Q: My fiancé and I both have computers in our homes. I have been totally open about my e-mail communication--he knows the passwords to both accounts that I have. But he was never open with his passwords. After he proposed to me, I asked when he would be open with his passwords, and he said after we were married.

Then about a month ago, I was on his computer and I found out why he was so secretive. He had been chatting and e-mailing with other women and also exchanging pictures--both clothed and nude. I confronted him, and he was horrified that I found out. He showed me the picture he had sent, which wasn't even of him, and he said that he never actually met any of these women.

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He says he wants my forgiveness more than anything. He has deleted all of the e-mail addresses--deleted everything related to this matter. I was there by his side when he did it.

But how can I trust him again? How do I forgive him? I have prayed about this, and talked with several Christian friends, but every day since this has happened, I can't seem to think about anything else. I have so much fear that it could happen again.

Dear Worried,
First of all, your sense of betrayal is absolutely justified. Marriage, or the commitment to be married, is about achieving intimacy at every level--physical and emotional. This means that couples should not hide anything from each other. Your fiancé transgressed this vow, first in his reluctance to share his passwords, then in his relations with other women, be they cyberwomen or otherwise.

Having said that, there is another essential element to a marriage. That is, the commitment to make the effort to achieve trust. This is now your task. One of the most important teachings of the ancient rabbis was their instruction to be like the students of the high priest Aaron and actively pursue peace. This means not only to honor and love peace but to actually seek it out. The same lesson can apply to trust. Trust is not only something passive but active. Trust is more than an intangible idea. Rather, it is a concrete statement of belief, and it applies to the entire human condition. It is the acceptance that people can change, and the belief that people are not destined to repeat forever the same mistakes.

I suggest therefore that you:
  • Acquire your fiancé's passwords, in both the literal and metaphorical senses. If you are to commit to marriage, you must then commit to shared bank accounts, shared pin numbers, shared passwords--in short, a life that is completely shared. Explain this to your fiancé and tell him that he must give you his passwords. Any reluctance to do so, especially in light of his previous history, should immediately set off warning bells in your head.

  • Make routine checks of your fiancé's e-mail account. At first, this will serve as the reassurance that you need right now to begin to trust again. As your conviction in him grows, your need to perform these checkups will lessen. Eventually, you will feel silly doing so. At that moment, you will have learned to trust again.

    Practice trust by emptying the contents of your heart to your fiancé. Bring the relationship to a deeper level, and hopefully he will reciprocate. Then he won't need to discuss these issues with anyone online. He'll have you with whom to practice a radical honesty that should lead to a deep and lasting intimacy.

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