He cheated, she forgave him, now he wants to make it up to her
Carolyn Hax is away. The following first appeared on Nov. 24, 2004.
I love my girlfriend, who is the most amazing person I've ever met. I just can't seem to avoid being selfish and doing things that end up hurting her.
A few months ago, she found out I had cheated on her, and she left. In that time, I realized what I had lost and that she is the one I want to spend the rest of my life with. She has forgiven me and we are back together, but I still feel guilty and I want to do something to show her what she means to me (and maybe what she always meant to me, that I was afraid to admit?). Any suggestions?
Yes: Don't cheat on her.
That might be the least facetious facetious-sounding answer I've ever given.
I could trot out all the usual flowers and gifts and apologies and promises, but she has forgiven you. That is profound. The most profound gift you can give her in return is to be worthy of that forgiveness -- today, tomorrow, and for as long as you share life with her.
Make that second-most profound. Most profound is to respect the intelligence of this "most amazing person you've ever met" enough not to suck up to her after you've just bedded some other girl.
Conveniently, behaving with integrity is also the way to beat guilt. You don't buy it down, you live it down. This doesn't preclude gifts and apologies. They do have their place, especially if it isn't her birthday and you haven't just betrayed her horribly and some feeling goes into the gifts. But it does preclude moronic pronouncements like, "I just can't seem to avoid being selfish." You can. So, do.