I have been in a relationship with my best friend for five years. We are a great fit in all ways, but he frequently questions my integrity and his self-worth.
A few years ago, I took a high paying job as a personal assistant. We were living in a bad neighborhood and I jumped at the opportunity to make more money- without questioning the logistics. It ended up being a personal assistant to a pimp, arranging dates, managing money, and sending out ads for the girls. We talked about what my job would entail, and he was not happy with it, but agreed that we needed the money and it wouldn’t be forever.
A few months after I started, my boss forced me to do something not in my job description. In the situation, I feared for my life, so I obliged.
I didn’t show up for my shift the next day, hoping it would all just go away and I could find a different job quickly. I started receiving threatening phone calls. My boss demanded all the money he had paid me back ($20,000). He had a copy of my ID and social from the hiring process. He made it very clear that my life was in his hands.
I worked as a sex worker for a year and a half to pay him back in full. During that time, my boyfriend found out about it and understandably flipped out. Our marriage plans went out the window, I was forced out of our friend group, and was left to deal with the aftermath alone.
That was two years ago, and we are in a much better place now. But for him, marriage still isn’t on the table and his friends haven’t welcomed me back. He says that he often blames himself for not figuring it out sooner, and blames me for not coming to him for help. I try to explain to him that I was scared to involve anyone else for fear of what would happen to them, but he just doesn’t understand why I didn’t go to the cops. I’m afraid this occurrence will always be a stain on my relationship resume with him, and that he will only see his pain of feeling betrayed and cheated on, when that was not my intention. Can we work towards forgiveness? Or am I wasting my time? (From the USA)
There are several layers here, and I am very appreciative of your courage and resilience in discussing the issues. What is clear is that this isn’t a situation you alone got yourself into. Your boyfriend was very much part of the process and dynamics that got you into the dilemma in the first place. This wasn’t something you did on your own to benefit yourself.
There are three important questions here that you need to answer for yourself. First, is marriage what you want? Are you looking for that in your life at this time or is this relationship good enough for now. In other words, does the relationship you have with your boyfriend meet enough of your needs for now. If marriage is no longer a big deal for you then this might be okay enough.
Does your boyfriend’s unforgiveness knock him out of the running for a good long term partner? If you do want to get married does it feel as if your partner won’t be able to get over this? If marriage is what you want then let him know this in no uncertain terms. If he can’t forgive you and will hold resentment toward you then it is not worth going forward. He may feel that if he forgives you that he will lose his friends, or that he is settling rather than working through. But if he can’t get past this and you want to get married then you’ll have to let him know the relationship can’t go forward. In these terms, he can’t give you what you want and need.
Finally, I’d encourage you both to read this book Forgive For Good, and find a workshop specifically focused on forgiveness. In addition, you may want to find a couple’s counselor who can help the two of you work together on this.
There are two elements of forgiveness. There is forgiveness of the other and unforgiveness. The unforgiveness has little to do with the situation or another person. It has to do with the feelings you have that negatively ruminate about the situation. People can be unforgiving about someone who has passed on — or a situation that is long since dissolved but the bitterness remains.
Perhaps is a good place to start because your unforgiveness of yourself and your boyfriends lack of concern for you during that time may be beneath the whole situation. One way to break this cycle of unforgiveness is with self-compassion. As it’s essence self-compassion is being able to treat yourself like a good friend would treat you. Nurturing yourself in this way can ease the discomfort of the past — while setting the stage for not only being more tolerant of yourself and your boyfriend. Obviously, this works best when both of you work at this level.
Here is a brief video on self-compassion you may find interesting to help you connect with that part of yours or that needs nurturing.
Wishing you patience and peace,