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Dear Annie: Breaking the cycle of guilt and pain

Dear Annie: About two years ago I was pregnant with my firstborn. About five months into the pregnancy, my partner, the father, cheated on me. When I found out about it, I was devastated; I didn’t know what to do with myself.

I felt he did it to me on purpose with the reasoning of “getting even” because I’d cheated on him years before. It was one time, and I felt pushed away and insecure at the time. Of course, cheating didn’t make me feel better; it made me feel worse.

His cheating on me while I was pregnant made me feel that I didn’t mean anything to him. I felt stupid because it was someone we knew, someone I was hanging around thinking that nothing was going on between them. I’ve even hosted her at our house with a few other people even though they were messing around with each other during that time.

Now I feel back in the same place, and I don’t know how to stop this running circle of guilt, like it was my fault he cheated on me. I really wish I could get over it and move on, because that’s what I should do. But I have flashbacks and make up scenarios in my head. Please give me some advice. I’m tired of feeling this way. I need a way to let go of this heavy weight on my shoulders. — Lost in Love

Dear Lost in Love: He needs to help you take that weight off your shoulders. It is possible to move past cheating in a relationship, but only with sincere remorse, a commitment to healing the wounds and a willingness to have trust restored. You both need to either work together toward those tenets or consider separating now and cultivating a respectful nonromantic relationship as co-parents for the long-term.

Dear Annie: My situation is not a unique one in that I know many women experience difficulties with daughters-in-law. I have had discussions with my son about my feelings, but I really do not wish to cause further strife between him and me nor between him and his wife. They live very near her family members and everything they do and every holiday involves just her family. I feel as though my family is an afterthought, and that I am occasionally kept within their lives merely as a resource for gifts and financial help if and when needed. My question is, because I feel this way, should I cut back on financial gifts, as I’m feeling very used. I know if I confront my son it will surely cause problems. Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated. — Feeling Used Financially

Dear Feeling Used Financially: We tend to think of boundaries as something we set for others. But we also must set boundaries for ourselves — i.e., be cognizant of how much of ourselves (and our resources) we are truly comfortable giving. If the financial assistance and gifts are causing you resentment, it’s a sign you’re violating your own boundaries.

The next time you’re considering giving them something, think about how you will feel afterward. If you’ll feel frustrated or slighted, don’t do it.

Know that you don’t need to shower them with gifts to be worthy of their time. You are enough. Toward that end, don’t give up on spending quality time with your son and his wife. Keep a dialogue open about potential visits.

You do not need to continue showering them with material gifts and financial assistance in order to be worthy and loved. You are enough.

“Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie” is out now. Annie Lane’s debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Go to http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send questions for Annie Lane to dearannie@creators.com.

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