Well, I am terribly sorry for the delay. We have had bad storms where I live and we have been out of power and internet. I am back up and going now. So the delay was much longer than anticipated!
Okay, as far as your question goes. I can definitely understand how the trust has been affected. It sounds like she was in a bad place prior to your relationship and the boundaries with this person became blurred. I sense the insecurity that finding the chat has led you to feel, and then when confronting the issue, to be told a "white lie" can feel hurtful.
I guess my encouragement is that you "think from the end." Think about whether or not you feel that this is something that you can move past. You have to determine if you feel that trust is broken to the degree that you cannot help but resent her or the actions. You guys will have to communicate more about this and process from a very transparent perspective. It is a fresh wound for you and it seems that once she rejected him in April, she has not heard from him? is that a possibility? You have not seen any other evidence of an affair, correct? but the lie is what bothers you.
i think in a relationship and in communication you have to focus on the goal of the conversation. You have to "think from the end" and think of the solution or result that you mostly want.
I am a big fan of Jack Canfield, he has the books "Chicken Soup for The Soul." He talks about the "Law of Attraction" and using a simple equation to help us realize our goals and focus on achieving the things that we want. It is E+R=O. Events +Response= outcome. In life, we cannot always control the events that occur, but we can focus on what we want long term (outcome). So first, decide what it is that you want. Write it down and be very specific about the relationship that you want to have. Then think of every possible event that can affect your achievement of this. Then take the time to create potential responses to these. It creates a safety plan or at least some sort of tool that you have in your "toolbox" to help you continue to achieve that preferred outcome. It may sound silly. But I think it is always a good idea to feel prepared-- it tends to ease some anxiety too. It also keeps you "congruent" or from reacting or overreacting. Keep in mind that you are hoping to develop trust, not harm the relationship even more, so dont be critical, sarcastic or use blameful language. .
It takes a great deal of be courage to be vulnerable and honest especially after being hurt. I can understand that lack of trust that you may be feeling right now because it may feel like the deception goes to the core of who you feel that this person is. However, I want to provide encouragement to you; It sounds like your partner trusts you a great deal to be able to share with you about the past decision that she made, even if it has been in bits in pieces. She may be embarrassed, ashamed, or even have continued guilt which creates fear. It was not okay to lie to you, but psychologically, it has been stated that some people lie because they think it is a "solves the problem," but of course we both know that a lie in the past just creates more lies in the future. She may have been fearful of a reaction initially, or even afraid of judgment. She may also have kept the information from you because she was "choosing her battles." Share with her the vulnerability and worry that you have. You also have to remember that if she is sharing this with you, it can be an indication that she wants to be transparent with you about her past because she no longer wanted that aspect of the deception to be a part of her life. I know that some people say "once a cheater, always a cheater," but I disagree. I think that there is opportunity in conflict and there is a great deal of "context" to be taken in when you think about our choices in past relationships, or even current ones..... You can take this conflict and create an opportunity for intimacy, but it wont be easy initially.
I also think that conflict creates opportunity and with opportunity there is a responsibility. You have to think about the freedoms that we take in relationships too. You don't want to abuse your role in a relationship. I will send some tips about conflict and healthy communication and a style that I teach in the clinic where I work.
There is no need to fear fighting, it is healthy— it open communication and leads to resolution. Often conflict shows us where we can or need to grow.
When fighting, focus on the issue— not the person. you cannot attack someone’s character or go after their past mistakes to make them feel bad. You have to remain open to their statements and how it can be solution focused. It’s enough to deal with the problem without adding the new problem of hurting each other’s feelings.
Also, listen to the other person when they are communicating. Be aware of your body language and tone when communicating. Sometimes we don’t realize that we begin to assert ourselves loudly and that escalates the situation. So talk softly and make eye contact. Be honest and vulnerable.
It is also easy to be defensive, and it would seem natural to want to justify your feelings. Try to be curious about what they are saying, but not with sarcasm. Be sincere.
Fighting ends when cooperation begins. Ask for options, ask what you can do to adjust your role and show empathy? Offering alternatives of your own shows that you also are willing to try something different and work toward a collaboration with her.
Take ownership of your role too, make concessions to her about your fears and feelings. If you give a little, it makes room for the other person to make concessions too. This isn’t about scorekeeping. It’s about finding a solution that is workable for both of you.
Be vulnerable and remember that anger is a secondary emotion that protects us when we are hurting, disappointed or scared….
A method I teach is called the "oreo" method. So, this looks like "sandwiching in" the behavior that you would like to address or the situation you desire to be changed between affirmations and assurance. In your case you may be able to approach your girlfriend with something like this, "I want you to know that I am trying to think from your side of this situation. I care deeply about you and I dont want to make things worse between us. I think that we both have had past relationships that we are not proud of and probably made decisions that we would never repeat. I would like for us to be open and transparent with one another. I think that we have to make efforts to establish boundaries and trust to 'fireproof' our relationships so that we dont continue to have problems with others thinking that there may be a way to approach either of us. I dont want that to sound possessive, but I do want it to sound protective. That is my goal. I hope that you understand that I want this relationship to flourish and I want to trust you. How can I support you in knowing that you can be honest with me about these things without feeling afraid or judged? I want us both to feel that we can be honest. I think we can make this situation a positive one by recognizing what we both need."
i would love to hear your feedback and I hope that this has been helpful!