Trapped: I found out my boyfriend was cheating on me the same week his test results came back confirming he has cancer, a highly aggressive kind. I went from bawling my eyes out and planning on deleting his number to holding him on the couch as he fell apart weeping. He begged me to stay and forgive him. I didn’t know what to do. I told him I forgave him and that I still loved him. I don’t. The truth festers in the back of my mind every time I get stressed or have to come over to care for him or talk to his family. All of them knew he was cheating on me—his brothers would cover for him when he was out with this girl when I called up. His mother even told me to my face how thankful she is that we “patched things up” since the other girl wouldn’t be here like I have been.
My boyfriend is facing brutal sessions of chemo and my only escape is work. All our friends tell me how brave I am, but I feel like a fraud and a chump. If I had broken up with him immediately, I would have been home-free. If he hadn’t gotten sick, I could be publicly mad and then move on—and worse, I know if the shoe was on the other foot, he would have left me. I am trapped. I don’t want to make my boyfriend any sicker. I don’t want him to die, but I also don’t want to devote the next several months to playing nurse to him. If I leave him now, I will get crucified. I mentioned still being hurt by his infidelity to a friend I considered myself close to; she asked how I can feel that way when he has cancer. Please help me.
A: Oh, I’m so sorry. This is just unbearably painful, and I’m additionally sorry that you’ve been pressured by friends and your boyfriend’s family to stay in a humiliating, loveless relationship just because your boyfriend is ill. You need to leave. You get to leave. He is not alone in the world; if his brothers were willing to coordinate over helping him cheat on you, they’ll be able to coordinate taking him to doctor’s appointments and chemo sessions now that he actually needs their help. You will not make him sicker by leaving; you did not give him cancer, and you cannot make it worse.
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