I have a friend who is planning to marry a guy she has been dating for about two years. I'm concerned because he has cheated on her before, and the whole "once a cheater, always a cheater" thing worries me. Other than that, he seems like a decent guy and has treated her well. Should I be discouraging her? I don’t want her to be hurt again.
First of all, keep in mind that just because someone cheated once doesn’t mean they will keep doing so. In fact, sometimes the subsequent guilt and pain is all it takes to convince someone that they never want to do that again. So, ultimately, what was does not have to be indicative of what will be. You'll never know all the circumstances that surrounded that indiscretion. There may be pieces to the puzzle that you don’t know about that have since been resolved.
I would not recommend discouraging your friend from marriage—however, I would recommend you encourage her to practice some in-depth “intellectual foreplay.” Encourage her to ask some important questions about what she and her partner both want their lives to be like, what their values are, what they have in common, and if they respect the areas where they have differences.
Having everything in common isn’t necessarily the point in a partnership. There are many ways my husband and I are different, but we hold great respect for each other as individuals and continue to learn from each other, growing on account of those differences. Differences in people and in relationships can be the spice of the relationship, as your opportunity is doubled for exposure to new experiences and perspectives when you hold an appreciation for each other.
Encourage your friend also to examine her own self-esteem and personal sense of strength as well as their problem-solving skills as a couple. Were they able to work through the infidelity, discuss it, and come to an understanding and agreement? Or, are they now getting married as some sort of "test" or "proof" of love?
While, understandably, you don’t want your friend to get hurt, the problem is that love—and life—will always hurt. Period. Even if your friend and her partner live “happily ever after,” one of them will likely die before the other, and it will hurt. Over time, they will lose loved ones or have to deal with financial challenges or mental/physical health issues or career dramas. We don’t get through life without some difficulty along the way. If we can reframe our mindset about difficulties, though, we will see that our greatest growth and our greatest creativity comes from the most difficult times. Encourage your friend to implement some self-strengthening practices so that she knows she will be okay, no matter what.
While it is nice to have a sense of trustworthiness before marrying her husband-to-be, the truth is that she doesn’t ultimately need to trust him. She has to trust that God will only offer her experiences that will make her wiser and stronger, and she has to trust herself to be able to handle those experiences in a manner consistent with her values.
If she puts some due diligence into knowing who she is choosing to spend her life with, hopefully she will be better able to take responsibility for that choice down the road when the marriage hits a rough spot—which, by the way, it will. I have never met a couple that hasn’t hit a “make-it-or-break-it” moment at some point in their relationship.
Consequently, I’d also encourage your friend to think carefully about the meaning of her vows to see if she really means what she says. “For better or for worse” may include infidelity, broken promises, debt, and mental and physical health issues. If she doesn’t feel like she can handle that potential, then she may want to think about whether she is ready for marriage. It may well be that some more self-strengthening and development of communication and relationship skills and tools would be better next steps.
Since you did not say what your relationship with your friend is based on, I encourage you to do some self-inquiry as well. Be sure that your interest in her choices is truly due to a commitment to her highest good—and is not clouded by your own agenda or relationship with her. Be sure your intentions are pure before you do or say anything at all.
Intellectual Foreplay Question of the Week: Have you learned from your mistakes?
Love Tip of the Week: The only thing that hurts more than love is not loving.