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Abandon ship, once and for all, or fight for what I have?
April 21, 2011 9:16 AM   Subscribe

Seven months ago I cheated on my partner. Six months ago I came clean to him. Three months ago we broke up. This past week we have begun to spend some time together, and I feel like we both reached a breakthrough last night. Am I crazy to have this renewed faith in/willingness to work for our love? Do I need to finally let it go? Much more inside.

Nearly three months ago, I officially broke up with the first and only true love I've ever experienced. Our relationship had been on the rocks for three months before that; I had cheated on him and confessed to him. This caused a great deal of strain and stress to the both of us. We did reach an amicable chord of forgiveness, but I broke up with him because I was afraid we were too incompatible (and I had too many personal problems to work on) to be together. We parted ways in a friendly manner . . .

This past week he and I have been spending some time together. (Yes, we even hooked up.) At first I was worried that we were just spiraling back into our old habits, but we shared a lengthy, enlightening conversation last night. We opened up to each other in a beautiful way. We talked about our relationship -- the good times and the bad times. I opened up to him; he opened up to me. It felt like a catharsis. It felt really good.

We talked about what we want with our futures. We talked about how our break-up made us feel like the rug had been swept up from beneath our feet. We talked about our hopes and our dreams. What's so remarkable is that we have such similar life-goals. We both want to travel. We both want to settle down somewhere small and laid-back, possibly outside of the States. We both want to live a simple life and create a family and a home together.

We both wondered aloud why we're no longer together in a half-joking kind of way.

We talked about how we've been the past three months. We essentially feel the same way. We've both tried seeing other people, but we're both still preoccupied by the half-hope of reuniting with each other. (When things ended, we were about to move in together. We were about to get very serious.) There are parts of us that want to come back together with a renewed dedication and make things work.

I feel like a fire within my heart has been relit and it is awesome to behold. This fire wants to grow and burn brightly. It wants me to do whatever it takes to win him back and pick up where we should have never left off. This fire makes me feel confident that we are MEANT to be together.

Now Hivemind, I realize that perhaps I am being brash. Perhaps I should have never recontacted the ex. Perhaps I should try to move on. But if we are not meant to be together, then why does it so deeply feel like we should be together? Why does it feel like we have gone through all these trials just to come to this moment where we truly come together? Do I tell him all this? Do I wait a while before I approach him again? Or do I need to break off contact again and continue moving on? Last night was amazing for me (there was no sex involved, only company and conversation) . . . Am I crazily wrong for feeling this way?
posted by fignewton to Human Relations (23 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Wait, what led to you cheating on him in the first place? I feel like that's an important detail here.
posted by melissam at 9:23 AM on April 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


Perhaps the most important questions are (and that are not addressed in your question): Why did you cheat in the first place? Why did you think you were incompatible?

And then only you can answer the question whether you should work for this love.
posted by moiraine at 9:23 AM on April 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


The reason why I cheated is something we talked about last night. It's complicated, but I'll try to explain it here:

I spent a lot of time feeling inadequate. I didn't feel good enough for him, especially on a sexual level. He's older than me, and has a very extensive sexual past, one that always intimidated me. It got to the point where I felt like I couldn't sexually satisfy him, so I couldn't sexually satisfy myself either. A lot of other weird, confusing sexual emotions were involved. In a moment of confused desperation, I slept with someone else. Honestly, I think it happened because we weren't effectively communicating with each other. I didn't properly communicate to him what I was feeling leading up to me seeking sex outside of the relationship, and he didn't properly communicate the invalidity of my anxieties.
posted by fignewton at 9:33 AM on April 21, 2011


Could you flat out ask him? Something like "It feels like we're moving toward getting back together. Is that how it feels to you?"

You might also want to look at counseling, either for yourself or as a couple. This part:

Honestly, I think it happened because we weren't effectively communicating with each other. I didn't properly communicate to him what I was feeling leading up to me seeking sex outside of the relationship, and he didn't properly communicate the invalidity of my anxieties.

seems like something you'd want to address.
posted by no relation at 9:38 AM on April 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Perhaps I should try to move on. But if we are not meant to be together, then why does it so deeply feel like we should be together?

Because hormones are mean, that's why. I can't judge whether or not you two belong together, but you need more than "This fire makes me feel confident that we are MEANT to be together." Fires don't stay lit forever; you're going to need something to fall back on. Friendship, trust, adoration, respect, all those boring things.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:40 AM on April 21, 2011 [17 favorites]


Your self-esteem is obviously not good from what you have posted here. Infidelity is mostly about ego and/or poor self-esteem on the part of the one that strays.

Work on that before committing to any relationship with anyone. Otherwise, you're setting yourself up for failure.

Consider couples counseling, because your response about why you cheated is concerning. You kind of deflected blame a bit at the end. Both you and your SO own the state of the relationship at the time you cheated, but you, alone, own the cheating itself. BIG difference.
posted by PsuDab93 at 9:49 AM on April 21, 2011 [7 favorites]


Time is your friend in these situations, I think. I know that what's worked for me is a long (not too long) but a few months long mourning period (getting to know yourself again as an independent person-period) before I even start dating again. It's not easy to let go of someone you've felt so many emotions for, so don't try to hold on to/create something that isn't there. If it really is there, it will be there in a few more months after you've been able to live without him and emotions settle.
posted by xicana63 at 9:59 AM on April 21, 2011


Just because you're in love with someone doesn't mean you will have a successful relationship with them or that you can meet each other's needs. You say you have amazingly similar life goals (travel, family, a simple life) but I think most people share the goals you mentioned. I'm just saying, feel free to date this guy again if that's what you both want, but stop thinking of him as your one shot at happiness.

I also want to point out that you cheated because you were feeling bad about yourself, and it sounds like you still feel pretty bad about yourself.
posted by milk white peacock at 10:01 AM on April 21, 2011 [10 favorites]


We both wondered aloud why we're no longer together in a half-joking kind of way.

Because you cheated on him. Are you certain you won't again? I'm not, because the clarification you gave makes it sound like you don't really take responsibility. You did it, and if you don't own up to, you're not going to take responsibilty to fix the things that caused you to make that choice.
posted by spaltavian at 10:14 AM on April 21, 2011 [12 favorites]


My current (and only) wife and I broke up, after 8 years, due to infidelity. We spent 1.5 years apart. One night I was over at her house (which we both owned) and we were talking about how I would get bought out of the house. We spent the night together. Started dating again.

20 or so years later, we are still together. Not perfectly, but happily.

So, yeah, it can work.
posted by Danf at 10:32 AM on April 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


I totally own up to the fact that I made a huge, disastrous mistake by cheating on him. And it's no one's fault but my own. No one chose to do it other than myself. And I have lived with the consequences.

My ex and I have spent a lot of time (six months' worth) talking about this, about trying to understand it. Honestly, at first I did not understand it. I still don't fully understand it, but I understand it a lot better than I did six months ago. I did not mean to deflect blame in my previous post. I assume sole responsibility for my actions. My actions had a reason. Yes, at the time, poor self-esteem was one of (if not the main) reason. That poor self-esteem ultimately came down to myself. In a sense, I created that self-esteem. I'm merely trying to explain what helped incite that poor self-esteem, and some of ex's behavior did contribute to it.

I feel confident that I've made a lot of progress in that regard, although it's still an on-going process, of course. Spending time away from him, on my own, along with some spiritual practices, has provided great insight into myself. It's been liberating. But the fact remains that I love him.

I don't mean to come off as defensive here. I merely want to clear up some of the confusion. You can all probably imagine how truly complicated and long the whole story is. I do appreciate everyone's input. Thank you.
posted by fignewton at 10:32 AM on April 21, 2011


Tread with caution. My ex and I broke up once, and if we'd stayed broken up my life would have had a lot less drama and unnecessary pain. I went back to him because at the time, knowing that he wanted to be with me lessened my feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness. Of course, this started a cycle of me relying on his approval to feel confidence.

Is this the absolute best partner for you that you can imagine? Or can you just not imagine that anyone better will settle for you? Because I suspect you feel the latter, and if so, this relationship is only going to make you feel worse over time, not better.
posted by kitarra at 10:37 AM on April 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


A lot of the fire is because there is a high probability that you're on drugs. (Your raging hormones, I mean.) That said, this doesn't mean that you're doomed. It just means you may not be thinking clearly. If you're serious about this, it would be wise for both of you to explore some of these issues with a counselor.

You don't mention your respective ages, but that might also be a factor, and you may want to consider whether you will be undergoing any life-changing experiences in the near future, such as college, which may alter your life goals.

Neither of you will be very sexy when you're 65. You'll want to avoid ending up as virtual strangers sitting across from one another at the kitchen table, jamming toast in your mouths and reading your iPads in silence. You should think long and hard about the non-sexy practical matters such as whether your partner would be a good living companion, shares enough of your values, and interests you intellectually.
posted by Hylas at 10:48 AM on April 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Decide what kind of person you want to be. Nothing in your descriptions suggest that you think you were morally wrong; only that you you accept the consequences. These are not the same thing.

Cheating is fun and exciting (I'm ignoring the self-serving explanation in your follow-up, which rings entirely hollow and nearly removes your own free will from the equation); I did it extensively in my early years. Then one day -- when I started dating people I actually cared about -- I realized that not hurting my SO was more important than screwing other people.

Maybe you're someone who cheats, in which case you should find someone you don't care about. But if you believe you're someone who doesn't, and you really like this guy, by all means stay with him.

But I second the suggestion that couple's counseling could help, and also recommend individual therapy. Cheating is already a self-serving act, but telling your significant other about it rather than just breaking it off is TRULY self-serving. Exploring why you need such chaos might be helpful.

One other thing: The breakup was 3 months ago, which in my mind is not long enough of a break to start fresh. But maybe it is...who can tell? Good luck to you both.
posted by coolguymichael at 11:57 AM on April 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Honestly, I think it happened because we weren't effectively communicating with each other.

It happened because you decided to break a promise to someone. I think it is really important that you fully, and I mean fully, own this one.

Any lack of communication about an issue where you react to it by betraying someone is a lack of communication that you could have remedied on your own.

The most important question is, therefore, have you learned from this situation and learned to communicate these problems before they start? The energy and renewed attraction can mask whether or not you have really done anything about your formerly selfish actions and the conditions within yourself which created them. If you do not fix that, you may repeat your actions, with devastating results.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:59 AM on April 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


This fire makes me feel confident that we are MEANT to be together... But if we are not meant to be together, then why does it so deeply feel like we should be together? Why does it feel like we have gone through all these trials just to come to this moment where we truly come together?

I'm not saying you should or shouldn't get back together-- that depends on whether you believe that the problems in your relationship/the reasons you broke up are things you can overcome and want to try to overcome. I just want to say that "because it feels like it's meant to be" is not a good reason to get back together. Don't just tell yourself "Oh, it's fate, I just know this is going to work out." That feeling of destiny is in all likelihood going to fade sooner or later, maybe very quickly, and if that's the main thing driving your decision-making then you may find you've made decisions you regret. So dig deeper. Think harder. Talk through it with him. Figure out what changes you're both willing to make this time around. And then make your decisions.

(I'm not saying you should ignore the meaning of the strong feelings you're having, by the way. But it's probably better try to understand "Why do I feel like we're meant to be together?" rather than "Does this really mean we're meant to be together?" Explore the feelings themselves, rather than trying to figure out if you're getting a sign from the universe that you're soulmates.)
posted by EmilyClimbs at 12:34 PM on April 21, 2011


Cheating is fun and exciting

Cheating is already a self-serving act, but telling your significant other about it rather than just breaking it off is TRULY self-serving. Exploring why you need such chaos might be helpful.

I am not proud of what I did, and I certainly wouldn't characterize any of it as "fun" or "exciting." It has caused me pain beyond belief. I had a moment of weakness, and what happened, happened. Unfortunately, I can't change that. I can't take it back. All I can do is apologize with the utmost sincerity, hope for forgiveness from others, and learn to forgive myself. It does no good to constantly remind myself of the atrocity of my past action; all that would accomplish is a temple of self-hate and a continuous cycle of loathing.

During the thick of all this, I sought out counseling, and it provided great help, along with meditation and yoga.

I think it is really important that you fully, and I mean fully, own this one.

I own it, my friend. Believe me: I own it and I bear it before my former partner. And how could I not? How could I not tell him? How could I not confess before him the entirety of my transgressions? I told him because he deserved to know. He did not deserve for it to happen to him, but he deserved the decency of honesty.
posted by fignewton at 12:37 PM on April 21, 2011


But if we are not meant to be together, then why does it so deeply feel like we should be together?

Here is a big concern for me. You are taking an emotion and turning it into a fact. That's what got you into trouble in the first place. Feelings are mental phenomena, not measurements of anything outside of ourselves. I'd look into the facts of what happened and ask yourself: "will I do this again?"
posted by Ironmouth at 12:52 PM on April 21, 2011 [8 favorites]


But if we are not meant to be together, then why does it so deeply feel like we should be together?

This is a pretty common post-breakup feeling that comes as a result of having any good post-breakup moment with your ex. You've been sexually and emotionally intimate with someone. The breakup, and subsequent separation, add an element of tension and longing (not to mention the chemicals in your brain are literally going through withdrawal). Then you're in a situation where you guys connect and you remember all of the good times, and of course nobody you've met since the breakup can compare to this because you haven't had the chance to develop a similar depth of emotion and history with anyone else. The end result are overwelming feelings of attraction that feel Perfect And True.

It being your first relationship (or first "true love") make you all the more susceptible to this because you don't have any context or perspective for this relationship. You have no experience with breakups, no experience with relationships with other people, so the one you're in and the feelings you're feeling are literally incomparable.

I remember after I broke up after my first relationship (and it lasted three years) every time my ex and I interacted in a positive way all of those good chemicals rushed to my head and I thought about how amazing we were together and how we just got each other and were so totally connected. However, having that history and that understanding is a natural result of being in a relationship. It didn't change our fundamental incompatibilities, personality issues, or difference in life goals that led to the breakup in the first place.

Marveling at your mutual connection and understanding is sort of like marveling at how well your best friend knows you. Of course they do. If they didn't, they wouldn't be your best friend, right?

Anyway, I know this sounds like a huge buzzkill, but you need one. Before re-entering an old relationship you need to put aside the emotions and focus objectively on what has really, actually changed--not what you promise will change or want to change--that legitimizes forming it again.
posted by schroedinger at 1:30 PM on April 21, 2011 [10 favorites]


Do I tell him all this? Do I wait a while before I approach him again? Or do I need to break off contact again and continue moving on?

If the whole point of getting back together is about getting back together as a couple who can now communicate with each other (or as a couple who is getting better at it) why don't you honestly put your confusion and questions to him, instead of to us strangers. Ask him what he feels comfortable with, what he wants, but take a bit of time to think about what you feel comfortable with, and what you want.
posted by PersonAndSalt at 2:10 PM on April 21, 2011


I wouldn't take it as a sign of anything that neither of you have met anyone in the paltry 3 months that you've been single. First of all, after a hard breakup, it often takes longer than that to get your head back in the dating game, and second of all, even if you are ready to date it often takes longer than that to find a good match.

You have strong emotions, so you probably aren't thinking through the realities of this as much as feeling your way into it. You need to do both. You need to feel excited about wanting to be back with him (you do) and you need to rationally think it is a good idea and makes sense and that you fully understand why you strayed and what was wrong with the relationship, and how it will be different this time.
I don't believe that 3 months apart is long enough to fix your self-esteem issues and his communication issues. It sounds like you both need a little time to mature alone before you jump back in.

You clearly feel crappy about cheating, which is the appropriate emotion of course, but it will not be alleviated if he decides to get back with you and that fact won't be erased.
Things won't be like they used to be because of this.
In part, that is good since things weren't that great or you wouldn't have cheated.
This also could be disappointing to you, especially if your relationship is now frought with trust issues in addition to the old communication issues.
posted by rmless at 2:38 PM on April 21, 2011


Reading your other post about your relationship and the disparity of needs, I'm just completely baffled. From what you said last year, I wouldn't think your cheating would be at issue in the relationship. And if it's true that last June, your partner wasn't willing to even call you his boyfriend, I have to question the long-term stability of any kind of pairing the two of you might create.

But who knows? Stranger things have happened. All I can give you is my opinion: Leave this one on a high note.
posted by yellowcandy at 3:03 PM on April 21, 2011


Thanks for the input, everyone. I needed a dose of reality. I was on some sort of hormonal high this morning.
posted by fignewton at 8:34 PM on April 21, 2011


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