Does he deserve a second (or third) chance?

Let’s help Ms. Trust with Mr. X.
I met Mr. X (let's refer to him as that) way back in 2001. I was currently in a relationship (one I jumped into much too young) and he was dealing with the loss of a close friend in 9/11. What started out as two people looking for company to what now is an 8 year saga of ups and downs. I quickly broke up with my boyfriend at the time and Mr. X was eager to start a new relationship with me. I, 21 at the time and he 26, we had a great first two years of going out with friends, enjoying the Boston Summers, and the Sox. After two years, it became time to start settling down, so we took the next step of moving in together. This was the beginning of the end. The first year of living together, was our first real year of problems. My friends and family all said that the first year of living together was more difficult then the first year of marriage, so we both stuck with it. We had our highs and lows like any typical couple does. We never could quite make it to be on the same time line, whether it was about marriage, kids, locations, etc. I watched all of our friends get married and start their lives while we stayed stuck in time. But then I began to notice that Mr. X was becoming more and more distant. I came to find out more about Mr. X. He had a tendency to enjoy alcohol a little bit more then the average guy in his late 20's. We would argue more and more and I endured many of sleepless nights due to his drinking. I would leave, and he would beg me to come back. I finally left for good two years ago. I moved out, got my own apartment, and started from scratch. It was the hardest thing I have ever done. We stayed in touch, but not physically. I could not drown in his highs in lows, so I asked him to keep to himself until he accepted the fact that he needed help, and actually did something about it. It wasn't long after that, the Mr. X got himself into some trouble for all of his festivities. He finally succumbed to the fact that he needed help, and began participating in AA. During that time, I was told he needed to focus on his recovery. So I did what the typical single female would do, and decided to pursue my options. I went on a few dates, but nothing too serious, until I met Mr. Y. Mr Y. was completely wrong for me. We had nothing in common, he was not at all the type of individual I find myself attracted to, but for the time being, it seemed to work. I was always up front about Mr Y to Mr X. I told Mr. X when I would date someone and I thought we had that same mutual understanding. Mr Y and I did not last too long, which I anticipated. Things ended and we both moved on, but I never truly moved on from Mr. X. I always got calls around the holidays from Mr X, saying how much he loved me, needed me, etc. and I in turn would open my heart back up to be there for him and to support him during his recovery. Mr. X and I always seemed to have a mutual understanding and concern for the well-being of one another. During this past summer, I was completely single. Mr. X and I would talk and meet up regularly, but he always seemed a bit distant. I asked him if there was someone else and he said NO, and I believed him. Needless to say, I found out that there was in fact another female, one 13 years younger then him. (he 35 and she 22) As I mentioned we were not together, I understand that and I dated plenty of people, but the fact of the matter is he lied. He said it was nothing, nothing happened, it was only a couple of dates, etc. and begged for forgiveness. Told me he needed me in his life, and that he was nothing without me. I yet again believed him. We sat down and had a conversation about it all. I wanted to know details, how they met, who set them up. etc. He looked eyes and said there was nothing more, no more lies. He answered all my questions. Me being the "typical" female, couldn't seem to let it go, so I did some "investigating." Come to find out there was yet again another lie. He lied about how they met in the first place. When confronted, Mr. X admitted to his lie, and said he thought it would be better to answer the question the way he did to avoid causing me any more pain. But did not realize in the process that lying in the first place is what causes the pain. He says there is nothing more, do I believe him? Can I move past this? Should I even try? So not the way I anticipated spending my Valentines Day with the man who "loves" me so much. Any words of wisdom? -- ToTrustOrNotToTrust

Woah. That was quite a letter, TTONTT. Obviously, Mr. X has issues with addiction and compulsive behavior. It sounds like he got himself some help -- in a responsible way -- and I assume he’s still sober and working on his problems. That’s commendable. But it’s still overwhelming to deal with. My instinct is to tell you that this relationship is broken, that there’s a pattern of dishonesty, that you’ve been in a position of having to forgive him over and over, and that you deserve a fresh start. But -- and this is a big but -- I can’t ignore the fact that he got help and that you seem to love each other. I also can’t ignore that you’re putting him on trial for what (and who) he did while he was technically single. It seems unfair and unproductive. He never cheated. He wants to be with you now. He's made it clear that he never stopped loving you. I think you have to ask yourself if you love him, and if so, why? If it’s just about salvaging eight years – that’s not enough. If it’s about more – if it’s about trying for a real relationship now that you’re both ready, it might be worth spending Saturday night with Mr. X. But really, you’re the only person who knows if you can move past this. If you can't, don't punish yourself. Or him. Readers? Should she give Mr. X a second chance? Am I being too easy on him? Share your thoughts here. You can find yesterday's letter here. And please, submit your own letter here. -- Meredith