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How can I trust my long-distance boyfriend again?

A reader writes: My boyfriend and I are in our early 20s, together six years, and long-distance for the past two. He's training out of province to be a police officer, and I am having trust issues. A couple of years ago I found out he went to a bar with his buddies and did things a person in a committed relationship shouldn't do. Although he constantly reassures me he won't hurt me again, I don't have much confidence in him (or much self-confidence either). How can I forgive and forget?

People do stray

Despite the ideal that people in committed relationships should never stray in their hearts, or with other parts, the reality is that people, at some point, do. Often that moment of weakness can help the person appreciate the relationship they have. Whether your boyfriend is a man of good character and worth your forgiveness, only you can determine. You can choose to accept him for who he promises to be and then let him prove it. If you are unable to grow beyond your insecurities, you will do more to drive him away than persuade him to stay.

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Wayne Coghlan, Collingwood, Ont.

Get some life experience

My guess is that both of you have not had much experience relationship-wise. Making life decisions that young generally leads to future suffering. It is likely his indiscretions with his buddies are part of normal curiosity and to expect him to forfeit the experiences is unrealistic. Go your own ways, get some life experience and meet up again in a few years. If it is meant to be, it will be. If not, you have saved yourself a world of hurt.

Kim Hamilton, Toronto

Break it off

If you're in your early 20s, and you've been together six years, it means you've been dating since your late teens. The rip-the-Band-Aid-off truth is this: It's not going to last. Break up. Go live your life.

Richard Birt, Toronto

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The final word

You do realize that by describing your boyfriend's infraction in such vague, euphemistic terms - things a person in a committed relationship shouldn't do - you have let loose the wild dogs of the readership's imagination. Half are probably envisioning an innocuous hair-tossing, drink-buying conversation with some overaerobicized chippie while the more excitable among us are seeing Jell-O shots being slurped from a bronzed, willing navel. There are gradations of bad relationship etiquette is what I'm saying, and it's hard to get all King Solomon about your man's misdeed without some specifics.

What I'll do is assume that lips were involved; that intimate physical contact was broached. Further, I'll assume this contact never made it past the bar and therefore it didn't get any more inappropriate than what would normally be permitted in a public setting. So let's set your boyfriend's cheat-o-meter at about 5, okay? You can feel free to add or deduct points based on your superior knowledge of the event. If the physical contact entailed more than lips, jack it up to 7. If the dalliance was taken to a more private location, that'll max the meter out at 10.

But if lips were used for nothing but the utterance of few boozy compliments, the cheat-o-meter droops to 2. This system not only helps you gauge the seriousness of your boyfriend's offence, it will help you get a handle on any propensity to overreact. I urge you to forget anything that registers below a 5.

But here's my advice if the needle is hovering at 5 or higher. Realize that you and he are a) young and b) apart. That's tricky. I agree with Kim that when young folks go unpartnered on the town, flirting tends to be the natural outcome. But I disagree with Kim and Richard's assumption that just because you two crazy kids are green in years your relationship doesn't have a chance. If you both truly want to make this work, talk it out. Reaffirm your commitment to one another and agree on a few ground rules that will keep the meter safely under 5 at all times.

Lynn Coady is the award-winning author of novels Strange Heaven and Mean Boy.

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Next week's question

A reader writes: Like many couples dealing with the stress of little kids, work and social life, my wife and I argue a lot. But I think we'd argue less explosively - and more constructively - if she'd drop her "tone." I rarely take what she's saying to heart because I can't get past her disdainful delivery. I've told her it's possible to express her feelings in a way that's not hurtful, but she says that would involve filtering herself, which wouldn't be honest. Neither of us wants to fight, but we're at an impasse. What should we do?

Let's hear from you

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About the Author
Relationship Columnist

Lynn Coady writes the Group Therapy column for The Globe and Mail's Life section. She is the award-winning author of the novels Strange Heaven, Saints of Big Harbour and Mean Boy. Her most recent novel, The Antagonist, will be released this September. She lives in Edmonton, where she is Senior Editor of Eighteen Bridges magazine. More

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