isn’t uncommon for a rape victim to blame themselves as well. I’ve even heard of people being rude enough to make the rape victim feel like they must have done something to “ask for it”.   Some people in this society really need to believe that a person must have done something to be cheated on or raped or _____ (fill in the blank) because it makes them feel less vulnerable.  

    2. 26.2

      “I’m sure most men would rather be raped by a complete stranger than live in a reality where their wives are unfaithful.”

      Have you actually met a man(or a woman) who had been raped?

      It is not pretty if you believed me,not to downplayed your experience but i don’t think you can relate to their experience unless you had been raped…



      1. 26.2.1

        Male here. I’ve been raped and cheated on by my spouse. I prefer the rape because the emotional pain from that event is less severe than from the physical violation. They both hurt me, but the cheating really has destroyed me.

        1. emptyeyesockets

          For clarification: raped when I was in my late teens, not by my spouse.

        2. Deb

          I absolutely get that!

          I’ve been horribly beat up and cheated on… The physical scars from a beating heal and fade so much quicker than being cheated on. I have also had 2 sons and both parents die. I’d say the INITIAL impact between cheating and death are much the same. HOWEVER the grief of being cheated on does not linger for as long as the grief of death! You can eventually move on from being cheated on and eventually that pain is but a memory. Death will leave a hole in your heart and while you grow to live with it, it never completely forgotten. My son was married for 15yrs but together for 20yrs. His wife cheated with one of his best friends and then the 2 of them put him thru the ringer..that’s why I Googled and found this link. Was wondering how long it should take someone to be able to commit again. He is seeing someone but she is hounding him for a commitment. He also has a 10yr old son that means everything to him.


    3. 26.3

      I’m sorry although I agree that being cheated on is devistating and causes permanent issues without professional help. I must disagree when it comes to rape victims. Not to sure if you have ever had that happen, however, it’s statistically proven that most rape victims to actually blame themselves. For that matter many of them society also blames. For years women   didn’t even come forward because of guilt n shame. Many who did especially 30-40 yrs ago confide in their parents, were blamed for it..and told maybe if they didn’t dress that way, or maybe they shouldn’t have been out so late. Not to mention the ones raped by someone in their family. So I’m sorry but clearly you have not had that experience thankfully but you are way of base with your account of how rape victims respond to that trauma.



  7. 27

    Wow and here I was thinking that men outnumberedly cheat wether physical or emotional… more often than women! Wow! So much for that!! So sad how people treat others so like nothing….

    How cruel.

  8. 28

    Most women cheat, I don’t care what any statistic says and most of them do it with multiple people right from the beginning. Most single women have “male friends” who they are having sex with and these guys always keep on coming around even after they enter a “relationsip.” This thing about women getting bored and cheating or it being her mans fault is bullshit for the most part. It is pretty simply, most women cheat , so only a fool would trust a woman. It is commonly believed that a particular type of man gets cheated on, an average man, a beta male, a loser, this is not always the case but most of us fall into this category anyway. If you want to knkow what type of man your woman is cheating with, look at the guys she was with before you, if she prefers tall handsome guys but has been with short fat guys before you and cheated on them she will probably cheat on you too and it could even be with guys like them or the short fat, average, white black guy, whatever. The fact is most most cheat any a man should not trust any of them.

    1. 28.1

      This guy is represents the worse case than a op’s boyfriend….I may had been cheated on in the past but thank god i finally able to move on…

  9. 29

    relationships can get really messy and can scar people bad, to be honest before i met my ex girlfreind i was a bit of a player, then i met her and she just blow me away , i absolutly adored her , we where together for 8 years, and i had some of the best times of my life with her, i was stupid however and i didnt treat her as the princess that she is, she ended up cheating on me and im mature enough to know why , people really only cheat when there unhappy in the relationship, i know if i had treatde how i should , or did at the start it probarbly wouldnt of ended this way the biggest regret of my life beacause i adoored this girl actually instill do ,  

  10. 30

    I am in this position now, although I am also a soon to be x wife who was cheated on by a long-term husband.   Never did I think I would find someone else and was very smitten with my x husband, but because of all the deceit, am quite over him now.
    The man that I have interest and growing feelings in had a very similar experience and so we both feel a bond from that but have also declared feelings…we just have a little bit of fear of diving in and of course, the trust issues.
    One thing that we do is talk…and talk and talk.   The good news is that he is emotionally available and it is really refreshing because my x husband wasn’t, for a really long time (red flag there).   So for what it’s worth, my opinion is that if anyone finds a person after being cheated on that they feel comfortable enough “talking” to repeatedly, I personally would wait.   So I decided that although it hurts to hear of the x wife, I too am an x wife and the man I met hears about my x husband as well.       We both realize that it gets old and try to curb it and also sometimes poke fun at the other’s x for adding some humor to the day.
    This man has so many traits and beliefs that match mine that he is well worth the wait and I already know him better than I did my x, that is to say if what he says is trustworthy.
    My bit of advice, if I can add it, is that it seems to help to find someone who has had similar experiences as yourself, besides the whole common interest idea,  but also to be prepared with a whole lot of patience or it  may not  work for either person.

    Also, I would like to add that in regard to the cheating issues raised here, from what I can gather, cheating isn’t about a partner, rather about the person doing the cheating. The remarks about women getting bored I’m not certain I agree with in entirety. Another idea to add to that post is that for both men and women, what many of us are discovering is that it’s about ego sometimes. A down ego needing a boost, an up ego needing more control over more people and so on, while a partner is simply living their life thinking that they are living in parallel with the cheating partner, when in reality…they aren’t.

  11. 31

    Also, I would like to add that in regard to the cheating issues raised here, from what I can gather, cheating isn’t about a partner, rather about the person doing the cheating.   The remarks about women getting bored I’m not certain I agree with in entirety.   Another idea to add to that post is that for both men and women, what many of us are discovering is that it’s about ego sometimes.   A down ego needing a boost, an up ego needing more control over more people and so on, while a partner is simply living their life thinking that they are living in parallel with the cheating partner, when in reality…they aren’t.

  12. 32

    We are not produced on assembly lines. Each one of us are hand crafted with different personalities and abilities. Never try to mesure some one elses pain by your own capacity to love. The deeper the love, the deeper the wound.

    Only love patients and understanding can mend the pain.

  13. 33

    I love how these responses rationalize female cheating but when men do it they are pigs. Or the wonderfully flippant excuse of   “we just aren’t meant to be or “we weren’t right for each other”.

    When men cheat or leave, they are at fault, when women do it, it’s still the man’s fault for something he did or didn’t do lol. Many surveys are now showing that women in fact cheat more than men. Given the fact that they poses a lot more sexual currency, this isn’t surprising.

    Women often do not let go of one branch until firmly holding into another (ie another guy). Men can’t do this because we do place trust in women, and aren’t as cynical as females, or we can just call   it “blind trust”. T Hat’s ridiculous, you either trust someone or not.

    Women rationalize cheating or “leaving” men when   their needs are not being met, or they perceive it as being so. Women are inherently selfish creatures with immensely unrealistic expectations of themselves, life, and especially men. Sometimes, in fact more oftne that not it’s not “gee the guy did some stuff wrong too”, sometimes women really just do suck. But let’s call it emotional fluidity instead of lack of integrity or honor.

    Women looks at all these men and go gee why so bitter, can’t you let go? It’s infinitely harder for men to find mates. A number of people have pointed out how tough it is for guys in this cultural and economic climate where women are more self interested and obsessed with things, careerism, and security than ever before.

    Social psychologists   have noted that for example, and this has biological roots, that men earning more have no problem with women making 9 bucks an hour, but the opposite is true for women . The question is, is she sweet? attractive? nurturing? (spare me the “i am not hi mommy crap”) this is about all around feminine energy, and yes moms have it too. We don’t go oh shit he doesn’t have a degree, or “ambition” or this or that. Most women do, even as there sexual currency drops like a stone as they age. (nature’s way of balancing out how much power young women have I guess?).

    Women can’t simply tolerate supporting there spouses, period. Not in the long run. “strong, independent, career driven, etc etc” just translates too “I can leave whenever the hell I want buddy, so you better measure up to me every moment of every day, dance monkey dance”.   Plenty of men have pointed out how men make up the majority of the homeless, and the majority of the unemployed as we all fight for an ever decreasing slice of the pie, that women now largely gobble up.

    What does all of this and more have to do with cheating? The truth is men ARE fragile, and we ARE cynical, and paranoid, and everything else because of the damage done to them by our modern culture and economic climate. Women have the power disproportionately now. They have all the same advantages as men did, and now still retain all the advantages that women have always had and men have not. Please believe this does play into the dynamic we now see of women acting as heinously as the men they once decried. Men are sick and tired of it.

    When people are near death, regardless of gender, they always say at the top of their list “i wish i hadn’t worked so hard, or focused on careers, and stuff, and drive, and ambition, and all the rest”.   Why? Because it’s so meaningless, even in this newly committment phobic and aggressive female generation we’ve found ourselves in. Men are valued for that they do and their utility, women are valued for who they are. Society bends over backwards for females, but men? We are told to man up. That we are just whiners :).

    But here’s the thing about people saying that stuff at the end of there life. The vast majority of suicides are by men, and they are increasing. Why? Number 1 reason is because of loneliness or being left/cheated/divorced/deserted. Women’s number 1 reason? Money and unemployment. That’s a big time indicator of what sex values what. Who is really losing out these days more so than the other, i’d say the evidence suggests men. There are anecdotes and exceptions for any data, but it doesn’t make it the rule.

    Men have every reason to be cynical and worry about women cheating or leaving or any other frivolous self interested reason women rationalize up to fulfill there never ending and expanding list of selfish needs. Now we have proof for it too. At some point the data proves the observations and experiences, rather than people simply citing data to prove a bias.

    1. 33.1

      Er no when a woman cheats,the words whore, bitch, etc.( need I add more?)often came into the equation…in fact I don’t really see any rationalization concerning women cheating unless it comes from the cheating women themselves…also from what I observed when a man cheats,he rarely wants to leave his wife/girlfriend,heck I even heard some d-bag claiming man cheating is not as bad as a woman cheats because he never really wants to leave his partner where as a woman always move on ,this means that   whenever a man cheats,the relationships don’t seem to have any problems in the first place where as when the woman cheats,more often than not you could noticed there already a lot of crack inside the relationship.Now I’m not going to argue which one is the worse.I admit women are catching up to men in cheating rates but to suggest that somehow women are more worse or that they often let off by society when they commit sexual transgression doesn’t seem supported by the anecdotal data to me at least in my experience..

    2. 33.2

      Oh by the way.. read this comment on another page on question posed by a guy who asking for advice after he cheated on his   girlfriend

      “Hmmm, I’m not sure if men do drugs and random sex because their buds are doing that, or if they are seeking out men who do drugs and have random sex because that’s what they are into.

      It can be difficult for a man who was once a player and a partier to be the first in his group to decide to stop sowing his wild oats and settle down. If he really loves a woman tho’, he will tell his friends to back off if they rag on him for getting into a monogamous relationship.

      And men don’t just rag on men about this because they think the girl in question is a ball buster, it is just something they do. My son even told me that he and his buds are TERRIBLE that way, they give their buds a hard time when they are treating a girl well, and high fives when they treat her not so well. It does seem to be done in a joking, laughing way, and I do get the impression that they would shut the hell up, if the a guy with a new girl friend told them to do so.

      I also noticed my son (who is 23) is starting to have a little bit of a “I think I’d like that” tone in his voice, when he talks about his friends getting married and having babies.”

      I mean after reading this comment I started to think do men really had it worse than women when it comes infidelity issue?

    3. 33.3

      I’m really sorry. It sounds like you’ve met some crappy females and heard some crappy rationalizations.   I felt like I was monkey dancing for my ex too.   I’ll never understand why men who would never think of making a woman monkey dance end up with women who do that to them. On the other hand, I as a woman, would never dream of making a man monkey dance. I was faithful and loyal under horrible circumstances. After being divorced and single again, I turned down a married man that hit on me, because it’s the right thing to do. In fact, I was rather disgusted that the married guy even tried. Yet, I was cheated on, left and given an STD.   I wish all men and women were like us. The world would be a much better place.

  14. 34

    I have been cheated from my ex wife,4 years ago.
    It come like a shock to me,because I used to do more than 50% on my marriage and I always have been consider an alfa man.  
    I initiated the divorce and to be honest I didnt suffer financially.She started to use drugs,and my son is leaving with me.Now she is saying that she was depressed from the past etc etc which I dont believe one word of it.
    Thank God I have a good job otherwise I would have suffered a lot.
    But,I dont think I am going to let someone close anymore.
    I feel comfortable the way I am,and I dont want to get hurt  again.
    I understand your man and  I know it is not your fault but I see myself in the same position after 12 years,although I had several chances to start a relationship.

    I used to be a very open minded person and used to laugh at people who had trust issues with women,but now I dont trust any woman regardles how good she is.I know I may be wrong but I feel more comfortable this way, than being in a relationship and constantly  worring that it will end up like my marriage.      

    As for your man,Good luck and I hope you are happy together.    

  15. 35

    You’ve never met this guy, you’ve only been texting, it’s been a YEAR, he has trust issues…….You have no relationship with a man you’ve never met.   You have no relationship, and he won’t even meet with you.   You have no relationship, and you are already fighting.   Based on your description, I would humbly suggest you keep looking and cut this one loose.

  16. 36

    I experienced the same problem as your boyfriend. Because a past boyfriend cheated on me, I had serious trust issues with my current boyfriend of 2 1/2 years. I would constantly pick unnecessary arguments with him about his female friends and classmates. I accused him of cheating many times, although he hasn’t done anything to prove he is not trustworthy. Most men would’ve walked away by now, but because he really loves me he stayed with me.

    But I found a way to trust him that may or may not work for your boyfriend. I asked myself this question: If my boyfriend was locked in a room with the hottest girl in the world and she was half-naked, would he still remain faithful to me? My honest answer to that question was yes.

    So because I know my boyfriend would remain faithful in such tempting circumstances, I knew I could trust him in general around other women.

    -All the best to you and you boyfriend 😀

  17. 37

    I agree that he needs help. However, he doesn’t need to feel ashamed as some who have posted here suggest. If you love him, suggest with all the love in your heart that he would benefit from counseling and that you would be happy to be part of the process with him. This is what people who love each other do. If he loves you he will agree knowing it is for the best of your relationship. His recognizing his need for help and his commitment to doing so is the least he should do for you if he loves you.

  18. 38

    i too was cheated on and abandoned by my wife of 8 years. I was/am a good, loving, attentive, hardworking husband and father. I am also tired of the double standard that implies that if a woman cheats it’s okay, she’s the victim, and that it was the guy’s fault for making her do it. If a guy cheats, it’s his fault and he’s a pig.

    1. 38.1

      Er I don’t see anyone saying a man is a pig when his wife cheated on him but I do see a lot of women being called a bitch or a whore for cheating on her ex…I mean just look at Kristen Stewart.Nothing wrong if you want to believe that women is just as bad as men but why do you want to believe that cuckolded men is somehow more victimised than the woman?

      Even in EvanMarckKatz blog,you would see a lot of question posed by men who regrets cheating on their girlfriend and asking for advice from him on how to won her back,this means there was nothing wrong in their relationship in the first place but a woman always left their ex after she cheated on them as evidenced by your own ex?

      Why is that?

      Could it be the difference in the the biological states of women and men?

      Hyper gamy and polygamy?

      I don’t know which is the worst but to suggest that somehow men are more affected by this than women pretty much making an attempt to minimise the pain of women while exaggerating the pain of men.I mean if some people can’t even empathize with the feelings of others what makes you think that other people would empathize with you?

  19. 39

    My  husband has been married and divorced now 3 times. I am number 4. We have  known each other for over 20 yrs. as friends. We recently got married last November. He has a major trust issue too. He worries even if I just have a conversation with another man. He freaks out thinking I’m talking to men on the phone or Facebook. I feel like I have to walk on eggshells anymore. I almost left him twice now. But he always says he will change but he’s not. I live day to day worried he is going to accuse me of something I’m not doing. I have to tell him who I talk to and everywhere I go. It’s really getting out of hand. I love him with all my heart and don’t want to  love him. That is not an option. He refuses to get help. He doesn’t like to go to church. So I am on my own to work this out.

  20. 40

    Give up. That is not gonna happen. I am afraid the day he can trust someone again will never come.

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