This feeling I've never felt before, what is it?
March 18, 2011 12:31 PM   Subscribe

How can I stop feeling jealous of my girlfriend because of her experiences?

First, some background. I met this girl, let’s call her F, in October via a mutual friend. She is American, and was visiting said friend in the major European city in which both the friend and I live. We hit it off really well and were both struck by how good our chemistry was, and ended up in bed together (though we didn’t have sex). She was scheduled to leave to an exotic location (in another European country) the next day, and asked if I wanted to come - having nothing better to do, I said yes. We ended up spending a week together, which might have been the most intense and amazing week of my life. When she went back home, we were both sad that this whirlwind romance had to come to an end, but made tentative plans of going to another European exotic location sometime in the spring.

We kept in touch with long e-mails and Skype chats, and confessed the strong feelings we had for each other. Both felt there was a lot of potential for a relationship. I was planning on going back to university next fall, and she suggested I come study at her local school, starting the Spring semester, living with her. After some thought, I decided to jump on the opportunity, but just as I’m about to apply, she says she can’t do it, that it would be too crazy. I was gutted, but could understand her concerns.

After some days of thinking, I proposed a compromise: I would come over in January, but only stay for one to three months on the visa waiver program. Depending on how that went, I would come back for a further couple of months, and we could take it from there. This was early November. After a month of wavering, she finally tells me that she just can’t do it. One of the main reasons was that she still had some feelings for her ex-boyfriend of six years, L; they broke up in August. She told me that she would compare us, and that she didn’t think it would be fair to me nor to herself to start a relationship at this point, since she didn’t feel like she was ready for it. Again, I was incredibly saddened to hear this, but at least felt that I could understand her reasons behind it.

Some days before Christmas, though, she has a change of mind, and we make plans for me to come over for New Years and stay two months. She tells me that she had been sleeping together with a co-worker, B, since her break-up in August, and that she was pregnant, but having an abortion (she wanted to keep it, but B did not want to contribute at all).

Seeing her again was amazing, and we had a great time together. We decide we want to try and make it work long-term.

In mid-February, she tells me that she has been having some pretty bad suicidal thoughts, and, having decided to die, had written a long e-mail to L, who had called her and made her tell certain close friends plus me. (The thoughts started when she went on an anti-depressant, and stopped when she went off it.) I tried my best to be supportive, telling her how devastated I would be if she were to die. I also told her that I wish she had come to me with this first, and she said she was afraid that I would be angry or upset at her. In the end I straight up asked her if she still had feelings for L, and she said that she did, but that they were growing weaker every day, as her feelings for me grew stronger.

I leave, and we make plans for me to come back in mid-April. Some days after, she e-mails me, confessing that she and L actually hadn’t broken up before in the beginning of December, though things had been going downhill since early August when he refused to make a commitment (either proposing or making serious plans to move to the same city). She said something inside her had snapped, and she started sleeping with B, and then did everything described above with me. I was incredibly upset that she not only had been lying to me all this time, but also that she had been using me to cheat on her then-boyfriend, but decided to forgive her. She makes me so happy, and the chemistry and compatibility we share is incredible. We also agree on a lot of big issues in life. I love her, and want to make this work, and she is of the same opinion. She was hugely relieved when I forgave her, and knows that she has to spend time regaining my trust. Which leads me to my first questions:

1) How can she regain my trust? How do I get to the point where I can truly feel that I trust her again? Is time the only thing that helps?
2) Am I making the right choice in forgiving her and moving on, trying to make this work? I do believe her when she says that she understands how terrible her actions were, and that she will never do anything like it again.

My “real” question feels pretty silly in comparison to what I have written above, but I feel that the need for advice on it matters more. F is 27 years old, and I am 23. The age difference has never been a big issue. However, she has experienced so much. She has lived for a year in Japan, teaching English, traveled around in Asia, and she has lived in several locations in the US. Whenever she talks about her experiences, or if she mentions an ex, I feel…jealous. Not really the right term, but it is kind of a mix of jealousy, envy and what I’d call nostalgia by proxy. I wish that I could have experienced these things together with her; I almost yearn for those years. Part of the reason might be because I feel naïve/inexperienced in comparison with her. I have one previous sexual partner, she has six; I haven’t kissed anyone but those two, she has made out with a lot more people. And that’s fine. I don’t have any problem with this, rationally – other people have sex and the occasional drunken make-out session, and I don’t take issue with it. This feeling, however, bothers me more than it should (which is to say at all), and it bothers me that it does. It’s not something I spend a lot of time thinking about either, but it occasionally surfaces.

So, how can I stop this feeling (or at least recognize it and trivialize it when it occurs)? And what is it, anyway? I want to be able to listen to F tell me stories from her life without feeling this way. She deserves better than that, of course. Any suggestions or thoughts about this would be most welcome.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (68 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
posted by Ironmouth at 12:34 PM on March 18, 2011 [104 favorites]

too. much. drama.

Move on my friend, there are plenty of interesting girls out there for you with whom you won't have to worry about this nonsense with. As for falling in love with someone over a week's intense holiday -- it's probably not love, it's an exciting infatuation. Put them in a more mundane setting of getting up for work every day and remembering to take out the recycling on a Wednesday night when it's wet and cold out, and she'll probably not seem quite as fun.
posted by modernnomad at 12:39 PM on March 18, 2011 [4 favorites]

You're not jealous of her experiences; you're jealous of her ex and the guy she's more recently been sleeping with. You're jealous because you can't win this game, because this game is fixed. She is using you.
posted by jon1270 at 12:41 PM on March 18, 2011 [30 favorites]

You deserve better than someone who has repeatedly lied to you and is living an incredibly drama-laden life. There are other people out there who you will also have incredible chemistry and compatibility with who will not put you through this.
posted by Zophi at 12:41 PM on March 18, 2011 [4 favorites]

I think you have every right to feel jealous. Not only has she had a wealth of experiences you haven't, she's also messed around on you and with you non-stop since you met. I'd think something was off if you weren't jealous when she talks about this stuff because she's given you plenty of reasons to be.

As to your other two questions....I wouldn't trust her again, pretty much no matter how sorry she seemed; she sounds like a drama queen who needs to straighten her own life out. So if you decide to give her another chance, brace yourself to get lied to and screwed with some more.
posted by supercapitalist at 12:42 PM on March 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

Forgive her and move on, but in the other direction. Away from her.

Chances are you're feeling jealous of her past experiences because she also has present experiences for you to feel jealous of. It doesn't sound like she's willing to give you her all.
posted by Metroid Baby at 12:42 PM on March 18, 2011 [4 favorites]

Well six isn't so very many partners. If you're hung up about that you're going to be hung up over pretty well every girl you ever meet. And. Is she telling the truth about that, even? I appreciate the attraction she holds for you, but my apprehension is that no matter how much you put into this relationship it isn't going to work. 'Run' is probably good advice. Or at least let her make the running: let her come to you.
posted by londongeezer at 12:46 PM on March 18, 2011

I am going to take a shot in the dark here. You feel so strongly about her at least as much for what she represents -- adventure and excitement -- as who she is. I'll be bold and say that this adventure and excitement is the majority of what you want.

The situation with this girl is not going to end well. I have been in your position more than once. I would challenge you to take the passion you have mislabeled as being for her and see how it feels directing it toward making your own life an adventure. You've got it in you.
posted by the jam at 12:47 PM on March 18, 2011 [30 favorites]

Run far away from this woman so that you don't have to worry about regaining trust in her. Then spend the rest of your life doing interesting things so that you never again have to feel jealous or inferior to anyone because they are more experienced. Both problems will then be solved.
posted by orange swan at 12:47 PM on March 18, 2011 [5 favorites]

She treated her now-ex-boyfriend very badly while they were together, and lied to you about it. Nothing you've written above is convincing me that she won't treat you just as poorly in the future.

This is the kind of thing you're supposed to get out of your system in your early twenties. She is old enough to know better.

Forgive her if you like, but don't tie your future to hers.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 12:48 PM on March 18, 2011

Sounds like a clusterfuck you should avoid at all costs.
posted by Silvertree at 12:50 PM on March 18, 2011 [3 favorites]

someone on mefi wrote something yesterday that i think is really on point. honoring your opinion, it's quite possible that this is true: She makes me so happy, and the chemistry and compatibility we share is incredible. at the same time, she has really done very little to nothing (at least from what you have shared) to honor you as an individual, to show respect, etc. and that is something really important to have, especially at the start of a relationship. perhaps you feel like she is the one to be with, because of these things and the excitement and beauty that comes from your short-term times together. but building trust, especially after it has been breached, can take a very very long time - and more importantly, it takes a lot of work and dedication, good communication and laughter. i obviously don't know if she will give those things, but it doesn't seem like it from her past behavior.
posted by anya32 at 12:52 PM on March 18, 2011 [6 favorites]

Nothing really to add to this other than you will feel this way again about someone in the future, so don't try to stick it out just because you think you will never meet someone who makes you feel this way again.

Yes, run.
posted by eas98 at 12:53 PM on March 18, 2011

Run far, far away.

Sex with a high drama person will always be good, and I think everyone should date one for a little while. But that need for drama and intensity will only grow -- she is not someone who is going to magically stabilize and turn into a perfect girlfriend.

I got confused in the details, but she has already cheated on you what, twice? More? And unsafely, too -- you don't get preggers from safe sex very often. Dude, you sound like a great guy with a lot of love and loyalty to offer. You deserve to be with someone who will be loving and loyal in return.
posted by Forktine at 12:58 PM on March 18, 2011 [6 favorites]

How can she regain my trust? How do I get to the point where I can truly feel that I trust her again? Is time the only thing that helps?

Well it's difficult if not impossible to regain someone's trust after you've acted in a completely untrustworthy manner for such a long time. She has apparently been lying to you and using you the entire time you have known her, and doesn't appear to care enough about your feelings treat you better.

Whenever she talks about her experiences, or if she mentions an ex, I feel…jealous. Not really the right term, but it is kind of a mix of jealousy, envy and what I’d call nostalgia by proxy. I wish that I could have experienced these things together with her

Start living your own life rather than trying to live vicariously through someone else. If you don't feel like you've done as much with your life at 23 as she has at 27, you still have 4 years to change it. Or the rest of your life really. You can't change the past but your future is up to you.
posted by burnmp3s at 1:00 PM on March 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

You are extremely young. I say this because I am older than you and I feel that I am extremely young. I see people my age who are married and have children and "careers" and mortgage payments and all I can think is holy crap, how are they doing it? And why? These people are all at a place where I don't see myself for, geez, maybe another 10 years.

But everyone is different.

You need to focus on what's best for you. Finish school at your university. It seems completely crazy to me for you to follow a (high drama-producing) woman around the world at this point in your life. Those life experiences of hers that you're jealous of? Go make some of your own. On your own terms. And then, once you are secure and confident in who you are, separate from this woman, see if you still feel the same way.

Making any major changes in your life right now to allow you to be with her seems extremely short-sighted. You need to move on and extricate yourself from this person who seems perfectly content to drag you down into her crazy vortex of drama.
posted by phunniemee at 1:02 PM on March 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

This girl is a grade A nutter, get the hell out of there. Can't believe you made it this far.
posted by awesomebrad at 1:11 PM on March 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm confused - why are you describing her as your "girlfriend?"

No, seriously. You've had a couple of vacation flings with her, and you flirt online. But she's dating someone else, doesn't want you to live near her, and the only problem she sees about misleading you about all of this is that she doesn't like it when you get upset about it.

Dude, she's NOT YOUR GIRLFRIEND. And she isn't ever going to be.
posted by restless_nomad at 1:18 PM on March 18, 2011 [18 favorites]

Run and get tested.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 1:22 PM on March 18, 2011 [3 favorites]

You will drive yourself crazy if you don't cut things off with this crazy woman.

With regard to your jealousy/envy problem: Speaking from experience, I assure you that in ten years you will realize that this woman is not interesting. It doesn't matter where she's lived or how many "experiences" she has had, she is a rather boring, common person.
posted by jayder at 1:25 PM on March 18, 2011

So you're thinking of replacing "L" in her life?

From L's perspective: She goes on a trip, sleeps with someone, then spends a week with him, claiming to have broken up with you 3 months ago. Comes back from the US, starts sleeping with her co-worker, gets pregnant, has an abortion. Finally, actually breaks up with you. Two months later sends you a suicidal email.

All this, and you're worried about being "jealous of her experience"? You should be worried about ending up in L's position. You seem like a nice guy, please run in the opposite direction.
posted by prenominal at 1:29 PM on March 18, 2011 [12 favorites]

So you're thinking of replacing "L" in her life?

This is gold.

Someone is always the next "L." Make sure it's not you.
posted by The Deej at 1:38 PM on March 18, 2011

Three steps:
1) Recognize that this girl belongs in your past.
2) Start planning a lifetime of adventures now.
3) Create a life for yourself that makes you proud.

Jealosy issues solved. Drama gone. Fun made.
posted by sk932 at 1:39 PM on March 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm sure this girl seems like she's having a great, fun, exciting, fantastic life, which you want to be a part of, because, you know, great, fun, exciting, etc.. I can't help but notice the lives of you, B, and L are not especially great, fun, exciting, fantastic, or happy as a result of being involved with her.

So, I say disengage from this situation completely, and go be great, fun, exciting and fantastic, which I don't think anyone will be achieving within this situation for some time.

Also: get tested. It deserves to be said again.
posted by SMPA at 1:39 PM on March 18, 2011 [5 favorites]

You're being made a fool of.

Read over everything you wrote and have a think about it.

Then go and find someone else.
posted by fire&wings at 1:41 PM on March 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

DTMFA. You will find chemistry with someone else. I promise. Let her be someone who doesn't treat you (not to mention her actual BF) like crap and hasn't proven completely untrustworthy.
posted by J. Wilson at 1:55 PM on March 18, 2011

You sound like an amazing guy. I know because I am married to another amazing guy.

Listen to everyone above!
posted by jbenben at 1:55 PM on March 18, 2011

Run like hell. Read your post again; this is a toxic person who does not care about you. Never contact her again.
posted by spaltavian at 2:14 PM on March 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

She seems to be more adventure-based than relationship-based. Be happy about the adventure you had, put it in your mental scrapbook, and move on.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 2:16 PM on March 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I guess if she's been cheating on you then she's just basically not trustworthy.

There is a brutal calculation you can make that really does clarify things from that 'we're all evolutionarily programmed monkeys' perspective. I have a hunch that she's a 'high status' woman, in that she is better looking than most other women. And you are comparatively lower status relative to other men, which means that you are less tall or rich (I'm guessing you probably compensate on the third major status factor of intelligence). Your story has the hallmarks of chasing after a higher status female. To be blunt, that is why she makes you so happy- because you are doing better than would be expected when you get to have sex with her. But trust me, you will be more contented in the long run with someone of roughly equal status- it's a more stable situation. High status women are often quite neurotic as well-sometimes they don't believe they are pretty and need regular confirmation. Sometimes they have people give them everything on a plate and they develop whats called 'learned helplessness. Also, if you're a very attractive woman, then men will be coming on to you pretty much every day of your life, I know that would probably fuck with my mind as well.

I could be wrong of course. It would be interesting to hear you confirm or deny my hunch.
posted by leibniz at 2:25 PM on March 18, 2011 [6 favorites]

I got as far as "I proposed a compromise" and figured that this was a bad situation and that you should get out of it. Been there, done that. It was not good at all. (As in "I went over there, she broke up with me and got together with someone else two weeks later")

The rest of the stuff? You got my drama beat, by a long way. Get out of there. Relationships aren't meant to be like this. They are meant to be two [oh hell, or more] people who enjoy each other's company and don't fuck each other over. Treat this as a learning experience of the type of relationship you don't want to be in, however superficially appealing and exciting it appears. [On non-preview, leibniz's analysis describes my former situation perfectly, and may well apply to yours too].
posted by Infinite Jest at 2:42 PM on March 18, 2011

How can she regain my trust?

The thing is, simply, in the long run she. just. won't. (regain your trust. Trust me on that)
posted by Namlit at 2:45 PM on March 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Your Time's Comin', says Faron Young.
posted by peagood at 3:17 PM on March 18, 2011

I know you will think this is not the answer to your question, but it is:

She is radically unstable. She is trying to spread that instability to you. It is highly unlikely that she will ever change, but if she does, it will be as a result of really excellent professional and pastoral care. It is not within your power to provide either of these.

People who are unstable like this are not having the kinds of experiences you want. Oh, maybe they're getting meaning and value out of it all, but the effect on everyone around them is terrible. It goes beyond annoyance or even the stresses and strains of caring for a chronically ill person. It's about being enmeshed with someone who by their nature is actively trying to infect you with their illness. In all seriousness, this is where vampire stories come from.

If you carry on as you are you won't get a meaningful relationship or a fun fling, you will get sick. By all means forgive her, but trying to continue a relationship with her will be bad for you. And for her. If she ever does change her way of operating, it will be in terms of a fresh start with someone she hasn't previously treated this way.
posted by tel3path at 3:21 PM on March 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


posted by lalochezia at 3:23 PM on March 18, 2011 [9 favorites]

If it takes just that one more answer to get you to run away fast from this person, I will be that answer. Please dude, get the hell away.
posted by Kafkaesque at 4:23 PM on March 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

I would make a clean break and block her phone / email or she might do the fake-suicide-threats thing to try to get your attention. Tell her you wish her well but that's the end of it.
posted by marble at 5:20 PM on March 18, 2011

You will not get the fun and adventure by being with her, you will only get the drama. Forget her and create the fun and adventure yourself.
posted by geegollygosh at 6:14 PM on March 18, 2011

Pull up son, pay not attention to the sissies on this thread who want you to make the worst mistake of your life. Run away? What are you kidding, that's the most ridiculously stupid thing you could do. You will never gain any wisdom unless you feel some real heart brake. You'll just find some other woman who will use you just as badly, but won't be quite so good in the sack, and who will leave you for Larry in accounting. The only way to break this pattern is to keep at it until you feel you have to walk away. Now go into the bathroom, take a long piss. What's that thing you are holding in your hand? That thing between your legs with the torrent coming out one end, it's called your dick, your penis, your Johnson and it comes attacked to a man bag, a sack full of stones. Can you feel that thing? I SAID CAN YOU FEEL IT? Enormous isn't it? An anatomical wonder. Now look in the mirror, who is that handsome, confident man staring back at you, don't you recognize him?

Now here is what matters in a relationship with a crazy girl like this. First rule shes going to break your heart about a hundred times, and then if you are lucky you'll get over her when you wise up. That process though is called getting older, and your 23. Live like an old man when you are truly old. Second rule, when the time is up, you'll know it. She'll come back one last time and you'll cast her off, call her a whore and she'll say some psycho shit. Third rule no hitting, guns, weapons or knives. Seriously you hit her, I'll find you and kick your sass for violating the cowboy code. Also she hits you, you walk away. No fucking running, you walk, slowly like backing away form a bear bro. This kind of crazy also goes badly with weapons, one of you will be dead, or both. So keep them away. Fourth rule: no kids. This movie is rated R. You bring a kid to it and you'll screw them up. Final rule: don't give her your pin number or credit cards. Heartbreak and creditors is fucking pain.

When she breaks her heart go back to the bathroom, take a long piss and remember you still have a big dick, good looks and one day you wlll find that swagger again.
posted by humanfont at 6:30 PM on March 18, 2011 [5 favorites]

Oh, and. This seems to be a bit of a theme on the green today, but there's nothing wrong with liking drama but this isn't drama - it's amorality and toxicity and betrayal.

I love drama. I hate cruelty, betrayal, abuse, toxicity, incivility of all kinds. The most dramatically entertaining person I know will tell you the exciting and cliffhanging story of how she missed the bus two mornings in a row, because it's the way she tells 'em. She doesn't need to sleep with coworkers and have abortions and threaten suicide to be entertaining. Not to mention that those things will get boring faster than you can imagine, but by then, you won't be able to walk away.
posted by tel3path at 6:32 PM on March 18, 2011 [8 favorites]

Yes, run. I'm sure the sex is fantastic but run anyway.

And the second part of the advice is to be the person you so desperately want, someone who is well travelled, experienced and alluring. Stop seeing it in her and start building it in yourself. Many wonderful lovers will follow. With much less drama. I promise.
posted by Cuke at 6:35 PM on March 18, 2011

Not surprised you're jealous of her. She's having a GREAT time, all sorts of excitement, etc. Of course, going on trips to Europe and having flings and so on is a lot of fun!! But you may have noticed that, when she was having that fling, she was lying through her teeth about her relationship status? The people in her life were very clearly not getting any of that fun. You're feeling jealous because what you'd be signing up for is her doing whatever she wants, and you getting tricked, lied to, betrayed, and generally walked all over in the process.
posted by Lady Li at 6:47 PM on March 18, 2011

That which does not kill me makes me stronger. Maybe. But the pain and anxiety a woman like this will bring you will eat up a lot of valuable time and consciousness that you could better use doing almost anything else. I spent a long time getting over a very bad relationship that ended when I was around your age and it took me years to stop being angry. I don't know that I lost anyone wonderful while I was being angry, but then I DON'T KNOW who I would have met or what I would have done had I not been so consumed with my hurt and his betrayal and my righteous indignation at having been treated so badly. Life tests us all, but that doesn't mean you have to embrace every bad situation that presents itself in order to live fully. Nothing good will come of your continuing with this woman. Find someone who doesn't want to make you the fall guy in her movie and have some fun. There's plenty of experience waiting for you that won't wound you so badly that getting over it takes years.
posted by Jenna Brown at 7:01 PM on March 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

The good news is that you are only 23 and you do have 4 years (and actually, way more than that) to do all of the kinds of exciting things she did -- travel, live abroad, meet many people, have loads of relationships. Only yours will be even more awesome because you're not a crazy lying liar who lies.
posted by Deathalicious at 9:02 PM on March 18, 2011 [3 favorites]

One of two things are going to happen with this girl:

1. You run away from her now, relatively unscathed. Game over.

2. You ignore what everyone has said to you, positive what you have with her is worth it and that we just don't understand how awesome and amazing she is. So you run after her, let her whirl your head around n' around until it feels like it's gonna fall right off and you can't tell up from down. At that point you hopefully are able to find a way to run away from her. Game over.

Which will it be?
posted by Windigo at 9:29 PM on March 18, 2011

She has lived for a year in Japan, teaching English, traveled around in Asia, and she has lived in several locations in the US [...] I feel naïve/inexperienced in comparison with her. I have one previous sexual partner, she has six

So, she's had a gap year, shifted around the US a few times, and had a mere six sexual partners by age 27? Um, objectively that doesn't amount to a whole lot of experience, when compared with the rest of the fish in the sea. It's better than somebody who's never left their home town, but not as OMG THIS CHICK IS AMAZING!!1!! as you might want to think.
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:56 PM on March 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

What I read from you:
You are drawn to, and want, travel and excitement in your life. Since you're 23 and envious, I'll assume that you haven't taken those first steps that would allow you to choose your own adventure. You are thus attracted to the drama-bomb that is L. All the shiny beeping lights are interesting, but it's going to blow up in your face and make a mess.

Some data:
- Tons and tons of people teach English in Asia all the time. It's really not that exciting except that it allows for easy travelling around Asia, which is usually the real goal. I'd need more hands to count the number of people I know have done this.
- Another thing, didn't L sleep with 33% of the men in her life in the last year? So she had a whopping 4 men she'd slept with up until she began her meltdown. That's if you take her information at face value.
- You spend 1 out of 8 paragraphs on your "actual" question. I'm going to say that you've got it reversed and used the "I'm jealous of my girlfriend" to spew what's really on your mind. Which everyone has pretty much picked (up) on.

To answer questions:
1) How can she regain my trust? How do I get to the point where I can truly feel that I trust her again? Is time the only thing that helps?

She can regain your trust by never lying to you again. You can get to the point where you trust her if you believe what she's saying. Time will certainly help - hopefully by allowing you to realize that she's going to always lie to you and that trusting her isn't something she's worthy of.

2) Am I making the right choice in forgiving her and moving on, trying to make this work? I do believe her when she says that she understands how terrible her actions were, and that she will never do anything like it again.

You are making the right choice in forgiving her and moving on. Trying to make this work? I'd advise against it. I'm sure you want to believe her, but clearly you have doubt, 'cause you're here posting to the Hive. Besides, what's she going to say - "I'm totally going to lie to your face and cheat on you!"?

Listen, I don't need to peek ahead and know that if you turn to page L, your story is done. You were ready to cross a pond for this girl, you should be more than willing to do so for yourself! Why not try another ending where you end up making your own adventure? The Hive mind will have plenty of advice in taking steps - be they baby ones or 7-league ones - in the right direction.
posted by jlunar at 11:24 PM on March 18, 2011

I have one previous sexual partner, she has six

Like someone else suggested, you're actually cutting her a lot of slack to even take her word on this. By the "rule of three" she'd be up to eighteen by now. And she's a demonstrated liar and likely doesn't use protection.
posted by jayder at 5:35 AM on March 19, 2011

Who cares how many partners she's had?!? Is this really a numbers game? Looks to me like the only reason for establishing a number is to make sure all the bodies have been recovered!
posted by tel3path at 5:43 AM on March 19, 2011 [4 favorites]

Have you ever had the experience of watching something bad happen in slow motion? Like you see the kid with the ball on the lawn, and you think, well, that's not good, because that ball could bounce right into the stree -- and then the ball bounces into the street and you see the car turning the corner... so slowly, everything so slowly... and slowly, slowly there's the kid not paying attention to the oncoming danger at all, just chasing after that ball, and there's the driver, texting, or changing the radio station, thinking about something else entirely, oblivious except to their own concerns, and there's you, seeing everything, knowing everything, trying to scream out to the kid to STOPSTOPSTOPSTOP.

Well, you're the kid, the girl (definitely not girlfriend!) is the driver, adventure and excitement is the ball... and here's Ask Metafilter screaming STOPSTOPSTOPSTOP!
posted by taz at 6:08 AM on March 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

Who cares how many partners she's had?!?

If he's jealous about six prior partners she admits to (with several of them in current rotation) I'm just saying there could be a lot more in her past, with all the attendant jealousy, drama, did-she-or-didn't-she sleep with him speculation when these male "friends" happen to show up to visit, will-she-or-won't-she sleep with them if he leaves her alone with them ... I'm just saying, with this woman, more past partners (which is likely) = more drama and worry.
posted by jayder at 7:27 AM on March 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Mod note: From the OP:
Wow. I have to admit, I didn’t expect this amount of unison. It’s strange how, even in the face of that, it is difficult for me to accept that it might be the right answer. Like Windigo says, I want to tell you all that you just don’t understand. We are looking into having her come to my country to study while looking for a job, and have been talking about getting married, which would make immigration easier.

F and L had been together for many years before this (not consecutively), and had a relatively happy relationship. The main sticking point between them was that F wanted to commit and eventually have children, while L even after all that time didn’t feel confident enough yet, and seemed happy with doing long-distance indefinitely. F knows that she should have ended it in August, but “didn’t have the guts” to do so, and knows how terrible it was for all involved that she didn’t. She had never cheated on anyone before this. She also knows that it was selfish of her not to tell me sooner, but she felt that having a good, healthy relationship with me would be a big part in figuring out “how to be good and honest person again and not hate [herself] so much for the things [she] did.” Of course, she realizes that by not telling me she just made it worse. She knows she lost my trust over this, and wants to work hard to win it back; she told me a secret of hers that could potentially cost her her job (for people without her kind of job it’s not a terrible secret).

Regarding the suicide issue, her therapist gave her a psych consult, and he said that persons with a certain mental illness (she hasn’t been diagnosed with it, but has a follow-up with him soon) had a history of reacting badly to the drug she was taking when those thoughts occurred, so I have a hard time blaming her for that.

leibniz: I don’t feel that it really fits this situation. On the other hand, I have been interesting in America and American culture for a long time, so I’ll admit that her Americanness holds a certain allure.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 8:04 AM on March 19, 2011

"She cheated on him with two other people while trying to decide whether or not to really break it off for real even though it was a relatively happy relationship, and might have a mental illness, and I find her nationality alluring, and she's done something that could get her fired" appears to be your argument for why it's still reasonable to marry (marry!) this girl.

Could you maybe send the moderators a list of the good qualities of this relationship? This site talks about the sort of things I mean here.
posted by SMPA at 8:44 AM on March 19, 2011 [3 favorites]

Just to get things clear, she cheated on her first boyfriend with another guy and then with you, and then she cheated on you with her boyfriend and the other guy, and cheated on the other guy with her boyfriend, and you. Now, remind me what part of moving in together and getting married seems like a good idea?

*sigh* You seem like you are really going to keep chasing the ball, so I'll just mention three things: 1) why did you post this? It's not about feeling jealous of her experiences, because all the other information wasn't necessary for an answer to that. It's because you know this is a really bad idea. Some part of you is struggling to convince the temporarily insane part of you to stop and think. 2) Don't make a baby. Please don't. You're 23, you can wait another five or ten years, and that means using condoms. Don't depend on her birth control. This will also keep you safer from STDs and I think that's definitely a risk that's on the table, no matter how exclusive you think your relationship is supposed to be. She may easily become confused again and have sex with someone else, or maybe a couple more, for terribly good reasons, like being tired of talking on Skype or something.
posted by taz at 8:46 AM on March 19, 2011 [9 favorites]

"Wow. I have to admit, I didn’t expect this amount of unison. It’s strange how, even in the face of that, it is difficult for me to accept that it might be the right answer."

It takes only a few seconds to invite a vampire in, but a long time to uninvite them.

Seriously, you're in a hole, and your followup is just more digging! All the things you're presenting as explanations are just more descriptions of a really bad person to get involved with.
posted by tel3path at 8:47 AM on March 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

::screeching halt::

Of course she was happy doing long-distance indefinitely. She was fucking around on this guy and still kept his emotional commitment (and probably his physical fidelity). She got whatever she wanted in this situation and do not kid yourself otherwise.

And just for the record, a relationship is not a primary way to fix oneself, unless that relationship is called 'professional therapy.'

How profoundly selfish of her to see you as a means to an end.

Do you see that? This woman has flat-out told you that she sees you and your relationship as a means to a personal end. And that's the best-case scenario. That's her kind, gentle interpretation that she has expressed to you. Where is any real concern for you and your life? Where?

Look, you're going to do what you do. I wish you would not choose to epitomize the type of situation eloquently summed up here, but...that you're thinking immigration and marriage and all of this...this will be a miserable lesson to learn by doing. And I learn by doing all the time.
posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 8:53 AM on March 19, 2011 [5 favorites]

* ...about making the baby, can I just add? Some people I know didn't listen to me, and now I have to listen to their screaming-and-breaking-crockery fights weekly as their infant son wails in the background and they both feel trapped and hopeless and desperate. Too bad for them, but it kills me that this is the reality that their child is absorbing. My god. I was more careful about getting a dog, and I'm not a careful person. Use. Condoms. Every. Time.
posted by taz at 9:23 AM on March 19, 2011 [5 favorites]

And just in case the comment I linked to and/or my tone seem judgmental...I intend it solely in the same voice I use when I see something very, very bad about to happen in my lab when students are wielding very sharp blades, and they don't have the practice/experience to know what's about to happen.

I don't think my students are stupid, or that their actions/choices are stupid given their level of experience and understanding of the system or why safety guidelines exist. Most of them are doing the best they can at the time that incidents occur.

You are doing the best you can with the emotions and experiences you have right now. Breaking things off with this woman would hurt immediately and it would hurt a lot. And it also hurts to feel foolish and played and manipulated, even if that realization didn't dawn for awhile. If you keep believing that she's on the level, you don't have to feel those emotions along with the hurt of missing someone you care about. And it also hurts to hear strangers speak harshly about someone you care about.

You know what?

(a) You are far from alone when it comes to being part of a relationship like this. Emotions and tone are high in this thread because so many people have been in circumstances like yours, or been close to people who have.

(b) One of the best lessons I learned from AskMe is this: 'Good people can hurt you just as much as bad people.' I wish I could find that comment, because it's true. If you break things off, you don't have to think of this woman as terrible or cruel or any of that. She is simply a person making choices and behaving in ways that will probably be hurtful to you.
posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 10:15 AM on March 19, 2011 [5 favorites]

I would run. This does not sound like it will work out for you.
posted by elpea at 10:43 AM on March 19, 2011

Reading the OP's second message, I even more believe it's too much drama.
The fact that you even need to disentangle for us what F and L wanted and what sticking points, guts, medications, job secrets (honestly: what?) and so on are involved, shows that the better choice for you has nothing to do with your "blaming" anyone. Just get out. Or rather, silently leave the room, closing the door quietly but firmly.

Repeat: too much drama. You're being played.

Then there's the rational versus emotional pitch. You realize, don't you, that her explanations are all rational, as intelligent grown-ups explain things, whereas her previous actions seem to have been all over the place in terms of emotions and intellect. There is no guarantee whatsoever that she isn't at some point going to re-lapse into her previous behavior pattern, no matter her present promises. In fact, it is psychologically much more likely that there will be a re-lapse, or a new layer on top of the old drama cake. You're just not the person to have to deal with that (I mean, "figuring out “how to be good and honest person again," and you being an important part in that, what does that even mean? This is terrible nonsense).

You realize, too, that your response to this person is largely emotional, and that you use rational patterns to ok-ify it to yourself, right? That's fine in very many romantic scenarios, but obviously outragelously risky when you're contemplating a rocky history like this one.
posted by Namlit at 11:22 AM on March 19, 2011

It's really easy, when you're faced with a situation like this, to tell yourself it's different. Like, most of the time someone who behaved like this would be an awful person you should run away from, but with her it's different, because: She's sorry. She had reasons, even if they were bad reasons, she didn't just do it for the hell of it. She realises it was an awful thing to do. She can't be like those other, awful, evil people who screw over their loved ones!

But here's the thing: that's not different, not really. Most of the time, people who cause their loved ones a great deal of unnecessary pain behave just like that. They aren't moustache-twirling evil villains who fuck up other people's lives for light entertainment. They'll have reasons, they'll be sorry. They won't actively want to hurt you. It's just that somewhere in their heads, for whatever reason, they think hurting you is an acceptable consequence of acting the way they want to.

People can change, sometimes. But not the people who are still minimising and making excuses for their shitty actions. And I'm guessing that's what she's doing, because that's what you're doing on her behalf, by explaining to us why the relationship with L didn't work and why she took so long to come clean with you.

Think back to all that back-and-forth over whether you were going to move to her part of the world. Think what must have been going through her head at the time. That month, the month she was dithering about whether or not you should come over and stay - every second of that month, she knew she was lying to you, and lying to her boyfriend, and doing something that would cause both of you a significant amount of pain. Every second of that month, she was living with that knowledge, and continually making the decision to keep screwing you both over so she wouldn't have to face any consequences. Could you do that? Could you live with that in your head, even for a day?

She could. And now she wants to jump straight into a serious, marriage-headed relationship with you, because she thinks that'll help her "not hate [herself] so much for the things [she] did." But she needs to feel awful about the things she did, if she's ever going to stop doing them. The very last thing she needs is to throw herself into a whirlwind intense relationship so she can mentally shout "Hey it's all fine Anonymous loves me I've got it all worked out!" loud enough to shut up the part of her that feels bad. And it's the very last thing you need, too.

But after all that, I think the most important question is the first one you asked here: "This feeling I've never felt before, what is it?"

You're naming it jealousy, but it's not. It's discomfort. And it's there for a reason. It's your brain ringing warning sirens, because your brain knows, deep down, that you're getting into something that'll most likely cause you an awful lot of pain. Asking us for advice on how to shut up that feeling is like asking us "I'm about to put my hand on this hot stove, but every time I get close I get these mental flashes of burnt flesh and screaming agony - how can I make them go away?"
posted by Catseye at 11:41 AM on March 19, 2011 [12 favorites]

Mod note: From the OP:
This might sound contradictory, but while I do appreciate all of your advice, I have decided to give her one more chance. We had a long talk today where I raised some of the issues addressed here, with regards to being treated like an equal, with respect and trust, in the relationship, and she mentioned that objectively, the most logical thing for me to do would be to break up (even though she was happy I didn’t), so at least she agrees with the hivemind on this. Your feedback has me convinced that I can’t accept any more setbacks or breaches of trusts, though, so we’ll see what happens. I do hope we can prove you all wrong.

Regarding testing: she has been getting tested regularly (she showed me the results), and I also got tested soon after getting back.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 7:49 PM on March 19, 2011

Of course none of us can stop you, but one last suggestion: try not to marry her at this point in your life. Divorce is not fun.
posted by monkeys with typewriters at 9:44 PM on March 19, 2011 [3 favorites]

Good luck. I sincerely hope that it all works out for you; a bad relationship can seriously mess up your head and the longer they last, the harder they are to leave.

Can I ask you one thing, though? Do you remember Schrödinger's cat, the one that was simultaneously alive and dead? While one part of your brain is believing in this relationship, can you please also maintain the possibility that this woman is as much of a problem as most people in this thread describe her?

In other words:
  • Don't blind yourself to any clear signals.
  • Don't take on anything (children, marriage, financial commitment, unprotected sex etc.) that you can't walk away from.
  • Keep open all your other friendships and family relationships and listen to what they are telling you. Don't allow her to become the only person you talk deeply to.
  • Every month or so, re-read this thread and check whether the answers here or her self-descriptions are a better explanation of her behaviour.

posted by Busy Old Fool at 7:03 AM on March 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

There is no reason to be with someone who ever, ever makes you unhappy.

I'll say that again:

There is no reason to be with someone who ever, ever makes you unhappy.
Oh, for a <big> tag!

This is something that took a while for me to learn, but there are wonderful non-crazy people out there who you can feel happy with pretty much all the time, who you never have to have an "equality" talk with, and who are honest with you and don't cheat on you.
posted by Deathalicious at 7:56 AM on March 20, 2011 [3 favorites]

We had a long talk today where I raised some of the issues addressed here, with regards to being treated like an equal, with respect and trust, in the relationship, and she mentioned that objectively, the most logical thing for me to do would be to break up (even though she was happy I didn’t), so at least she agrees with the hivemind on this.

Her agreeing with you is not the same as her treating you with respect and honesty.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:28 AM on March 21, 2011

Your feedback has me convinced that I can’t accept any more setbacks or breaches of trusts, though,

No it hasn't. You have not changed at all. Problem is, neither has she. Try not to have any kids, for our sake.
posted by spaltavian at 1:30 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

You know, I was also surprised that everyone should be so unanimously negative about your prospects (and hey, if you believe in the wisdom of crowds at all...) I got the impression that at least she was trying and had genuine attachment to you. I accepted the explanation that the suicide thing was due to the meds. I was much more disturbed by the abortion. I find it hard to imagine why a person would allow themselves to get pregnant in such an insecure situation- it sounds truly reckless.

My overall negative judgement before was just that if she's lied and cheated so much (including on you) that is a pretty reliable indicator that she will do it again some time. People just don't change very much (except maybe after great trauma). And to be a bit misogynistic here- women often have an annoying tendency to 'secure' the next boyfriend before leaving the previous one.

If you are set on pursuing this relationship, I would still certainly recommend that you don't get married and don't have kids until you've lived together long enough for conflicting personality features and values to become apparent. Eventually a couple will become secure/habituated enough that they stop making an effort, and then the conflicts will emerge (and you'll appreciate that the natural demands of having kids magnifies these hugely, so what seems trivial now can be fatal later). Only then can you judge if your differences can be tolerated or smoothed over with periodic efforts. How long does that take? It's hard to say. You need to have truly suffered difficulties together. You need to have gotten drawn as a couple into the mundane pressures and stresses of making money.

A mutual sense of equality is also important- not because inequality can't be stable- but just for its impact on self-esteem and satisfaction with the relationship. And as with values and personality featues, its extremely easy to be self-deceptive about how you stand in that regard.

Finally, dealing with envy. Yes, it is envy. It's not an emotion that people commonly admit to feeling because we're all supposed to be self-confident and trying to 'be ourselves'. It was because of this envy that I supposed there was a significant status difference, not just additional life-experience on her part. I am only working on hunches again here, but I'd say you envy her freedom. You could aspire to be so free yourself and get over it that way. But I would predict that it will become one of those value/personality differences. You will feel forced to be the boring, reliable one while she gets away with being irresponsible- and that's just the mundane case. Your resentment would be huge if she actually behaves recklessly and you have to deal with serious consequences. All the trust issues will come up again.

So, yes I'm not optimistic about your chances, but I wouldn't just write it off like most of the other people here. I would say that no amount of spoken resolves can solve anything. There's no point even setting standards or making tests. Time is everything, and life will throw you all kinds of curves that you can't anticipate now.

Besides, you are both young enough to wait at least 5 years before having kids. So as long as you both agree that's an ultimate goal, why tie yourself down with kids so early anyway? Wouldn't you like to travel the world together first?
posted by leibniz at 8:18 AM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

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