DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I’ve been reading your articles a lot lately and they are so reasonable that I thought to myself that maybe you could put some reason in my head as well.
You see, to be really short, I met a perfect girl about a year and a half ago, or so I thought. She told be about her male friend from Spain whom she met while she was on her student exchange. We started dating in December, I told her I loved her in April. In March she went to see this Spanish friend. She said that they arranged this visit before she met me. I didn’t protest, I didn’t want to limit her, I wanted to be perfect for her. In May she went with him for two weeks to New York. Same justification – “we arranged it before I met you”. Spoiler – she was lying. In June she told me that she loved me back and she has never met with him ever since. And I can tell you it was true, her feeling. Maybe I’m naive but she did love me, I’m quite sure.
Fast forward to September – I got an e-mail from somebody. Turns out the Spanish friend was her “f--k friend”. The e-mail contained all their conversations on facebook and all their e-mails. Moreover, in this e-mail there was a spreadsheet which documented all their trips and all the times they had sex. They were awarding themselves points for each intercourse, every time they had oral sex etc. and also some bonus points for other things like sex in the shower or sexy lingerie. Of course, the March and May trips were also there.
I broke up with her in October. She was so sorry. And she lured me back. I came back. She became perfect. She threw out (but only then) all the postcards she received from him, all the lingerie sets he bought for her. She was literally a dream girlfriend. But I didn’t forgive and didn’t forget. I couldn’t. But I still loved her and I still do. And I tried really hard to find a way in which it would work, but I didn’t. After a couple of months of hesitating and fighting with my love and my hatred for her, I gave up, I walked away two weeks ago.
Now, please remember that it’s a really, really short story, but to sum it up: she lied in my face about her relationship with him. She went twice to see him and have sex with him, even a few days after I told her I loved her. She continued to talk to him on facebook after she told me she loved me. And they had this “spreadsheet” game of awarding themselves points for f--king.
And after I walked away, I read your article about what you can do with cheating. How you can survive it but you have to forgive. How it’s possible to maintain a relationship after betrayal, even though it’s gonna be a completely different relationship. And you also wrote that the acts of cheating are not equal.
My question is: was this the kind of an “unforgivable” cheat? Was this the right decision to leave her? I know that it’s something that I have to determine eventually, but I wanted your say on this as an expert. I still love her and frankly, if there was a way to make this work, I would. I would like to forgive her, but even if I could – would this be a wise decision considering the above details? If you’re willing to forgive something like that, should you then always take the road of forgiveness? Or perhaps forgiveness and staying with her would be a wrong decision, no matter what.
Right now we’re at the stage where she wrote to me how much she misses me and how much she is not able to live right now. I also replied a couple of times about how hard it is for me. And a few days later, her tone changed – she was very unemotional, saying that she thought things over and that because of her “emotional destruction” after I left, she lost a lot of time at work and she can’t afford it anymore. And that we can meet and talk but it’s either we try or we stop all contact with each other. And I got mad – I wanted to know that she still suffers like I do, that she cares. That she actually has no right to dictate such terms, because she destroyed the relationship. And I panicked because I realised that it would probably mean no contact. Suddenly “the ball” was in her court and it freaked me out.
You should know that I feel guilty because of this breakup. I have a feeling that there was a way to stay with her, but I couldn’t find it. Your article made me think that maybe, if I want to stay with her, I should try to forgive her, no matter what she did. Also, you wrote about the difference between what you want to do and what you’re supposed to want. It’s true – all my friends tell me to dump her, go nuclear and break all possible contacts with her. I, on the other side, still love her despite what she did and would love to get back with her and forgive her. But despite the fact whether I could forgive her or not, would this be a wise decision considering what she did?
In other words – I am seeking confirmation that it was a right decision to leave her. Even a simple Yes or No would do.
Not A Special One
DEAR NOT A SPECIAL ONE: First of all, I’m so sorry this happened to you. That’s a s--tty thing to have happen and it’s an even s--ttier way to find out about it. And honestly, I have to wonder about the motivations of her f--k-buddy sending you all of their dirty details; is he just the kind of asshole who takes delight in rubbing somebody’s nose in the affair? Was he hoping that this would make you and your girlfriend break up so that he could have her all to himself? It says a lot about your girlfriend’s choices that she cheated on you with someone who went that far out of his way to be a s--thead to you.
Regardless: it’s a f--ked up situation and I’m sorry you got stuck in it.
So, taking this from the top: yes, not every infidelity is equal. But while that is true, I don’t think that people should forgive every infidelity, nor is forgiveness necessarily warranted. What I do think is that circumstances and context are important and that cheating shouldn’t automatically be a relationship-extinction level event. However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t times – often MANY times – where you should not only end the relationship but burn it to the f--king ground and salt the earth behind you.
A one-off failure of willpower – an alcohol induced hook-up at a professional event followed by regret, for example – is different from a serial cheater or someone who’s having an ongoing affair with someone else. The former is often easier to forgive; the circumstances are unlikely align again and the cheater (assuming that s/he truly regrets the infidelity) is much more likely to ensure that it never happens again. The latter, however, is somebody who can’t or doesn’t care about the harm they’re causing to their partner. This doesn’t mean that it’s a crime that can’t be forgiven in theory… but the bar is significantly f--king higher and it’s going to take the work of a saint to expiate those sins. And to be perfectly honest: the person who’s been cheated on may not WANT to forgive and forget.
Now, as to your question about whether you were right to leave her… well I want you to ask yourself a couple of important questions. As hard as it can be, I want you to put aside things like their spreadsheet; as salacious and over-the-top it may be, it’s a distraction. Instead, I want you to ask yourself: is there any way your ex can earn your forgiveness and get your trust back? Not “has she” or “will she” but is it even possible? Or is this going to be a stone in your shoe, no matter what she does? Do you think she legitimately regrets what she’s done, or is she just saying what she thinks you need to hear in order to “let it go”?
Considering the sudden shift in tone in her communication with you? I’m not sure she does. As soon as she’s putting things in terms of the hurt she’s gone through, that’s a sign that she’s not exactly considering what she’s done to you.
But I’m not there and you are. I don’t know her and you do. So you’re going to have to be the one to answer those questions.
If you want my personal opinion, with the limited information I have… Yes, I think you were right to leave. And as much as you may miss her, I don’t think going back is a good idea. Frankly, after all this time, I don’t think you’ve really healed from what she’s done. I get the distinct impression that, were you to take her back, you would be in a constant defensive crouch, always waiting for the shoe to drop. And that, frankly, is not a healthy relationship to have with someone.
There’s a line from a song I love that is relevant here: “I may love you, yeah, but I love me more“. I think you need to love yourself enough to let this one go. Mourn the loss, by all means. You were hurt. A dream died. That deserves to be mourned. But you need to heal and that’s never going to happen as long as you’re holding on to the idea that maybe you were wrong to leave and maybe this can be fixed.
There are other women out there, and they are just as amazing as she was. But they also won’t betray you like she has. So let her go and let yourself heal, so you don’t develop a callus on your soul.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org