Long time reader, first time emailer. This one is a bit of a doozy, and I am very much at fault, but I need your advice on how to move forward.
My girlfriend and I (let’s call her K) have been dating for nearly 5 years. We’ve going through a tough year. We both moved back to our old town after a few years away for work, but have struggled to reacclimatize. The city just isn’t quite the same, moving was a nightmare, but we hate our new jobs (she’s stuck because she needs to work off a student loan and I’m stuck because there’s very few options in my field of tertiary IT education in my country). As a result, we have constantly been up and down in our relationship this year, and every time I felt like we got to a good place, something would come and set us back again. We really love each other though, and we’re committed to making this work through all the shit.
A recurring issue in our relationship is sexual imbalance. K is a highly sexual person and, though I used to be, the stress of moving and work the last 3 years has killed my libido and made me pretty vanilla (to the point where I was scared of toys because of the threat they posed to my shitty fragile masculinity, even though I know that’s not actually the case). I will admit I’ve probably gotten too comfortable in my relationship. Every very time K would bring up this issue, I really would try to be more attentive, but would eventually fall back into old habits. It’s hard to maintain a healthy sex life when I’m feeling like shit in my work life, but maybe that’s just an excuse. I know sexual incompatibility is another bad sign, but like I said, we’re committed to working through it.
Now for the really shitty bit. About 6 weeks ago, I knowingly cheated on K with an old flame (let’s call her Z). Z and I had kept in touch bit from time to time (first mistake). She texted me saying she wanted to come over to see me on the pretense of seeing my dog who is really cute (first red flag). So when K went away on holiday, I invited Z to our house. I didn’t really want to, but she kept pestering me, and I kinda wanted someone to talk to about K – we were in another rough patch dealing with the sexual issues. So she came over and we had a few drinks (though we weren’t drunk) and spoke about our respective relationships and their struggles (Z is polyamorous, but had been struggling with her partner being very stressed, affecting their sex life).
It felt really good to open up to someone about K, especially the intimate things, because I often kept this stuff bottled up. We were getting physically close through most of these conversations, and at some point she started spontaneously giving me a massage (second red flag).
And then it all went downhill. We started kissing, which very quickly led to sex. I don’t know what I was thinking. I was being selfish and in my head I really just needed a win because of my issues with K being because of me. I figured she was in a similar mindset, though she knew full well what she was enabling me to do. I guess we both needed a win.
I thought that was the end of it once she’d left. I knew what a shit thing I’d done. I’ve been struggling all year with depression and self sabotage is a bit of a pattern in my relationships (though not with cheating). So I kinda hated myself for it, but it did give me perspective. I loved K and wanted to throw myself into our relationship as penance for what I’d done.
Soon after, Z texted me again, feeling terrible that she’d helped me cheat on K. I needed to fix this, she said – which meant telling K about what I had done. My stance on this was that no, K didn’t need to know about this thing that was once, meant nothing at the end of the day and was over. She blackmailed me saying that if I ever proposed to K, I better have told her first, or she would. We fought back and forth over text, ended up basically telling each other to fuck off and blocking each other on all social media. I thought that was the end of it.
Now comes the really fucked up part. To cover my tracks, I blocked Z on all of my, AND all of K’s social media (through access to her phone). Like I said, I took the approach that not telling K would be the best option. It was over.
Fast forward to this past weekend, K and I are back in a good place, and went down to somewhere we used to live for the weekend. Knowing this was the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with, I proposed to her, and she said yes. I wasn’t thinking about Z, and I thought I’d covered my tracks well and was working through my own self destructive behaviour by being a better person for K.
Turns out I’d forgotten to block Z on K’s Instagram, and the day after our social media announcement I got a text from Z that she hoped I’d told K first , because she was going to. I hopped out of bed, took K’s phone while she was sleeping (wow, I’m a dick) and scoured it to find Z following K on Instagram. I blocked her immediately (no traces of any threatened message) and thought I would be okay. Until Z started making multiple alt accounts and following both of us. She was on a warpath.
Backed into a wall, the weight of my actions crashed down on me and after much deliberation, I caved into Z’s blackmail. I told K before she could.
K was terribly hurt, and I’ve put her in a shitty position now – she can’t take back all the well wishes on our engagement, or tell anyone about my infidelity because there’s no way they would let her stay if they knew. She says she forgives me (to an extent) and understands the cocktail of shit that led me to this shit show. We are both pretty much going through the five stages of grief about this.
I have promised to be better, and am taking steps to go and see a therapist to work through my fucked up psyche (about a year too late but better late than never) and we’re going to see K’s therapist together later this week for couples counseling.
The only bright side to this is that Z has thankfully disappeared (I don’t even even want this to be posted on Kotaku in case she sees and it stirs up a shit storm), and that K loves me (and our dog) enough to want to stick around and try to work through this.
It’s really hard. I am wracked with guilt. I love this person and I feel like we can build our future together on a clean slate now that everything is out in the open. She loves me, but worries whether love is enough. I keep asserting that it is because I don’t want to lose her. Uncoupling also brings with it a host of logistical problems that aren’t worth it, especially if we can (which I believe) work through this.
I know it will take time, and that I’m probably doing most of the good things to fix things already. I just feel like shit, and I guess I’m looking for some sort of affirmation that this will pass and we’ll be okay. I know that’s not your job and I’m probably going to get realtalked into the ground, but even typing this out has been cathartic, so at least that has helped somewhat.
I feel like shit, I need help, and I can’t bear to lose her.
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