So out of my past 7 semi-long to long term relationships (9 months or longer) I have been cheated on 6 times. I have been trying to learn from previous mistakes to no avail. The girls have been from varied backgrounds and the reasons for cheating have been various. Some of this can be attributed to my age group and that I can understand. This has caused issues with getting into relationships, I get so anxious about even starting one that it is very difficult for me to even speak to women in a romantic sense. I cant think of any way to repair my ability to trust in a relationship without being in one, and as such it is kind of a catch-22 and even then its a crapshoot on if it fixes the issue or makes it worse. Has anyone has a similar experience that can recommend a way to fix said issues while limiting risks of making it worse? I don’t even know where to start on myself, since if my ex’s are to be believed I am generally attentive and caring, that just wasn’t what they were looking for or for reasons I can’t easily change like economic reasons.
I do agree that being in a relationship with someone will be the only way to test your current beliefs and to hopefully overturn them. It's shocking advice but getting to the point where the relationship you have with a girl that you know you want to work, you are gonna have to decide if the risk is versus the reward. The closer you are too her, the lower that risk will be. Your walls are going to be up higher now, but that's ok, it just means that someone is going to have to push a little harder. In terms of speaking to girls romantically, I'd probably suggest treating every budding romance as being a budding friendship as well. The more you are able to normalise women and understand that (some of them) they have the same range of emotions, wants and needs that you do. You don't want to be hurt, and neither do they. Your experiences have hurt, but you can already see how they've affected the type of person you are today. My guess is the probability of you cheating on a partner is pretty much nil, and that's a brilliant point for your romantic resume. Any person would feel safe and secure in that kind of relationship. Life is tough, and it sucks sometimes, but you deserve better and it sounds like you are more than willing to earn better. It's hard not to be guarded, but having these conversations with girls you feel strongly about will either push away girls you wouldn't have worked out with, or it will bring her closer to you. Seeing a loyal, kind and caring person willing to be honest with them about their past and their expectations in a relationship, not to mention how good it feels to have someone you care about you trust you enough to open up like it... If you have that moment with her, she's is worth it. Also, this is the obligatory look after yourself part, if your walls are up you will do better to fill your time and use your energy on things that make you happy. For every girl that washes up against the wall and can't push it over, try not to feel disappointed in yourself - she is the one who fell short and better things are within your reach. If they have cheated, that was your choice. You do not need to change.
Firstly I would want to be sure you aren't taking this personally. You are complete and adequate this isn't a reflection on whether or not you are capable of loving or caring for another.
What you want is for a successful loving relationship and what you should consider is what makes a relationship successful. On the surface when you consider an "old married couple" the love they have for each other looks simple. The reality is that true love is natural and things that are natural are simple. So if you find yourself in an overly complex relationship you will want to find ways to simplify it. That sounds ambiguous and it is because the reasons we add complexity to our relationships varies and so you would need to ask for help if you don't know how to simplify a relationship given the complexities.
Everyone wears a mask: That is to say when you are meeting someone for the first time, it isn't them you are meeting but an associate. It is like being in an interview for a new job. You aren't going to talk about your flaws because you want the interviewer to love you for all that you can be not all that you are. This is natural in all human beings and takes time for a couple to overcome. As time goes on you begin to take off your mask as trust builds and you begin to see who a person truly is. This is why you shouldn't rush into anything and why, I personally think, the divorce rate is so high these days. It is possible to meet someone for the first time and be totally open about who you really are with no mask. This would at least be sure that if they are taking an interest in you that it is the real you they are interested in and not the best you you can be. Be yourself and let someone love you for all that you are naturally. I should add you cannot expect the same from the other person so give them time to take off their mask.
Be open to love: There is a story I tell about my mother and four girlfriends that taught me a valuable lesson about the perception of love.
My first girlfriend was a very physically attractive girl and she spent a good deal of time dolling herself up. She would spend a particularly lot of time before we would go out on a date. On a number of occasions, for reasons that are trivial to me, we would get into pretty nasty arguments. The arguments were rather irrational and I would spend a good lot of time afterwards trying to learn from them. In the end I had chalked it up to "men just cannot understand women." Then one particular argument led to a breakthrough where I was able to get out of her that she was upset that I hadn't told her that I noticed the amount of work it must have taken to straighten her naturally curly hair that day. I thought back on all the fights we had and realized they were all about the same thing. I had failed to pay her verbal compliments on all the hard work that she put into her image. She really needed compliments for her hard work in this relationship. From then on I tried to remember to notice these things and say something but ultimately it was quite a bit of effort for me because it didn't come natural to me and so we broke up.
Second girlfriend was very affectionate. She loved to be touched, not just sexually. If we were out we had to be holding hands. If we were alone it meant cuddles and kissing. If we were at a get together it meant holding hands or my arm around her. Again this wasn't natural to me. I am actually, for various reasons, not affectionate at all. Because this wasn't natural to me it was difficult to remember to do these things and the relationship didn't work.
The third girlfriend constantly required verbal declaration of love. She always needed to hear the words "I love you." I couldn't say it enough. Well for me the more you say it the less meaning it had. It is as though, in saying it so much, I was trying to convince her or myself of this love rather than declare it. Because we disagreed on this the relationship didn't last.
The fourth girlfriend loved material things. If there was any kind of a celebration there needed to be a gift involved as well. She wasn't overly concerned with the cost, although the more expensive the greater the love, she just wanted things. I am not an overly rich person and you can only buy so many teddy bears... this relationship didn't last.
Growing up there were various complications involving my mother and I and I had to move out when I was 16. At that time I really didn't think my mother loved me at all... certainly she didn't treat me like she did. Later on in life it was found that my mother was actually mentally ill which is why she treated me the way she did and when I forgave her for the horrible ways she treated me I was able to see she did love me. She loved me the only way she knew how which was actually to buy me just about anything I wanted she could afford.
And after I realized... Just because someone doesn't love you the way you want doesn't mean they aren't loving you the only way they know how. You have to be open to accept love however it is given and understand many people haven't learned this lesson yet. I also learned how it is that I naturally love people. Now that I am wise to this effect of people having different perceptions of declarations of love I am able to modify the way I show love to more closely match how they naturally accept love. This helps to ensure they know that I love them in a way that is natural and easy for them.
The last part of that story is of course what is practical and helps you. Just because you really do love someone doesn't mean they know it. Just saying it isn't always enough. You need to figure out how someone naturally accepts love and try to love them in that way. If someone knows they are truly loved then there will be no desire to leave you for someone else. Love conquers all.
The trick is in finding out how someone loves others. It isn't always easy but it can be helpful to see how they love others that are close to them. IE: Parents or siblings even pets to an extent.
The saving grace in all of this is that it doesn't take very long before your masks come off and you both naturally realize how you love and accept love which makes things easy.