Letting go now, this moment.
November 28, 2009 10:28 AM   Subscribe

Please help me stop cheating before I get married (in a few months). I don't want to hurt either of them.

Deep breath. Okay. Let's assume:
1. We are having a separate discussion about telling/not telling my fiance about an affair I have had.
2. We are having a separate discussion about the ethics and definitions of cheating/monogamy.
3. I am in love with my fiance, right person for me, and want to make this work, wedding, forever, amen, etc.

Enter friend and long time crush, who happen to be the same person, and not fiance. Enter cold feet about marriage, booze, pot (not excuses at all, just describing what happened). The most mind blowing make-out sessions I know of follow. It is not limited to a physical attraction, since I dearly care about this person outside of that.

I need to stop. I am not saying we need to stop, because I am only in control of my own actions here. Additionally, I need to stop my cheating ways (cheated on ex before, too).

How do I increase self-control?

How does anyone get over someone without lots and lots of time?

How do I let go of something so intense?

Is there any help I can provide my, ummm, friend going through the same letting go process?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (49 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
In the words of my favorite therapist: Stop doing that.
posted by limited slip at 10:33 AM on November 28, 2009 [13 favorites]

Self control: Stop getting intoxicated around your friend, and then stop making out with him or her. There's no magic bullet. You're in control of your body, and if you're willingly taking substances that lower your inhibitions, you need to stop taking them in circumstances where you then make poor decisions.

As far as the limerance/lust goes: cold turkey. You need to tell this "friend" (quotes on account of his or her hooking up with you whilst you're engaged) to back off for 6-12 months. You may or may not "get over them", but you're not in control of the rise and fall of such feelings, but rather, only of your actions.
posted by ellF at 10:35 AM on November 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

No matter how much you think your fiance is the right person for you, this experience you have just had indicates that there are problems with your relationship. You may not even be aware of them yet, but they are there and they are big. You need counseling, on our own and with your fiance. You need to figure out why this happened. Don't get married until that is straightened out.

As for stopping, you just stop. Don't have any contact whatsoever with the other woman.
posted by sadtomato at 10:38 AM on November 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

1) Tell your 'friend' immediately that the affair needs to end.
2) Do not see your friend for a good long while.
3) Most importantly, imo, reevaluate whether you should be getting married. You'd probably be doing your fiance a huge favor and saving them a lot of hurt by breaking off the engagement.

I'm not going to make any value judgments, but if you are having trouble 'letting go' of the friend, and seemingly more concerned about their feelings and your feelings about them than you are about your soon-to-be partner for life. This should give you pause.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:39 AM on November 28, 2009 [12 favorites]

How do I let go of something so intense?

Either you think your fiance is worth giving up every other girl in the world forever, or you don't. That's the decision your making in marrying this woman. That is the price, the cost of having her forever. If you can't pay it then let her go. But know this is the price.
posted by Diablevert at 10:41 AM on November 28, 2009 [11 favorites]

Don't go ahead and get married having cheated multiple times on your partner. There's a substantial possibility that it will one day come out and really mess things up. Marriage is not something you go into with less than full honesty.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 10:42 AM on November 28, 2009 [3 favorites]

Note: fiance is male, fiancee is female. Not sure why a couple of posters have assumed that the mentioned "fiance" is female.

That said, sadtomato hits a very important nail on the head. I also had past problems with this, and it came back to the primary relationship which I was having issues in. Please examine this carefully.
posted by pammeke at 10:46 AM on November 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

Work out which kind of situations raise the likelihood of you cheating.
Don't get into those situations.

For example
- if you cheat when you are drunk, don't drink when your fiance isn't there.
- if you cheat when you're stoned... you get the picture.
- if you find yourself on your own with someone and things "just happen", don't ever be on your own with that person.
- if you STILL find yourself being on your own with that person with "things happening", apologise to them, explain the situation and then wipe them from your phone, email client and life.

This may be restrictive and feel "unfair" but tough shit! If you could handle it without these kinds of precautions you would have done it already.

You don't have to get over it. You don't have to let go of it. You just have to do whatever it takes to stop the cheating behaviours.
posted by emilyw at 10:48 AM on November 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

I need to stop my cheating ways (cheated on ex before, too).

Does your fiance know about your history of cheating? I suspect that, keeping it to yourself and promising yourself you'll stop--your being the sole person by whom you are held accountable--is destined to fail. You cheated on your ex and believe that was a mistake (right?), but are now cheating on your fiance. You want to "increase self-control" but I think you need the opposite: you need to stop thinking you can control yourself without being honest with your partner(s).

Leaving aside the high emotions that run around cheating or being cheated on, it's important to think about what you're intending to do from the standpoint of your (future) marriage as a mutually supportive partnership. It's wrong to think that you can enter a lifelong committed partnership shouldering a burden like this on your own without your partner's knowledge. Imagine if your partner were neck deep in debt but hadn't told you because s/he thought s/he could handle it alone, or if your partner had a secret drug or alcohol problem, or if there were some other serious issue your partner concealed from you and intended to keep secret well into the marriage.
posted by Meg_Murry at 10:48 AM on November 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

As for stopping, you just stop.

Isn't that like saying, "if you want to cure cancer, you just have to CURE CANCER"? Presumably the OP knows he needs to stop. He doesn't have the willpower. He's asking how to stop in light of that.

I am addicted to cereal. If there's a box in the house, I will eat all of it. Maybe some day I'll have the willpower to stop myself from doing that, but thus far I have failed.

However, I've found a really simple way to keep from gorging myself on cereal: Don't buy any. If I can't resist temptation, I need to remove temptation. That's not fun, because I fucking love cereal!

OP, you need to remove your friend from your life -- maybe not forever, but for now. That's going to hurt, because you have feelings for her, but you don't sound strong enough to resist temptation while she IS in your life. So rip the fucking bandaid off!

Apologize to her, tell her you're going to devote yourself to your fiance and QUIT SEEING HER. Quit seeing her even as a platonic friend. You may start seeing her again when you're SURE you can be alone in a room with her without anything sexual or romantic happening. Imagine she starts kissing you. Will you be able to push her away? Until you can categorically say yes to that, if you're going into a non-open marriage, you have no business hanging out with your friend.

She will be hurt when you cut things off with her, but it will be better for her in the end. She does not need to be in an affair with an engaged man. Let her find someone who can devote himself 100% to her.

If you can't do this, you are DEFINITELY not ready to get married. I'm married. Do you think I'm never tempted? I knew I was ready to be married when I knew I could master temptations like this.
posted by grumblebee at 10:50 AM on November 28, 2009 [3 favorites]

I don't think you're ready to get married. Rethink this.
posted by dzaz at 10:51 AM on November 28, 2009 [10 favorites]

You do not sound ready for marriage. But whether that's because you're too young or too immature is hard to say without knowing whether you're 23 or 43.
posted by applemeat at 10:57 AM on November 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Read this thread. Do you want this to be you? Seriously reconsider if you're ready to get married.
posted by white_devil at 10:57 AM on November 28, 2009 [3 favorites]

As one who survived a partner who cheated both before and after marriage, I am already pissed off on behalf of your fiance because you haven't broken off the engagement. I acknowledge that I am far from objective about situations like this, but my feeling is that there is no way in hell that you are ready to get married in a few months. Maybe someday, maybe even to the same partner, but not this year.

Damn, but this sort of thing gets under my skin. I've been divorced 13 years and what I went through still hurts.
posted by jon1270 at 11:02 AM on November 28, 2009 [9 favorites]

How do I increase self-control? You sound like someone trying desperately to pour themselves into a mold that society had created and understandably that's presenting problems.

Don't know the full story here, but you're clearly not ready for a monogamous relationship with the person you're engaged to marry. Nothing wrong with that, but you do need to be honest about what's going on with to your fiancee.

How does anyone get over someone without lots and lots of time?

You don't, that's why it hurts so much.

How do I let go of something so intense?

You just let go and move forward. It's not easy, but that's how you do it.

Is there any help I can provide my, ummm, friend going through the same letting go process?

No, and the fact you're trying to be there and help them in some form or fashion is probably an indication that you're not ready to get married. You need to either A.) Let that person go B.) break off your marriage or C.) discuss having an open marriage with the person you're going to marry.

No one here can help you stop cheating, you have to do it yourself. You clearly don't want to and seem to be trying to avoid having to make that decision on very unrealistic levels (you don't want to hurt anyone). Not gonna happen, someone is going to get hurt, probably more than one.

If you want to decide, flip a coin. While the coin is in the air, make a note of who you're wishing the coin will choose.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:03 AM on November 28, 2009 [6 favorites]

How do I increase self-control?

Self control takes practice and a willingness to change. If you want this behavior to stop (and I'm not seeing any clear indication that this is the case) then you must stop putting yourself in situations in which cheating becomes an option. Do not spend time alone with this person. Do not drink or get high around this person. Remove the option of being alone with them and self control will become easier.

How does anyone get over someone without lots and lots of time?

Again, you need to make the decision that it's over. Until you do that, you will have a very hard time getting over this.

How do I let go of something so intense?

You make a decision to let it go. You need to decide once and for all if you want to get married. Your behavior and the questions you have asked all point to a massive amount of ambivalence about committing to one person. The fact that you allowed this to happen so close to the wedding is a massive red flag. You owe it to your fiancee to figure this out now, one way or the other.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 11:06 AM on November 28, 2009 [3 favorites]

emilyw for the win. As I said in another thread: if you can't or don't want to trust yourself to not drink and drive, don't go to a bar far from home by yourself with your keys in your pocket and get shithoused. It's setting yourself up to make a bad decision.

For you, this means: only see your friend when nothing can happen. At work. For coffee when you need to meet your fiancee somewhere in a half hour. NOT one on one thirty minutes before the bar closes, NOT grill up a steak at your place and "catch up." You know what I mean. That's how.
posted by ctmf at 11:29 AM on November 28, 2009

[few comments removed - please either stay on topic and answer the question or pass by this question, thank you.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:34 AM on November 28, 2009

I think you need to read this and decide if you really want to get married after you cheated on your fiance.
posted by biochemist at 11:43 AM on November 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

I am in love with my fiance, right person for me

You're not the right person for your fiance. Do not get married. You can't get married a "few months" after ending an affair; if you do end it. You can't control yourself, you say as much. Until you can, you can't get married. And you have to prove it by being totally faithful from this moment on, and breaking off all contact with your friend forerver.

Is there any help I can provide my, ummm, friend going through the same letting go process?

This is why you can't get married, probably to anyone. All this, and you're worried about the guy you screwed around with? Your soon-to-be husband would be your sole concern if you were really serious about saving your marriage. If you were actually serious, you would call or e-mail your friend now, and they'll them in no uncertain terms that it's over and tell them to never contact you ever again. You would not go anywhere he would be. You'd leave your circle of friends if they make it impossible not to see him.

That would be if you were serious about saving your relationship.
posted by spaltavian at 11:48 AM on November 28, 2009 [15 favorites]

Don't get married if you're not 115% sure you're never gonna cheat again.

Do not talk to hang out with your "ummmm, friend" again. Stopping this cold turkey is the fastest way for you get over them, and for them to get over you. Instead of worrying about your "ummm, friend" and wanting to spend time with them, focus on being with your fiance and figuring out if you REALLY want to marry this person.

As everyone else said: just stop. Tell the friend you need to not talk to them anymore. If you get over all this in a couple of years if your friendship really was that good then maybe you can all be friends later.
posted by KateHasQuestions at 11:49 AM on November 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Please, please, PLEASE postpone your wedding, if for no other reason than it will force you to face this issue pretty head on, and help you clarify what you really want. (The main reason being, of course, to avoid completely screwing with your fiance's life.)
posted by tristeza at 12:14 PM on November 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Yes, read that thread from a couple of days ago by the person who cheated and didn't tell their fiance, got married and bought a house. You don't want to be that person.

1) You need to tell your fiance so you can avoid the situation mentioned above.
2) You are not ready to be married. If you can't handle monogamy in a serious relationship, you have no business getting married to someone who expects complete monogamy. It's just a horrible idea.
3) If your fiance is willing to stay with you, then you HAVE to stop seeing your friend completely. You can never see them ever again, and they sure as hell can't be invited to the wedding if you end up getting married to your fiance. If your fiance doesn't stay with you, I guess it doesn't really matter if you keep making out with your "friend" at that point.
posted by ishotjr at 12:26 PM on November 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Self control takes practice and a willingness to change.

This and this again.
posted by YoBananaBoy at 12:46 PM on November 28, 2009

There will always be that other person who gives you the rush of romance, the biological pull of new people to mate with. Not saying they will be in their face like your smooch-fest partner is, but the fact of potential mates being in your path is always a possibility.
The question is what you do with that information. Are you a dopamine-rush addict looking for love? The romance chemicals of a new relationship wear off after 38 months or so, time enough for a new baby to get on their feet. Then biology wants you to mate again.
What's to prevent you from seeking out this roller coaster over and over?
Since you've initiated the connection pathways with your crush, all you can do is delete all the ways those circuits get activated, avoiding the person, crushing any thoughts or feelings that promote sexual relationship with them. You'll feel the pangs of withdrawal and hopefully you'll be able to bond with your fiance completely.
If you've broken a monogamous agreement with your fiance...I'm not clear on whether you have one though it's pretty typical for pre-marriage relationships.....then there's certainly an ethical challenge you will need to figure out.
My two cents...if you've only had a smooch-fest and now act to end this relationship I think you're good to go. If you dither and let this go on, then you're trying to have your cake and eat it too, letting your genes control your behavior. Disaster looms!
posted by diode at 12:50 PM on November 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

I've been in this situation, and I am following this thread closely (and that other oft-mentioned thread as well).

Yes, you need to tell your fiance. She needs to know everything so she can make an educated decision as to whether or not she should marry you. If she decides to break off the engagement, respect it and let her go. If you really love her, you'll want her to be happy, and want her to be with someone who will cherish her, and treat her feelings with respect (i.e. not screw around behind her back).

As for the other girl... How long has it been going on? What are her feelings in the matter? Is she also nursing a long-time crush, or were her decision-making abilities also impaired?

I know people keep saying to "just stop seeing her," but it seems like there must be something awfully strong there if it led you to forgetting about your fiance in the first place. Is it possible she's the one you really want to be with? Or maybe you know you're not ready to get married, and you're subconsciously using her as a catalyst towards that break-up?
posted by polyester.lumberjack at 12:54 PM on November 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

As for stopping, you just stop.

Isn't that like saying, "if you want to cure cancer, you just have to CURE CANCER"? Presumably the OP knows he needs to stop. He doesn't have the willpower. He's asking how to stop in light of that.

While grumblebee makes a fair point, a big part of stopping is indeed just stopping. There's sometimes a risk that we use looking for the perfect therapist, the right self-help book, the most ingenious trick, or the perfect piece of advice from AskMe, etc, in order to delay doing the thing that needs to be done, or to avoid the fact that you're not, in reality, sure which path you truly want to take. If you are absolutely certain of the path you want to take, you do ultimately just have to take it — it's not a question of learning a particular technique. (If you are not absolutely certain of the path you want to take, then your real question isn't about how to stop. It's which fork in the road you really want to follow at this point.)
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 1:18 PM on November 28, 2009 [3 favorites]

Ok. We are not to discuss whether you tell your fiance, the ethical situation, or whether or not you love your spouse to be. Got it. Instead, you want advice on very narrowly defined, in my mind trivial, problems.

How do I increase self-control?

Time and distance. The more time you spend with your friend, the more powerful their pull will be. If you truly want to control the situation (and I'm not convinced you DO want to control the situation) then stop seeing this person. Stop. Just stop.

How does anyone get over someone without lots and lots of time?

I honestly feel like you are trying to get us to say,"Yeah, sleep with them, get it out of your system" however that would most likely fuel the fire. So I repeat: Stop seeing them, stop talking them, stop emailing them, etc.

How do I let go of something so intense?

You either let go or you don't; only you can make that decision for yourself. If you just can't stop seeing them, then that in itself is a decision, you have chosen them over your fiance.

Is there any help I can provide my, ummm, friend going through the same letting go process?

I don't even know why you are asking this. If you let go of this person in order to be with your fiance, you let go completely. You stop concerning yourself with them and what they are doing and what they are thinking, etc. If you are so wrapped up in this friend and their feelings, then there is no room for a fiance. I'm trying to rack my brain figuring out what you imagine you can do to help this person "get over you," and I am coming up blank. What do you want to do? Pick a fight? Sit them down for a lecture? Give them a naked photograph to remember you by? The fact is your friend is fooling around with someone who is about to get married. Is that admirable? Would you think this a good thing if you were not involved? The two of you are playing with fire and either you walk away from each other or accept that you will badly hurt the one you claim to love enough to marry.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 1:27 PM on November 28, 2009 [3 favorites]

Honesty. And a commitment to being honest in the future. Right away. If you know that you're going to tell your fiancee or wife the day / week after you cheat, you're not going to be wanting to cheat so much, now are you?

But you HAVE to start by being honest now. About the past. You can't say "I'll just be honest from now on." You have to make a commitment to honest and stick to it: make the commitment to yourself and to your fiancee.
posted by brenton at 1:34 PM on November 28, 2009

Is there any help I can provide my, ummm, friend going through the same letting go process?

Be brief, clear, and swift. Take a break from seeing each other or speaking until you're sure everyone is in the clear -- no texting, nothing.
posted by hermitosis at 2:43 PM on November 28, 2009


Yes, you tell them. Otherwise, your bad conscience will either destroy the marriage or cause your fiancee to spend years or decades in something that is far less than a complete emotional relationship.

This is a promise: If you do not tell them, your conscience will haunt you.

Also, if they find out as opposed to being told, they will be in excruciating emotional pain for quite a while, and it will hamper their ability to trust and create new relationships.


Entering a long monogamous relationship has a huge involvement cost. In the end, all you have in this world is your life and your time. A long monogamous relationship is the investment of your life and your time into another person. We are programmed to feel intense pain when cheated on. I have yet to see rationale that I will accept that makes cheating ethically OK in any way.


I seriously doubt that your fiancee is the right person for you if you can cheat on them as you are approaching a marriage. Maybe it's the fiancee, maybe it's you, but the fit is wrong.
posted by krilli at 3:04 PM on November 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

You really don't have the self-control and willpower needed to get married right now. Mature adults do not cheat on their fiances' months before the wedding. This is not what adults do.

This. Is. Not. What. Mature. Adults. Do.

You aren't ready for marriage. Cancel the engagement and start over from scratch. The pain from this episode will give you plenty of time to think about things like "distance" and "self-control".
posted by Avenger at 3:13 PM on November 28, 2009 [5 favorites]

Actually, many adults cheat on their girlfriends/boyfriends/betrotheds/husbands/wives. So...value judgments and definitions of "adulthood" aside... You need to tell her. Keeping it from her does both of you a horrible disservice. She'd go on to marry someone who'd cheated on he and lied about it, leaving her completely in the dark and robbing her of her right to make a completely informed decision about her future. And you'd be letting your feelings of guilt and self-hatred about what you did seep into your married life. They WILL fester. You will live with this secret, and whether you're aware of it or not, it will affect you and your relationship negatively.

You obviously want to avoid this because you care about this woman and want a future with her, but it can't be avoided. You have to tell her. This could be your future wife. I realize that you'd probably like to just let the affair and conflicted feelings go, get married, clean the slate and start anew with this great person who loves you. But this can't happen. I mean...it can. But it'd be a lie. Do you want to start a marriage that way?

You have to tell her everything. You have issues with self-control. She should know that before she marries you. It won't be easy for you, and it'll be much worse for her. But if you value your fiancee, if you respect her, if you think she deserves honesty in her life from someone she's about to make a huge commitment to... you'll tell her. From there, the decision of whether or not to work things out should be hers. Not yours. And you'll just have to deal with the consequences, whatever they may be.

She deserves to marry someone who is 100% present. You're not. You'd like to be, but you aren't. And she deserves to know that before she becomes your wife.
posted by blackcatcuriouser at 4:27 PM on November 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

First, my advice about change:

1. Adjust your expectations. Expectations are incredibly powerful. Expect to feel terrible in a thousand different ways, and for a very long time. Do not expect that you will want to change, do not expect that you will feel relief, do not expect that it will become easy quickly. If you can't accept the difficult struggle that is change, you won't change. If you expect to feel terrible, when it happens, you won't be so shaken by it. It's normal, it's part of the process, it's not a problem to be solved, it's a healthy sign that you're making forward progress. Change is painful, deeply uncomfortable, and you will always feel like all of that pain will end if you just go back to your old ways. So to really change, you need to get comfortable with being miserable.

You ask, "How does anyone get over someone without lots and lots of time?" This says to me that you are not yet committed to changing yourself. You want to get around the hard part. You don't want to feel pain. That won't work. You have to consciously choose the painful, difficult road, knowing that there are no shortcuts. If you don't, and if you try to find an "easy" way to do it, you will not succeed. So you have to decide whether you value your comfort more than you want to change this pattern.

2. Be accountable to someone other than yourself. A trusted friend, a family member, your shrink - someone you can call when you feel tempted to backslide, or need to feel heard, supported, and reassured. Tell them exactly what you did and how you plan to change, and check in with them regularly to discuss your progress.

3. Know what change means. You write, "I don't want to hurt either of them. " And, later, "Is there any help I can provide my, ummm, friend going through the same letting go process?" That is not compatible with what you say you want to do: let go. Letting go means you stop being about this person. Your job is getting right, not taking care of this person. I agree with everyone who says the only way to do this is to cut this person out of your life. If you pretend to yourself that you can have your cake and eat it too, you will fail. You have to be honest with yourself. You can't be around this person. Send them an email and state very clearly that you no longer want to cheat with them or anyone else and to accomplish this you need to cut off all contact. Say: please do not write, call, text, or attempt to contact me in any way. Then set up a filter that sends emails from this person straight to the trash. Block their number from your phone. Do not go to parties they will attend. This is important because it's part of accepting the truth of change. There is no halfway. Either you want to change, or you want to have this person in your life. You cannot do both. Let one of those things go.

Second, my advice about honesty:

I don't think you can change without being honest with your partner about what has happened and will happen. I'm not telling you what I think the ethical thing to do is. I am telling you what I think the practical thing to do is. Lying is a big part of cheating. Cheating isn't just about the person you're cheating with, and if you've cheated before, then I think it's likely that what's in it for you is deeper than lust. I don't know you, and this is definitely a question you need to try to answer for yourself, because you can't change if you don't understand what it is that's broken and needs mending. Ask yourself whether lying is itself somehow important to you. Is it giving you an increased feeling control or power in your primary relationship (because by withholding information, you're tricking your fiance into making decisions they otherwise might not make)? Is it making you feel like you have a secret outlet for otherwise unacceptable but nevertheless real and powerful aspects of your personality? Is lying a way for you to protect your fiance from knowing your "true" self which you "know" is unlovable? Is lying a way to get around having to do the work you need to do? I strongly suspect that lying is both part of the reason you cheat and a serious impediment to your ability to make a lasting change. You may be able to put this affair in the past without relinquishing the lie, but there will be other affairs unless you relinquish lying itself.

I also think that sometimes, change is so difficult that we need to be confronted with the magnitude of the harm we've caused before we can truly accept what we need to do. At least, that was true for me. I was only able to change some problematic behaviors of my own when I hit my personal bottom. I knew for years that I had to change and I knew exactly what I needed to do, but it was too hard and I couldn't force myself to do it until I experienced deep, public shame and a dramatic change in life circumstances. If you are honest with your fiance, you will no longer be able to hide from yourself how bad your cheating is. The more you are forced to understand the depth of the problem, the better able you will be to motivate yourself to do the difficult things that you need to do.

Finally, telling the truth is the best way for you to commit yourself. As long as you keep up the lie, you always know that you have a safety hatch, and if things get too hard, you can run back into the lie and the bad behavior. Burn the lie to the ground so you can't go back. Burn the bridge behind you. Make it impossible for you to resume the cheating behavior because the struggle is out in the open.

Long story short: accept that you will feel pain and discomfort, find someone you trust who can hold you accountable, accept that you must cut the person you cheated with out of your life, and tell your fiance the truth. I believe that if you do these things, you can and will succeed in changing.
posted by prefpara at 5:18 PM on November 28, 2009 [4 favorites]

What I am about to say will be blunt, but I'm not trying to hurt you or put you on the defensive, or flame you. I am trying to help you solve your problem.

I think the crux of your problem is a deep selfishness and self-centeredness.

Example 1: I am in love with my fiance, right person for me, and want to make this work, wedding, forever, amen, etc.

Your innocent fiance is about to unwittingly enter into a marriage with someone who has repeatedly betrayed him, and admits there's no guarantee he/she won't continue to do so in the future.

If you really cared about someone, you would do everything you could to prevent that from happening to him.

Here, what you want (the pretty wedding, the happily ever after) completely outweighs that for you. I mean, there's not even a hint here that you considered for a moment putting what is best for him above what you want, if that means you probably won't get what you want.

Example 2:
How do I let go of something so intense? How does anyone get over someone without lots and lots of time?

If you were a single person, I wouldn't see anything problematic about these questions.

But we have to take this in the context of the fact that you're engaged (to someone else).

It really comes off here like you're focusing on your own feelings to the exclusion of everything else- essentially, how can I feel better in this situation? How can I feel good in a marriage while I'm still not over the intense feelings I have for the person I cheated on my fiance with?

Frankly, if you do enter into this marriage, you should not be comfortable in it.

Example 2b.

It is not limited to a physical attraction, since I dearly care about this person outside of that.

How do I let go of something so intense?

I also think you have a tendency towards melodrama, that you use as excuse to humor yourself and be selfish.

As if, for example, if this were just all about sex then your actions would be completely inexcusable, but since you dearly care about them and it's so intense, then it's something bigger, grander, and nobler than just something selfish you wanted.

Example 3:

Please help me stop cheating before I get married (in a few months). I don't want to hurt either of them.

Is there any help I can provide my, ummm, friend going through the same letting go process?

I don't think this is really true. You say you don't want to hurt either of them. But you did hurt your fiance very, very badly. You just did it behind his back.

So I think the reality is (again, not trying to flame you, just trying to be honest about the problem) that you don't really mind hurting people. You just don't want to face the consequences of it.

If I were to hazard a guess, the real reason you want to "help your friend through the letting-go process" is one of the following:

1. You want an excuse to have continued contact to/emotional involvement with your friend.
2. You don't want that door to be permanently shut and you're worried that if you don't handle this right, it will be.

If you ever want to be happily married, I think the selfishness is what you need to solve, and I think you need a therapist to do it.

I think all the lying to others and lying to/fooling yourself is also something you need to fix, but I think it's a symptom of/ tool to get away with the selfishness, not the root.

I don't think you're some kind of irredeemable person and bad at the core. I see no reason why you couldn't solve this about yourself, if you acknowledged it and made the effort.


I will now directly answer your questions:

1. How do I increase self-control?

I actually don't know the answer to this one. But I do know that there are ways to live with it if you know you have low self control.

Like other people upthread have said, one of those things is ultra-diligently avoiding situations where you know you will be tempted.

I think you probably have to completely forego indulging yourself in crushes. You may have to completely forego being friends with people of the sex to which you are attracted.

This may require a great deal of sacrifice. Not being willing to make that sacrifice, if it's your only option, means you are making a choice.

2. How does anyone get over someone without lots and lots of time? How do I let go of something so intense?

One thing other than time that has always helped me is being strict with my thoughts. Not allowing myself to think about the person AT ALL. This includes fantasizing about them, remembering them, looking at pictures of them, and certainly interacting with or talking to them. Just don't do it. At all. If the thoughts come into your head don't allow yourself to indulge in them, just think of something else.

3. Is there any help I can provide my, ummm, friend going through the same letting go process?

I think for you to do this would be insanely wrong, if you're going to stay with your fiance, because again, I think it's really all about wanting some continued involvement with them.

If you end up not being with your fiance anymore, then it's a different situation. There have been a lot of quality threads here about how to break up with someone kindly, so I won't rehash them in detail, but I think they would apply.
posted by Ashley801 at 5:50 PM on November 28, 2009 [6 favorites]

I just want to say one more thing.

There is a very powerful myth that being a good person is the same thing as wanting to do the right thing. In truth, actually wanting to do the right thing is incredibly rare. We think wanting is like this: I want chocolate. I eat chocolate. Eating it feels good. Now I have had my chocolate and I am happier than I was. But being good is actually like this: I do not want to do the right thing. Doing it is painful. I do not know how to do it. Now I have done it and I am not necessarily happier or better off (but I respect and trust myself more).

You can't wait until that magical moment when you don't want the affair anymore. It won't come. You can't wait to feel ready, or for the "time" to be "right." You will not feel ready. You can't wait until you figure out the best way to do what you need to do. You will never feel like you know what you are doing. The only thing you can do is decide when to stop, and I suggest you pick right now. There's no trick to it. You have to keep choosing to stop every time you are tempted to backslide. You won't want to do it. You will want to cling to the comfortable lie and you will want to return to the affair. The key thing I am trying to communicate to you is that those feelings don't mean you're "bad." What makes you bad, or good, is what you do, not what you feel. So you're not doomed, and you're not particularly terrible for struggling. If you stop and never cheat again, you will have done everything a person can do to be "good."
posted by prefpara at 6:03 PM on November 28, 2009 [12 favorites]

[weird - I must be the only person who read the poster as female.]

As a teacher, I often think about how to prevent students from cheating. The best answer is "don't give them opportunities to do so." Follow that advice for yourself.

It's damn hard to turn down a mind blowing make-out session staring you in the face. It's much easier to turn it down when it's a notion attached to a possibility somewhere in the future. Turn it down then. Turn it down before you even have the chance. Don't meet up with this person in any situation that could at all lead to cheating. Even better, don't meet up with this person. Don't give yourself any opportunity to cheat.

Life is hard. You want two things that are incompatible with each other. You really want both. You are tempted by the chance that you could have both without repercussions. If you knew that your future with your fiance was immediately gone if you made out with the friend, you wouldn't do it, right? You do it because, sure, it could work out. Get honest with yourself about the chances of that: nearly zero.

So then what of the situation if it doesn't work out? Read others' stories. Try to seriously understand the consequences. You are screwed until you can adequately hold up the true long-term consequences beside the immediate short-term gain you see in the cheating. You won't be able to follow the advice above without the ability to weigh the options realistically and honestly (hint: long-term wins - but you have to truly understand that, not just say it).

Think about it. Then look your fiance in the eyes and choose right then and there. Really choose.
posted by whatnotever at 6:07 PM on November 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

The fact that stopping is a problem means you should not be getting married. Not now, anyway. The guilt will remain, the feelings will remain. And that's not fair to anyone.
posted by SloppyTree at 6:09 PM on November 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Fix your ethics and the cheating problem might go away. You might be addicted to love, or more accurately, "crush". Orange and grape are ok, and all three are chemical concoctions.
posted by Area Control at 6:48 PM on November 28, 2009

I'm going to guess that at bottom, you are massively kidding yourself. You're telling yourself that this other person is generating "intense" feelings. Nope. You are getting off on the getting one over on someone who loves you. In other words, the purpose is in having a secret lack of loyalty to lord over your fiance in your own mind. That makes you safe in some sense or another. There is a certain safety and control in the situation when you have this secret. I'm going to guess also that you've always seemed like the person who has it all together, but inside you have always felt totally worthless, a secret you've kept from everyone.

In other words, on some deep down level this situation is about control, not about some intense attraction to someone other than your fiance. As long as this escape exists, you will seek to have a person who you could have a soft landing with because you do not believe you are worthy of actually being loved and are doomed to lose any decent man you might be with.

Usually when I've seen this type of behavior, a deep sense of shame is at bottom. Far from being a matter of "intense" attraction to another, it is "intense" attraction to a situation where your self-sabotage gives you a modicum of control over the imagined inevitable rejection.

I'm going to say that the fact that the conditions you are putting on our answers indicates that you are unable to do the key things required in the typical monogamous marriage--honesty and trustworth behavior. You not only refuse to give your fiance the full picture of the situation he is about to get into, but you refuse to look of the ethics of the situation, which have nothing to do with some external code of ethics, but what you agreed to with your fiance. Assuming it was monogamy, you have acted unethically. The only possible ethical course is to fully inform your fiance to give him the choice. You cannot avoid this karma. You can put it off, but this debt will get paid. Maybe not with this "crush" but with the next one or the one after that. Best to pay off now when the amount is less.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:31 PM on November 28, 2009 [6 favorites]

Please don't get married. I recently separated with my husband after only two years of marriage. Not because he wasn't a wonderful guy (he was!), but because I shouldn't have gotten married. It's caused him (and me) untold amounts of pain.

You say you are ready and committed, but your actions don't match your words. Pay attention to what's going on with you. Don't try to put it away. I made that mistake three years ago and, while your story may be different, I can tell you that it's better to speak up now, instead of hiding the truth. Because you can't share your heart with someone when you're holding so much of yourself back.
posted by missjenny at 7:49 PM on November 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

You're not good at monogamy. Stop doing it (monogamy). If you can't keep yourself from cheating put yourself in a situation where you can't cheat. So that means not drinking and getting high (what did you THINK was going to happen) or stop being in a monogamous relationship.
posted by kathrineg at 9:47 PM on November 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

There's a WHOLE lot of advice in this thread and a lot of it is good. But one thing in particular stands out for me.

You said you don't want to hurt either person. But it's already too late for that. In infidelity, someone always gets hurt. You have to admit to yourself that you screwed up, royally, and that you're not going to be able to get out of it looking like the good guy.

If you want to salvage a marriage, you really do need to cut off contact with this friend (if not forever, at least for a long while), and your friend will not take it well. But if you're getting married, your spouse needs to come first, not your friend. If you're not willing to put your spouse ahead of everything, even if it means making someone else angry... your marriage isn't going to go the distance, anyway.
posted by keribear at 11:38 PM on November 28, 2009

Sorry for multiple posting. One actually last thing.

You don't want to tell your fiance about the cheating. That means you believe you can maintain the lie for a long time - perhaps forever. In other words, when you think to yourself about what kind of person you are, you trust yourself not to fuck this up. Maybe that means not getting drunk and high around your husband so you don't accidentally spill the beans, maybe that means you believe even when wasted you would never tell, but whatever it entails, the most important thing for you to recognize is this: you are more committed to the lie than you are to not cheating anymore. You are confident that you can keep the lie going, but you have no idea how to stop cheating. Why is this? Because telling the truth comes with immediate consequences, but the consequences of cheating are delayed and you can pretend to yourself that you can avoid them.

That means you need to either make the consequences of cheating real for yourself internally (unlikely) or externally, by confessing. Then you will be as motivated to stop the cheating behavior as you are right now to protecting yourself by maintaining a lie.
posted by prefpara at 5:29 AM on November 29, 2009

Isn't that like saying, "if you want to cure cancer, you just have to CURE CANCER"? Presumably the OP knows he needs to stop. He doesn't have the willpower. He's asking how to stop in light of that.

You cannot will cancer to be cured. Willpower is basically the word we use for the ability to control the movements of our bodies. You do have control over the movements of your body, and everything you do in this world is expressed through bodily movement. You can have any passing thoughts you like, but it is up to you whether you act on them.

If you're not sure you can control your body, practice every morning - I will pick this cup up, and now I will put it down; I will move it left, I will move it right - and I bet you can do it. Deciding what to do in the flow of your life is the exact same thing. Will I pick this phone up and dial a number? Will I turn right at that corner or keep walking straight? Will I move my mouth and aspirate so as to pronounce the word yes or no? These are simply bodily actions.

You have control if you want it. You just have to be self-aware and make choices on purpose rather than getting lost in the flood of experience and doing whatever you feel randomly inclined to do. There are certain cases where you lose control of your body (seizures, sleepwalking) or certain parts of your body you don't control (inner organs etc) but in general what you do is your decision if you consciously wish it be, and it is merely your unconscious inclination if you give it no thought, not some sort of necessity the chemicals of your body or karma or fate or devils or mechanics dictates.

As for the larger issue at hand, I would advise self-reflection in general and discussion with the fiance about whether this marriage should go forward, with full disclosure about the trouble you've been experiencing. You might work it out, but start with a clean slate.
posted by mdn at 9:30 AM on November 29, 2009

To add one more thought, you can think of willpower as something ideally in alignment with emotion/inclination, or always in conflict with it. If it is always in conflict, you just have to build up the ability to be strong, but this may end up being repressive overall, and you may bury the reasons for those initial inclinations - some people think those reasons are irrational anyway and deserve to remain hidden. Others think you should work out where they come from and go a more psychoanalytic route so that the initial impulses tend to be better aligned with what the will, on reflection, would choose.

So, in this case, you may have an inner conflict, partially wanting to be married and fulfill a social role, but on some level interested in rebelling, escaping, or simply another person who wouldn't fit properly into your socially defined world but who on an individual level you just like better. If this conflict (or a different one) exists, you could try to analyze it with a therapist until you found a happy medium and your various desires / interests had less likelihood of being at odds. Then you don't need as strong a will to overcome the occasional passing thoughts that don't quite fit.
posted by mdn at 10:03 AM on November 29, 2009

Let me speak up for the untaken path:


Don't kill off this other relationship that means so much to you and to your "umm, friend". Bring your "friend" and your fiance together, and make it known that you are hot for them both. Be honest about it, be open.

Because three-way relationships are fucking awesome. I speak from personal experience; I'm the girl in a M-M-F triad. The guys were a gay couple before I came into the picture; they both had a crush on me and I was kinda interested in one of them. Turned out they're both pretty wonderful to be around. Arguments get resolved a lot more sensibly when there's a third person to take one side or the other, as well - a moderator who you can't turn your anger outward onto is really wonderful.

Who says "forever" has to be just two?

Maybe your fiance and your "umm, friend" won't want to have sex. Maybe they'll both be intensely monogamous. Maybe they'll think the whole idea is GAY. If so, then I guess you have to choose one or the other. But be honest with them both, and with yourself. If you're standing at the altar making vows about eternal monogamy with your five-seconds-away-from-being spouse with your bits still wet from your friend's touch, you're doing it wrong.
posted by egypturnash at 10:37 AM on November 29, 2009 [3 favorites]

I have to say that although I am not a staunch monogamist by any means, you should ideally follow the above advice before you cheat. Cheating makes opening your relationship up much, much harder because open relationships require trust and you fucked that one right up already.

Seriously, if monogamy isn't for you, fine, but you have to be honest and ethical about it and that doesn't mean after-the-fact.

Like I said, if monogamy isn't for you, stop doing it, but it's probably not going to be as easy as "hey, I'm cheating on you, but it's cool because monogamy sucks!" and then everyone waltzes into the sunset hand-in-hand. There's a lot of monogamous programming, many, many monogamous scripts. This includes the "guilt-wracked cheater" script, which you're running through with 100% accuracy--I couldn't help it, check. I was drunk, check. I can't hurt either one of them because I care for them both, check. You're following the script, so expect them to follow the script too--and that script doesn't involve sexy threesomes. It involves people kicked out of their house, a lot of tears, and broken trust.

Want a different result? Stop following the same old script.
posted by kathrineg at 11:06 AM on November 29, 2009

You'll need to do these things whether of not you follow everyone else's advice, right? So, based on what I would need to do...

How do I increase self-control?

Practice so that your responses in the moment of temptation will change. Like, when you're just daydreaming or wasting time, imagine a scenario where you respond in the way that you think is right. Walk through it in the same way that you'd imagine the really exciting scenarios with your friend. Imagine your thoughts and how good you feel afterward. Figure out the path that takes you to the moment of no self-control and do the same thing with those moments of decision. You are who you rehearse in your brain. The advantage is that this doesn't actually require you to have any self-control. Also don't let your mind get away with anything... if you feel yourself trying to slide away from an idea, go back and think through it completely.

How does anyone get over someone without lots and lots of time? / How do I let go of something so intense?

I don't think you do either of those things. You think, "It's going to suck," and then it sucks, and there's no recourse. I would say: "Letting go is the last thing I want to do and my life is going to have lots of dust and no sunshine. I'm doing it anyway."

Is there any help I can provide my, ummm, friend going through the same letting go process?

Be clear about your new boundaries so that there is no question or need to follow up, and you will have something to fall back on if they try to cross them.
posted by ramenopres at 4:30 PM on November 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

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