Hey Doc. 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 2015, I told her I loved her in April 2016. 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 2016 – I got an e-mail from somebody. Turns out the spanish friend was her “fuck 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, each blowjob 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 in October 2016. 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 fucking.
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
First of all, I’m so sorry this happened to you. That’s a shitty thing to have happen and it’s an even shittier way to find out about it. And honestly, I have to wonder about the motivations of her fuck-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 shithead to you.
Regardless: it’s a fucked 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 fucking 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 easier to forgive, in many cases; 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 fucking 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.
Dear Dr. NerdLove,
I’m hoping for a bit of advice. I’m a single woman in my late 30s. I’m a big nerd, but I can also talk sports fluently. I have a great job that pays well, a nice apartment all to myself, multiple degrees, interesting hobbies, and look dang good in a pair of heels. However, I’ve pretty much resigned myself to being single forever because I am not down to have sex on the third date. Hell, I might not have sex on the sixth. Or sixteenth. I feel like sex is a pretty huge expression of trust, and after a handful of dates with most dudes I don’t think I’d trust them to be unattended with my laptop, let alone my naked body. I’m not waiting until marriage, and I do have a healthy libido, but I suspect I’m demisexual and it takes me longer to feel the level of connection that would make me comfortable with sex than most people.
You’ve had lots of columns about how to disclose virginity, but how do I disclose that my date ain’t gettin’ lucky anytime soon? Do I put that in an online dating profile off the bat or do I wait until the topic comes up in conversation? As it is I try and at least offer to go dutch on every date so they don’t feel like they’re owed anything, but I still get plenty of ‘ice queen’, ‘prude’, and ‘shouldn’t have lead me on’ by around the third date, which I am super tired of. At this point I feel like the only men with the patience I need are religious and waiting for marriage, but I am hella agnostic, so that just isn’t gonna work either.
Thank you so much,
Have A Little Patience
Straight talk: you’re going to have a lot of issues with guys who’re going to want sex and want it soon. That’s just reality of things. That doesn’t mean that they’re wrong for wanting it, any more than it you’re wrong for wanting to wait; it just means that waiting is going to be the price of admission.
Now, as you’ve seen, you will encounter dudes who will take this badly. They’re the ones who’ve called you a prude or frozen. While it’s not wrong for them to be unhappy that they’re not getting what they hoped for, insulting you for it is a pretty good clue that you dodged a bullet. But while you may have the moral high-ground, who wants to go through that every time they’re on a date? I would suggest that you make it clear up front that it you need to build up trust and comfort with someone before sex is going to be on the table. If you don’t necessarily want to use the term demisexual – which, let’s face it, is still pretty inside baseball right now – then you might want to phrase it as you’re a slow burn who prefers to take her time before sex is going to be on the table. Putting this in your dating profile is going to weed out a lot of the guys who are hoping for sex by date 3. Not all of them to be sure, but most will self-select out of your dating pool before it ever becomes an issue.
That being said: it can be helpful to give people a rough idea of how long they might be waiting. It’s one thing to tell someone it may be a month or so. It’s another to just leave it completely ambiguous and leaving someone wondering when, or even if it may happen. That’s asking an investment from someone without telling them what the price is and that’s not fair to them – especially if you’re the only person they’re dating. And while I’m definitely not saying you’re doing this, it’s good to make sure you’re not sending mixed signals to people you’re dating. If you’re getting increasingly physically intimate with someone – a goodnight kiss on date two, some extended making out on date four, rolling around on date six, etc. – then folks could be forgiven for being frustrated when it seems like things are escalating towards sex only to be told it isn’t.
I would also suggest that you go looking for demisexual guys – I promise they’re out there, I hear from them all the time – and give them priority over other dudes. They’re much more likely to be on the same page as you and your mutual patience will mean that you’re much more sexually compatible than the ones who say you’re leading them on.