For any of you who find yourself in the same predicament, here's the advice I offered. I hope you find it helpful.
*This one is really easy for me. Really easy, given how I feel about any form of cheating.
I’m going to be blunt here, so bear up for me, okay?
As cavalier as that sounds–especially given how emotionally attached you seem to be to him–I think it’s the best advice, by far.
I don’t know how much you’ve read of my blog, but, when my partner and I had the exclusivity talk (as you put it) within the first few days of meeting each other, we both agreed monogamy was paramount, and anything less was unacceptable. Twenty-two years later, both of us still feel the same way, and we’ve remained monogamous. I’ve never had any reason to think he’s cheated on me, and I know I never will cheat on him.
I think it’s interesting that your partner is the one who brought up the exclusivity subject with you, yet he's the one who did all the cheating (with the exception of your Grindr experience, which you more or less went through with on his recommendation). If you can’t trust him at this stage of the game, you won’t be able to trust him AT ALL. Once that trust is violated, my partner and I both agree it can’t be rebuilt–at least not to where it was before. You’ll always have in the back of your mind that he could be cheating on you. Do you want to find yourself there all the time with someone you love dearly? I wouldn’t.
You don’t have to be young (like you) to look at life issues as black and white. I turn fifty-five this year, and, on some matters, there is only black and white.
One of those issues is cheating on a cherished partner. If I had to identify one reason only why Chris and I are still together today, it’s because we feel the same way about the most important issues in life (trust, respect, honor, etc.), and we are unwavering where they’re concerned. Believe it or not, these issues are the bedrock of any solid relationship. When that foundation shifts, because one or the other person changes his mind about something significant (for example, cheating), then your relationship is on shaky ground. I don’t see how it could be anything else. And you have to decide if a shaky relationship is enough for you.
Despite his age (actually, he’s only 30), your partner's clearly not ready to settle down yet. If he were, he’d have honored that initial decision you made together to be exclusive. I don’t know you, of course, but I’d say, in this respect anyway, you’re more mature than he is. Or maybe the word is idealistic. I’m not sure. But there is nothing wrong with wanting to have a partner who shows, and proves, his love for you by remaining faithful. Nothing whatsoever.
I believe there are plenty of wonderful men out there, who would love you the way you want to be loved, including being exclusive only to you. Sure, you have this young man in your life now, and there may be compelling reasons to stay with him (you love him, he’s cute, the sex is great, you think you can change him, etc.). But do you always want to be suspicious of him? Do you always want to wonder where he is, and what he’s doing with whom? You have more respect for yourself than that, don’t you?
My blog is about gay people, like you and me, learning to understand, accept, and love themselves.
Part of that, as I see it, is not accepting bullshit from people who clearly don’t love us in the way they say they do, in the way we need them to, in the way we deserve to be. When you truly love yourself, when you honor and respect who you are, when you believe that what you hold to be true is right and good and decent, when you know in your heart there is someone better out there, someone who will really give you want you want, then you don’t put up with anyone’s crap. Ever.
You know what to do. He’s shown you who he really is, yet you still hang on. I can’t imagine it will get any better for you with him. And, yes, you are doing yourself a disservice by staying with him, thinking he’s going to see the light and change. If you were really important to him in the first place, especially since you both made it clear you wanted to be exclusive, he would have respected that at the outset. And, temptation or not, he would have remained that way. The fact that he gave in so easy, and made excuses for doing it…well, that should tell you what you need to know.
It’s a shame that, if you leave him (which is entirely your choice), you’ll get hurt in the process. I regret that would happen to you. But, sometimes, it’s inevitable. In time, you will get over him. In time, you will move on emotionally. And, believe me, you’ve learned more about yourself being with this man than you realize right now. Every experience we have like this makes us who we’re meant to be and prepares us for the one we're really meant to be with.
I would only caution you on one thing: Don’t close your heart to other young men you meet, after this is all over, just because you were hurt this time. Approach each new young man with an open heart and treat each one as the distinctive human being he is. They won’t all hurt you, and they won’t all use you, either. You owe him, and you, that much. (In other words, don’t become cynical and jaded, like so many gay men, young and old, do, after they’ve been hurt numerous times. Being hurt is just a part of life, isn’t it? It's meant to teach us, not close us off.)
I believe I’m not telling you anything here you don’t already know. You were just looking for confirmation that what you want to do is the right thing.
It is the right thing. You deserve better than what you have. Don’t allow your feelings for him to compromise who you really are. If you do, you will look back on yourself years from now and wonder why you were so stupid, why you played a role in allowing it to happen, and why you ended up wasting so much time. You’re better than that. Maybe you don’t see that now, but you are. You are stronger than you know you are, and you will go on to find the great love of your lifetime. Believe it. It's just not with the guy you’re with now. He’ll never change. And you shouldn’t hang around to find out if he does.
Dump him. You won't regret it.
I wish you well.