I agree with most of the advice you’ve been given. Incredible, wise, kind, generous advice.
I just wanted to address something that keeps coming up in your posts: a fear that you have a pessimistic view of love, and that your pessimism has somehow “infected” your SO. It would be so easy to gloss over this statement in light of your SO’s infidelity. But I think this fear of yours is incredibly revealing. It is a major red flag in a sea of otherwise rational thinking. To me, that points to a girl who believes she is fundamentally broken. That she is potentially toxic, to the point that the people around her might “catch” her brokenness. You need to get yourself to a therapist ASAP to work through this, because here’s the deal:
First of all, your view that love is conditional isn’t pessimistic. It is realistic and wise. I believe there was a thread about this very topic on the Bee and 99% of the respondants purported that, of course there are conditions to love, particularly romantic love. Conditions allow us to take care of ourselves and share our needs, which actually allows us to get closer to our partners. That is a not a negative outlook, it is a mature one (and clearly less toxic than whatever outlook your SO is operating under, since his belief system led him to cheat on you with prostitutes, while yours led you work towards building a healthy, honest, loving relationship).
Second of all, even if you ARE pessimistic, if your SO is so weak-willed that he “catches” your negativity–and that negativity causes him to cheat on you (!), then frankly he needs to spend some time as a single man, building up his worldview so that it doesn’t topple like a house of cards when confronted with someone who doesn’t quite share his beliefs.
Thirdly, do you truly believe that staying with your SO is an act of love? Because from an outside perspective, what your SO needs right now is consequences. He needs to see that his behavior is unacceptable. He needs to face himself at his ugliest and zero in on what part of himself allowed him to construct this elaborate fantasy relationship with you. Yes, your relationship with him was a fantasy because it was built on lies and shame. Whatever he says about being able to separate sex from emotions is complete bullshit, because the main issue isn’t whether he was emotionally attached to these women, the main issue is that he was so emotionally DETACHED from you.
The fact that things were so “good” in your relationship is actually the most upsetting part of your story because he is THAT good at lying to you. Not just about the prostitutes, but about the fact that he was so deeply unhappy with your relationship, with his life, with himself, that he paid women to have sex with him and then kept it a secret from you. He is being controlled by shame and he will never be able to have a healthy relationship (even an open relationship in which it is mutually agreed that sex with prostitutes is a-ok!) until he works through those deeply ingrained layers of shame.
The best thing you could do for him right now is to break up with him.
Finally and most importantly, do you feel deserving and worthy of love? Do you feel worthy of being treated with respect and care and honesty? A truly optimistic man who truly believed in the power of love would not crumble at the sight of someone who hesitates. You wouldn’t have that much power over him, and that would be a good thing. He would sweep you up in a whirlwind of love so honest and true that you would know at your core that you were whole, and loved, and perfect as you are, cynicism and all. That man is out there for you. That man is not your SO.