Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Question: Is there any way to determine when someone is telling the truth about wanting to change? In a nutshell, I've been dating a guy who has a history of avoiding conflict by lying and omitting the truth, hooking up with other people while in a relationship, and deluding himself into thinking he's not in control of his own actions and decisions. He tends to phrase situations as something that just happened to him, that he had no control over, which I see as just a technique to wash his hands of any responsibility of his actions.
Of course, I caught him in a web of lies, and he wants another chance to prove he's trustworthy. He says he will start acting like the grown man he is.
My question is, is this at all salvageable, or am I a fool for even considering that he might change his behavior, his only pattern for his entire adult life, and is he only sorry he got caught?
Answer: Well, if you're going to stick with him, he'd better be the awesomest of awesome people, a healer of souls, a solver of global problems, a saver of lost puppies, and a key-holder to the best self you've ever known. Otherwise, why wouldn't you just let go of him and look for someone who's honest simply because that's how he prefers to be?
If it turns out he has changed, it's perfectly OK for him to go be a perfectly lovely partner to somebody else. It's OK to sit some people out.
Question: I'm on a break with the guy I've been seeing for a few years. Do you have any tips on how to make the best use of this time? I'm just trying to go back to what I would do if he weren't around and do things for myself that I haven't, either because I didn't have enough time or because I've let the stresses of life push them aside.
Is there anything I should be asking myself about what I want or who I am that would be useful? I'm feeling a little lost, not without him in the picture, but just because I am afraid I'm doing this wrong or missing something.
Answer: Not thinking too much sounds about right, actually.
Find your own rhythms again and live by them, without regard for chasing down all the answers. They'll either find you when you're ready for them, or the questions will become moot.
Or the guy will come around, looking to see what you've decided, in which case you can say you need a little more time - only a little, to be fair - and use that nudge as your opportunity to do the purposeful accounting of how you feel.
Comment: You should assume that all breaks are permanent until told otherwise. Conduct yourself accordingly, because it beats putting your fate in the hands of someone else. Right now, I'm on a break that started in 2007, and in that time, I met and married my husband, moved, got a cat, and bought a house.
Answer: For the win. Thanks.