The following is an actual question that I received via an ‘Ask the Rabbi’ feature on my community’s website. It was a total random – someone I never even heard of before. I found it interesting enough to reproduce here. The challenge was to address the real concerns of this person who obviously espouses a lifestyle that is foreign to me and values that are very different from my own. Names have been changed:
I am not sure if this is the correct forum for this, but I need some assistance. I have recently been lead astray from my girlfriend of more than 5 years and am ashamed at what I have done. We are now in the situation where I have told her everything, but the details I have told her are very hard to handle. Despite this, I am doing everything I can to try and earn her trust back, slowly and hopefully surely. I don't know if you deal with situations like this or if you have any advice or resources that might be able to assist, but any help you can provide would be very much appreciated. Thank you very much for your help in advance.
Let me start off by saying that the fact that you are looking for guidance in this circumstance is very commendable. Oftentimes, people tend to brush this kind of thing off by calling it a ‘casual’ encounter. That you and your girlfriend take it seriously is, in my opinion, a healthy sign.
There’s no magic formula that a Rabbi or anyone else can utter to dissolve the tension or erase the past. You sense that you have committed a crime or sin against your girlfriend; it is she who you must appease. Like you indicated, it will take time for her to work through her emotions – jealousy, rage, guilt, grief, and feelings of inadequacy will all run through her mind – and you need to respect and understand that. If she feels insecure about letting you, say, stay late at work or having a business lunch with a female colleague – respect that. Remind her why you love her. Buy her a gift. Make her feel unique and cherished. If she’s needy, be there for her. If she needs space, give it to her.
You also might want to consider creating safeguards to prevent this from happening again. Sometimes, situations can take over and you end up doing things you regret. Oftentimes, the trick is to make sure you avoid those situations. You might want to ask your girlfriend to help you formulate those safeguards (depending on her mood; you don’t want to imprison yourself) so that she may start to trust you again.
I don’t know if this has been at all helpful, but in case it has, don’t hesitate to write back if there’s anything else on your mind.