DEAR NATALIE: You are often open-minded in your approach to these questions so while I am nervous to write this, I hope that asking for help may help other people in a similar position. For the past couple of years I was dating a man who was really wonderful at first – we fell in love quickly but I missed a couple of major red flags. Some of my friends saw them, but you know how that goes. I just thought they didn’t understand me or him or our relationship. Long story short, over the course of our relationship, he got deeper and deeper into QAnon conspiracies and culture, and I followed him there. I didn’t agree with a lot of the things he said and did, but I never had the courage or desire to stand up to him. Some other things I did genuinely believe, but I think the brainwashing is starting to wear off. We have since broken up which has helped me find a lot of clarity. I know there are support groups for people like me, but what I’m really having a hard time with is the fact that I lost a lot of good friends because of my beliefs. Is there a way to get them back? –Q-ANO MORE
DEAR –Q-ANO MORE: Lead with an apology if you want any chance of gaining friends back. Don’t just send a text message that says “sorry,” either. You need to look them in the eye and share with them what you just bravely shared with me. Cults can be incredibly difficult to let go of or walk away from. There is a lot of pain and shame associated with what you went through. Before you decide to attempt to mend fences with others in your life, you first need to forgive yourself and heal. Get to the root of why you walked that path with your ex for so long. Find out what the causes were, so that you won’t repeat patterns of abuse. I recommend seeking a therapist who specializes in this area. I am proud of you for acknowledging where you are and where you want to be. You are taking back your power and that is a great thing. But, it may take time for your friends to trust you again. Be patient, tread lightly and lead with compassion both for others in your life and for yourself, as well. Good luck.
DEAR NATALIE: I am polyamorous and bisexual. I’m currently not partnered, and dating a man who is married. He told me that his wife was totally fine with our relationship and that they were non-monogamous. I believed him. That was the first mistake. Recently, we were out together having lunch and she rushed into the space and started screaming horrible things at me. Apparently, she had hired a private detective who was following me. I didn’t even know! It turned into this whole thing and now she is divorcing him. He won’t stop calling me. He wants to be with me and I want nothing to do with him. I would have never engaged in this relationship had I known. I’m also now afraid to date anyone in a relationship for fear that they are lying to me. What can I do in the future to make sure this doesn’t happen again? –JUST BE HONEST
DEAR JUST BE HONEST: If you plan on dating someone who is in a marriage or long-term partnership, you may have to pump the brakes romantically until you meet their partner from now on. Communication in any relationship is key, but when more than one romantic partner is involved, it becomes even more important than ever that everyone is on the same page. I agree that you shouldn’t speak to your ex. The fact is, he lied to both you and his wife, which only means he will lie again. Why put yourself or any of his other potential partners through that? Perhaps date single people for a bit until you work out how you will approach someone else with multiple partners in the future. If you bring up meeting the partner and your love interest balks at that or makes up excuses as to why that can’t happen, take that as a sign that they aren’t being as honest as they want to appear. As a reminder, people are polyamorous because it is a relationship orientation that they genuinely commit to, and have ethics and values around – not so they can cheat on their partners, manipulate others, and remain uncommunicative. Not all others may be on this wavelength, but you can trust your own intentions. Protect yourself and keep your guard up until your potential partners prove that they are being honest and transparent with everyone involved, as they should be.
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