My girlfriend and I have been together for over a year and live together. On our first-year anniversary two months ago, I realized that she didn’t share the same enthusiasm for the celebration.
When I dug a little bit deeper, I learned that she’d been sleeping with another man during our initial six weeks of dating. I found this out by looking at her phone (which I’m aware is an unhealthy act in itself).
During that time, I had courted her like a gentleman, giving her space and freedom to figure things out as we went along.
I was clear that I was dating to be in a relationship, not to just hook up. She’d never been in a long-term relationship before, so I didn't want to smother her.
To make matters worse, the man she slept with was married. They took cocaine and hooked up on two separate occasions. She brought him to her apartment and helped him hide it from his wife.
These events closely coincided with me introducing her to a sibling and my group of friends. After about seven weeks, we had a conversation in which she said, "let's be exclusive.”
I’d already thought we were being exclusive at the time, because there was no indication of other partners.
I feel like our perfect relationship has been damaged and the trust has been broken. I’ve found the experience to be traumatic and emotionally draining.
Also, her choice of partner has made me lose respect for her. I treated her like a gentleman, while this man was able to hook up with her just by sharing some substances. How can I rebuild trust and respect for her?
Whenever we’re intimate, these thoughts of disrespect still re-emerge.
Is this relationship worth salvaging? Will I ever be able to feel the same way about her? I used to feel that I loved her endlessly, but now I have clouds of doubt that make me feel that she’s unworthy.
Is this judgment fair? Help me figure out a way to move past this.
Damaged Trust and Respect
The key answer is in your own words – You want to be fair and to move past your doubts. So, that’s the starting point from which I’ll respond.
For over a year, except for those first six weeks when you assumed exclusivity but it hadn’t been discussed and agreed (rarely is, at the very start), she’s been the woman you love.
On the “anniversary date,” she felt too guilty to celebrate and a phone snoop (not right but sometimes understandable) showed you why.
It was a huge shock, disappointment, and hurt. If you can never get over the image in your mind of her with that man, you won’t be able to stay together.
But she is not “unworthy.” She’s human and she erred. And to all my readers who question gender fairness, Yes, I have said the same thing about men in similar situations.
It was the earliest days of your dating. No serious commitment had been made. Your gentlemanliness and sincerity caused her to see what a truly respectful, loving relationship could be. And she’s been with you ever since.
However, if you still see that period as a permanent blot on your time together, it’s over.
Talk to her. Ask her if you can trust her as you did before. If she says yes, and you still love her, say so, and deliberately put this behind you.
I dated a woman I loved for four years. Our relationship ended 17 years ago. She married one year after, I married a year after her. We both have children in our marriages.
We talk by phone once or twice a year. I still think about her almost daily. I'm generally happy in my marriage, but with all marriages, there are stressful times.
I want to tell her how much I still think about her.
I don't want to end my marriage, but I think it's important she knows how I feel.
Should I Tell Her?
No. But you probably will, because, with text messaging and email, fingers can move faster than the brain can reason.
Of course, you’ll risk your marriage by doing so. That’s how playing with emotions works: the flattery, romantic memory, fantasy about a future… But none of the reality of divorce and family breakup until it’s too late.
Keep it in the past.
Tip of the day:
To love deeply requires being able to forgive. That’s when trust can return.