My GF cheated on me. How do I get to a point of clarity so I can make a decision?
January 31, 2012 9:54 AM   Subscribe

Girlfriend of 3 years got blackout drunk slept with a random acquaintance while on a business trip. I need tips, methods and advice to find clarity so I can make a good decision, rather than one of impulse. I'll do my best to keep this brief, but, well, these things have details:

I love her. We moved to California together to start new about 2 years ago. Was even set to propose to her this weekend up in San Fran for her birthday.

In our relationships early stages, there were several similar indiscretions. A flirty IM and picture (non-nude) exchange with a complete stranger and a year later blackout drunk at a bar she kissed a stranger. She has a promiscuous past, has cheated before, slept with multiple men inside of a week and continues to have many more male friends than female. Whatever, we all have a past, i'm certainly no saint, she's chosen to be with me and has thus far been true.

Last thursday she met with a dear girlfriend and went to a bar while on business back in NYC. An old colleague saw through facebook they were out, and they invited him to meet up. They drove back to my girlfriends bar to drink more. it was closed. somehow the 3 ended up in her room.

My GF straddled the guy, told her friend to get out, and proceeded to have sex, without a condom, until friend walked back in.

Back home, I asked her why she was out so late (i got a love you text after midnight), we fought, after denying several times that they were even out with boys, she admitted it and told me the whole story (which i believe, blackout drunk, quick sex, kicked him out).

I love her, was going to propose, the usual feelings of being scared of being alone, her not in my life, blah blah blah, you know the breakup fears that stop people from breaking up that exist and cause cheaters to be let back in. Prior to this one and only incident, she was THE ONE. We'd worked through our demons and were excited to start a life together fresh (hence moving to Cali).

But, I'm a 35 year old, good looking, successful, charming guy in a large southern california city, have loved before and I'm capable of loving again. I will get over this if that's the path i choose. She'll be crushed, I'll be crushed, but she cheated, and she knew that was the 1 unforgivable sin. And she came on to him, which stings even more.

Right now my principles tell me to man up and kick her to the curb and move on. I feel anger, brutal disappointment, and it's preventing me from thinking clearly. I go from one extreme to the other: we're done <> people make mistakes, we are great together, we can work through this

So, the question, how do I find clarity right now? I can't work. I can't sleep. Every 3 minutes i picture her naked attacking this guy and it's preventing me from thinking clearly on what to do. What steps do I take to make sure I am making the right decision, rather than one of impulse and hurt. It's all so fresh that I'm not thinking big, and i need to think big.

I'm not really looking for what decision to make from the hive-mind (though all opinions welcome, my guy friends are predictable), rather how do I find clarity in this incredibly raw state so I, and only I, can decide what to do.

Oh, and a random one, as a general rule, are people who take back cheaters suckers and fools? or adults working through the ups and downs of a long term relationship.

(obvious disclaimers: yes she is getting tested. yes we talked about therapy for both. yes she is looking in to alcohol/impulse control treatment. i truly believe her guilt.)
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (105 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
If you end up proposing, or at least sticking around, I would recommend a few AA meetings for YOU. Seriously. If alcohol does this, even once in awhile, it's a problem, especially since it was unprotected, but even if it wasn't, it's a problem. And alcohol is part of it.
posted by Danf at 10:00 AM on January 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

Honestly, your GF doesn't sound "ready for commitment", to put it nicely. It's admirable you're so forgiving about the things that happened early in your relationship, but she doesn't value that. She hasn't changed. She still likes to drink and doesn't care that much what happens if she blacks out. That she still drinks to this point, knowing what she did in the past, only proves that she doesn't want to change. If I was you, I would break up *right now* and not waste a single thought about proposing. Would you want to wonder all your (married) life if she cheated on you again? Would you want to forgive and forget every time she does it again? She's immature. No therapy can suddenly make her mature enough for marriage or serious commitment over night.
posted by MinusCelsius at 10:01 AM on January 31, 2012 [44 favorites]

Well, for one thing, there's always a possibility that your partner is going to cheat. Even people who have been celibate before being monogamous cheat. So if it's just the baseline possibility that this could happen again, well, it could happen to anyone. If you aren't willing to accept a certain low-level, background risk of infidelity, you shouldn't be in any relationships. Or, at least no relationships with people.

But if you're uncomfortable with the perceived likelihood that this particular person is going to cheat on you, well... that's something else. She cheated on people before you, she cheated on you, and there's little reason to think she won't do it again. Odds are she was just as guilty about having done it before. But we're talking about someone for whom getting blackout drunk* is a semi-regular occurrence, and for whom sexual encounters seem to follow such incidents at least as often as they don't.

So I guess, for me, the decision about what to do after an SO has cheated on me is to decide whether this looks like an isolated incident that's unlikely to repeat itself. If it's the kind of thing where she was at a highly emotionally-charged event having just had her mom die and ran into an old flame, well... that's one thing. It's bad, but those particular stars aren't likely to align again. But if, as seems to be the case here, it's just another instance of a recurring pattern, even a habit, the only conclusion I can come to is that either you're going to be okay with this happening from time to time or you aren't. If you aren't, it's time to let this one go.

*Which, to me, is a red flag independent of the rest of it. It sounds like you're dating someone with a drinking problem, not just a sex problem.
posted by valkyryn at 10:04 AM on January 31, 2012 [7 favorites]

Dump her. I can't stress that enough. I cannot IMAGINE EVER cheating on my husband, not before we were married or even after. Jesus Christ. I can't even imagine even wanting to cheat on him.

If you eventually envision having an open relationship, that's one thing, but if your heart is monogamous, you need to dump this woman immediately and not ever look back. There's something wrong with her.
posted by anniecat at 10:04 AM on January 31, 2012 [21 favorites]

You are making the right decision.

I also think you have to look at the idea that she's telling you she got "blackout" drunk because she thinks that makes it less unsavoury. The only way that could make it less unsavoury would be if she were hiding something worse - like deliberate planning. Whichever version is true she must have some pretty serious problems to deal with.

Also: if she was in a blackout how was she able to tell you this story? Did the friend tell her about it? Think about how she was able to tell you, and why she would tell you a story about an incident she supposedly couldn't remember.

And being in a blackout only means you won't remember some or all of what you did. It doesn't mean you were incapable of making the choices to do those things. Plus if somebody has a history of getting blackout drunk and doing disastrous things, wouldn't they do everything in their power to never get drunk again? Unless they were an alcoholic and couldn't stop themselves getting drunk again. Or if their belief system told them they couldn't be held accountable for their actions when drunk, so they always made sure to get drunk before doing something terrible.

This doesn't paint a picture of someone with problems that can be overcome on a timescale of less than years, so I guess the question is are you willing to wait years to find out if she's really a great partner for you, underneath?
posted by tel3path at 10:07 AM on January 31, 2012 [36 favorites]

You are going to get tons of advice to just break up now and not look back. But it's more complicated than that. Nthing therapy, testing, AA, all those things. Most importantly, don't feel pressured to make any decisions fast. I mean obviously, probably proposing right now is off the table. But you don't have to decide right now whether to end the relationship. You just have to keep letting it work itself out. It's ok to break up over this. It's also ok to work through it and stay together. The best thing you can do is wait out the turmoil and see what is left at the end.
posted by yogalemon at 10:08 AM on January 31, 2012 [5 favorites]

You sound like a dude who likes strict monogamy with his lady, she sounds like a lady who likes a little NSA hooking up outside her primary relationship with her dude when her primary relationship is about to amp up the intensity (early dating to boyfriend/girlfriend, bf/gf to engaged). She gets drunk to make it okay, you sound like you would be REALLY PISSED if she fooled around the month before your wedding. Time to walk, you'll both find better people and better lives.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 10:09 AM on January 31, 2012 [14 favorites]

She should get tested for STDs.

She has an alcohol problem and is impulsive in alarming ways.

This ultimately is a question of how comfortable you are being with someone who might just go ahead and break your heart for no apparent reason. I can't imagine being comfortable with someone like that, so I'd advise you to break up with her. You've got to be willing to accept who and what people really are when they demonstrate their character.
posted by clockzero at 10:10 AM on January 31, 2012 [5 favorites]

We'd worked through our demons and were excited to start a life together fresh

Maybe. It sounds like she might still have some demons. She might also have subconsciously wanted to let you know about them before you take these big, life-changing plunges with her.

So, the question, how do I find clarity right now? I can't work. I can't sleep. Every 3 minutes i picture her naked attacking this guy and it's preventing me from thinking clearly on what to do.

It's been less than a week since this event. You're hurt. You can understand it and be all sophisticated about it intellectually, but there's a part of you that feels betrayed and maybe needs to be heard.

Let it out. Put things on hold (at least) with her. You are getting these feelings for a reason: your brain is telling you, "this sucks. I like it better when things don't suck." You are going to need to process these feelings -- for your own sake, and, if you decide you want it, for the sake of the relationship. You can't just tighten your belt and power through on this one like it's crunch time at work. This is you trying to protect yourself. Listen.

Oh, and a random one, as a general rule, are people who take back cheaters suckers and fools? or adults working through the ups and downs of a long term relationship.

I don't think you can make a general rule out of this. I made one for myself, though, and so far it's worked for me. My rule is, "I think I have it in me to forgive cheating once in my life. Once."

This rule helped me to understand whether a particular relationship had a future after cheating. I decided it wasn't worth burning my one forgiveness on a particular person, and I haven't regretted it.

Is this person worth burning your forgiveness on? If you had to make an ironclad deal with yourself that -- no matter what -- the next time she does this you are outta here, would you keep investing your life in this person?
posted by gauche at 10:11 AM on January 31, 2012 [14 favorites]

Not to keep piling on, but one of the best pieces of advice I ever got was, "when someone shows you who they are, believe them."
posted by gauche at 10:12 AM on January 31, 2012 [54 favorites]

There was no cheating, but I was seeing a guy who I knew was at least looking elsewhere.

We had a break. He slept with someone else on it. That there was what made me take the decision to break up.

Maybe the same would work for you - take a break from your relationship. Move out for a while, or ask her to. Let her know you see it as potentially finite but you don't know yet. Either she will wait to see how you decide, or she'll cut loose and allow that dark side of her to sway her actions, during that time. It may become clearer which is the stronger pull.
posted by greenish at 10:12 AM on January 31, 2012 [3 favorites]

This isn't so much an incident as it is a pattern. In other words, something like this is likely to happen again. Only you can make the decision, but do you really want to be hurt again?
posted by tommasz at 10:13 AM on January 31, 2012 [5 favorites]

I think that if you continue with her, you will have to be able to accept her continuing to behave exactly like this, unchanged. I would see it differently if it were something she had done only once.

I think there are people who could put up with this, but only you know if you're one of them. FWIW this isn't a "normal up and down" by any means.
posted by tel3path at 10:14 AM on January 31, 2012 [3 favorites]

So, for your first question, yes, people can successfully move past cheating and have relationships that work long term. Taking back someone who cheated on you doesn't necessarily mean you are a sucker or a fool by any means.

That said, multiple times in this question, you mentioned issues with drinking and impulse control. This is a giant flag to me. I can tell you that in my experience, guilt is not necessarily the best motivator of getting treatment.

I also don't really know how to address that you moved to start over, and found yourself in the same place. I found that for myself, until I figured out what I needed in my life, wherever I moved, I was still there with all my baggage. I know I personally was never able to move forward with a partner who cheated on me, but I gave it a shot to decide. I highly recommend taking some time to yourself to think about what you really want.
posted by Nimmie Amee at 10:14 AM on January 31, 2012 [3 favorites]

In our relationships early stages, there were several similar indiscretions.

from experience: DTMFA. I hate it when people have that response here. But there it is.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:14 AM on January 31, 2012 [8 favorites]

It's worthwhile to recognize that there may be more than two options. Perhaps "call me when you're sober, and if I'm still available, we may have a chance" is a third. Maybe "let's go to couple's therapy together" is a fourth. You decide - whatever you choose has to fit your priorities and values.

Basing your future on the naive assumption that she'll change is obviously a bad idea. But basing your future on the cynical assumption that she is incapable of change may be harmful, as well.
posted by richyoung at 10:14 AM on January 31, 2012 [16 favorites]

If you stay it's a long hard road for you in many many ways, if you are willing to give this the time then go for it and put the work into it there is a chance that it would be worth it
Personally, I would not stick around I don't have the strength to forgive and forget for forever-if that is where this relationship was headed.

I am sorry that you are hurt and I hope you find the relationship that you want and deserve.
posted by ibakecake at 10:15 AM on January 31, 2012

For me, it wouldn't be so much about what happened on that trip. It's this: "I will get over this if that's the path i choose."

To me, wanting to get married to a specific person is like pursuing a career in the arts. You do it because you simply cannot imagine your life any other way. It's like how Colin Powell said he knew he shouldn't run for President because he didn't have the "fire in his belly" for it. I personally wouldn't want someone to marry me who listed "being scared of being alone" as one of his explicit reasons for doing it. The most positive thing you say about her is that you're great together, but that doesn't sound all that special.

I'm not saying you need to dump her now , and it may work out best to stay together for enough time to see how your feelings evolve in the wake of the crisis-level stress of this episode. I'm just saying that if you don't have something more like "I've never even imagined that I would have someone as amazing as she is in my life" (or whatever) as a reason TO stay together, then maybe this love was never as deep as it should have been in the first-place for a joyous life-long commitment.

That said, I'm unmarried, so make of my theory on this what you will.
posted by argonauta at 10:15 AM on January 31, 2012 [6 favorites]

i think greenish (and gauche) have it right. its ok to be pissed. you need to focus on you, your feelings and dealing with that. a break might represent the way you can give yourself time to understand and deal with your own feelings (as opposed to "manning up") and enough space to gain some clarity on her and her reality. further, i like the simple rule to answer your question of "i can forgive cheating, once, ever." its nice and tidy.

now, from the context and applying that rule, for myself, sorry but the old askme adage rings ture: dtmfa.
posted by chasles at 10:19 AM on January 31, 2012

It sounds like you need something to help you stop the tape in your head and get some clarity which is usually a good night's sleep. In these kinds of situations, especially when it's preventing me from sleeping, I use the Ambien that I got from my doctor after having my son. I only use when it when I really, really need to sleep and I am getting in my own way of doing it. The problems I left may still be there in the morning, but my perspective may be a lot better.

You will probably wake up where you left off, but the time that your brain has had to 'turn off' could really help you get some perspective.

In the alternative, is there a close friend who you trust to be a good sounding board for you? In other words, do you have someone you can talk to about this who won't blow smoke up your ass but also won't coddle you?

Best of luck.
posted by Leezie at 10:22 AM on January 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

Don't make any decisions right now. Put the relationship on hold. Take a couple of weeks or a month off before making any decision. Move out if you are living together. Take some time to calm down and clear your head. Focus on yourself. Exercise.

Personally, I find your GF's impulsive behavior and drinking almost as worrying as the cheating.

As I see it you have three choices...
1) GF apologizes profusely, admits she has some issues, and is willing to seek therapy for her impulsive behavior and drinking problem.
You are willing to do couples therapy and attempt to rebuild this relationship. This route will be painful and take time but it definitely can be done with a positive outcome. But for you GF this needs to be a life-changing, behavior altering, experience.

2) GF apologizes profusely and honestly. Admits she has some issues and is willing to seek therapy for her impulsive behavior and drinking problem.
You realize that you cannot live with the possibility that she may do this again. You break up.

3) GF is unwilling to admit she has behavior/drinking problem and is uninterested in therapy.
posted by LittleMy at 10:24 AM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think you should move on and find someone who would never even get to a place where they could cheat on you in the capacity she has.

I am so sorry.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 10:25 AM on January 31, 2012 [3 favorites]

May I suggest that you don't have to do anything right now? It's only been a few days, it's still raw, and I think you need to take care of yourself before you make any decisions about her and your relationship. That's going to take time, and really looking at the relationship without just the haze of hurt and anger but also with how much you believe her guilt, how much you believe that she can change, and how much you believe that you can forgive her, for example. So, probably therapy for you is the best bet.

FWIW I don't think that a person who takes back a cheating partner is automatically a fool or desperate or naive, but I think that many people do not take the time to fully process their feelings and expecations and express them and then regret their choices - regardless of whether they stay with the cheater or not.
posted by sm1tten at 10:28 AM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

Take a break while you sort it out.

You're not a fool for taking her back, but it's really, really tough to process something like this when you're only seeing the trees and not the forest.

If it's truly a mistake to end it, you'll know outside of the relationship, not in it.
posted by glaucon at 10:35 AM on January 31, 2012

there were several similar indiscretions
Prior to this one and only incident

No, there was not just this one incident. She sounds untrustworthy (as she was racked with guilt, she was still trying to deny that she went out with men?). I'd dump her, and be thankful that I dodged a bullet.
posted by sugarbomb at 10:37 AM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


This person does not respect you. They do not respect their relationship with you, and when they get caught they lie. Get out, it's not your job to fix her.

Love is a horrible excuse for bad behavior. Love is an expectation for way more honesty than you're getting and way more respect than she's shown you.
posted by iamabot at 10:38 AM on January 31, 2012 [12 favorites]

I'm sorry you're going through this, I know how it feels.

You're scared of being alone. So is someone out there who will make you very happy without threatening your emotional and physical health like this. Take some time to heal then go find that person.
posted by oblio_one at 10:43 AM on January 31, 2012 [4 favorites]

Haven't read the comments yet, but bounce her ass to the curb. You don't deserve this drama, no one does. Particularly since you mention being sucessful and at a stage in your life where this shit hasn't happened.

She has broke your trust. She hasn't been responsible, and you want to think about marriage? Jesus this is a blantant DTMFA question if I've seen one.
posted by handbanana at 10:45 AM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

You find clarity by giving yourself time to think. By getting a therapist. By putting zero pressure on yourself in the interim. By taking a chunk of time to be by yourself. And by taking making big decisions off the table for the duration. That duration could be weeks or months.

I want to add that, according to your description, your girlfriend has a serious drinking problem. She sounds self destructive. She puts herself in harms way and she's willing to put you there, too (not using protection; the mental anguish she's putting you through right now). It's not simply that she's making 'lifestyle choices' that don't align with yours, she's continually putting herself at risk for mental and physical harm. If there's still any question in your mind about it--she's in no shape to make big life decisions such as getting engaged. She might even be doing this to push you away, or because she doesn't feel worthy or a million other things that she has to want to address before any meaningful change can occur. And, as mentioned by tel3path above, such change would significant time and commitment.
posted by marimeko at 10:50 AM on January 31, 2012

Your trust was violated. You're trying to rationalize why her cheating is acceptable. If you're willing to forgive cheating once, then are you willing to forgive cheating twice? If you're willing to forgive cheating twice, then are you willing to forgive cheating three times? If you're willing to forgive cheating three times, then are you willing to forgive cheating one hundred times? Meanwhile, your instincts are telling you to dump her.

Has she communicated any problem with your relationship? If she doesn't believe there's a problem with your relationship, then there's a possibility that she's into open relationships. And she still needed to communicate to you about her sexual needs. Which she failed to do.

I wouldn't take a cheater back, but this is me. There's opportunity costs associated with every action you take. But I think the value of being single for a bit and finding a new partner is higher than the value you would get out of remaining in this relationship for the long term.
posted by DetriusXii at 10:50 AM on January 31, 2012

I recommend this book all the time on here but it really is extremely helpful in reaching clarity about whether to stay or leave a relationship:

Too Good To Leave, Too Bad To Stay

You seem to have your wits about you and be open to reasoning your way to a decision... I think you would find this book very useful.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 10:51 AM on January 31, 2012 [3 favorites]

* require

"would require significant time and commitment"
posted by marimeko at 10:53 AM on January 31, 2012

she sounds like a lady who likes a little NSA hooking up outside her primary relationship with her dude when her primary relationship is about to amp up the intensity (early dating to boyfriend/girlfriend, bf/gf to engaged).

This strikes me as an incredibly important observation.

While you think about this, take a break. Go stay in a cheap motel or with a friend, or have her do the same. There's no way to gain clarity while arguing with her. Good luck.
posted by Forktine at 10:54 AM on January 31, 2012 [6 favorites]

Dump her and move on. This isn't someone you want to marry. This decision is not complex -- don't complicate it.
posted by ellF at 10:57 AM on January 31, 2012 [4 favorites]

That imagining her with another man? That's not going to go away anytime soon. I would talk with a trusted friend or find a therapist who can work through this with you. If you feel like it's worth it, you could go to couple's therapy.

Looking back, it was agonizing at the time, but I didn't have to think too hard about my decision to leave. My partner's actions made it clear what to do. She was unable to admit her part in what happened, she wanted to sweep everything under the rug, she got angry at me for not moving on quickly enough. All these things pointed out the fact that she wasn't actually sorry for what she'd done, and didn't appreciate the hurt she caused.

You haven't said much about how apologetic your girlfriend is, but it doesn't sound like she regrets so much what she did, but rather that she got caught. I'd focus on her behavior. You can get over infidelity in a relationship. It didn't work with my ex and I, but I've seen it happen. But the cheating partner has to be serious about making amends, and it's doubtful someone with the behavior you describe has that in her.
posted by Tooty McTootsalot at 11:02 AM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

You've had problems before and she has committed indiscretions. Now she's committed an even bigger indiscretion and you're having more problems. So, ask yourself, can you put up with this again? I agree with others that it seems like a pattern that will continue unless something happens to stop it, like therapy on her part and a commitment to change (possibly from both of you?) Can you handle going that route with her? Do you think she could do it, too?

As for the NSA hook-ups, did she know you were going to propose? I can't tell from the question. Because it seems less to me like someone who wants hook-ups for fun and sex and more like someone who is really insecure. The sex doesn't sound pleasant or fun to me, not even in a sneaky way. Kissing a stranger at a bar seems not fun, too. I guess it's hard to parse out what infidelity is about, but I'm not reading this and going, "Whoa, what a slut!" I'm thinking, "Wow, that's really sad."
posted by amodelcitizen at 11:04 AM on January 31, 2012 [3 favorites]

Personally I'd have second thoughts about proposing to someone who routinely gets blackout drunk even if they weren't using it as an opportunity to have random sex. The cheating, to me, would be important, but less important than the lying and the alcoholism.

yes we talked about therapy for both. yes she is looking in to alcohol/impulse control treatment.

If she actually follows through on these, rather than "talking about" and "looking into" them, the relationship might (might) be repairable.

Did she make the same promises about the earlier "indiscretions"?
posted by ook at 11:05 AM on January 31, 2012 [3 favorites]

Yeah, it's not actually a blackout if you know you're having sex with someone who isn't your partner.

So, you want "tips, methods and advice." I guess this then:

1. Go to Alanon. Find some fun-loving older women who've been married to alcoholics their whole lives. Tell them this story.

2. Go read about monogamy. Do you care about monogamy? Or is it just a de facto state, because that's how we were all raised? What do you really FEEL like your ideal relationship should look like?

3. Go talk to some friends. If that's not possible, go talk to some strangers. Blather it all out. Don't ask anyone for their advice, but listen to their own stories.

4. Spend some time on your own, too. Go for some long walks. Talk to yourself out loud. Go out in the woods and get lost.

5. Call in dead to work for a week, if you can. Go home and sit down and let your mind go nuts and get it all out.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 11:08 AM on January 31, 2012 [10 favorites]

People make mistakes, sure, but some people make the same mistakes again and again.

Perhaps her future behaviour doesn't even enter into it -- you're no longer comfortable or happy with her, so why stick around?

Take some more time if you need to, to remove it from the heat of the moment, but... I don't see it changing the end result. No guilt, no anger, just not meant to be together, bub bye.
posted by Capt. Renault at 11:09 AM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

"...but she cheated, and she knew that was the 1 unforgivable sin."

These are your words and they are the clarity you are seeking. I assume you two had previously discussed what was "unforgivable" and she did it anyway. Holding on to the principles provides clarity. Contorting or abandoning your firmly-held principles to accommodate this new indiscretion is why you are feeling lost and confused as to what to do.
posted by murrey at 11:09 AM on January 31, 2012 [18 favorites]

In our relationships early stages, there were several similar indiscretions. A flirty IM and picture (non-nude) exchange with a complete stranger and a year later blackout drunk at a bar she kissed a stranger…has cheated before…

and despite you two moving out west to "start new" and promises by her to be faithful, she again drinks till she has an excuse to cheat on you.

please do not marry her. please. this will not end well. you two already have a pattern where she will cheat and you accept it—this is enabling bc there is no incentive for her to stop when you continue to forgive her. and unless she has some come-to-jesus moment that will change that, she will continue to cheat. and even if, by some miracle she doesn't, you will never fully trust her and always wonder.

relationships are hard enough and to accept a situation that makes it that much harder to have a successful one is just setting yourself up for failure. please stop trying to talk yourself into believing that this is acceptable and that the "adult" thing to do is to accept it. you deserve to be with someone who respects you and your relationship enough to not engage in behaviours that will—and continue—to jeopardize your relationship and make it that much harder. you'll find someone to love again and the thing is, you will find someone to love again who won't keep getting drunk and then cheat on you.
posted by violetk at 11:14 AM on January 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

The problem isn't that she got blackout drunk and OOPS fell into bed with some guy and OOPS fell onto his dick. The problem is that she put herself in that situation in the first place when she has a history of bad judgment. She should not be drinking with straight men who are not related to her when you're not there. She should not be in hotel rooms (!!!) with straight men who are not related to her, especially while drunk. There are about 10 things she did wrong here and only one of them involved sex.

You didn't mention her sobbing at your feet, crawling naked on hot coals and flagellating herself with barbed wire in penance. That's about what it would take for me to forgive someone who cheated on me. And if I decided to forgive them, I'd put the relationship on hold until I could think rationally and approach them calmly. And if I got to that point, I'd insist on therapy for both of us and addiction recovery + therapy for them. And after a year, if all went well, I might propose.

If you really love her that much to go through all that, it's up to you. I wouldn't call you a fool as long as you appreciate what a long haul it will be and how much risk you're taking.

At the very least, do not propose any time soon. Divorce is a Big Fucking Deal and a Huge Pain in the Ass and you don't want to have any doubt going into the marriage.
posted by desjardins at 11:17 AM on January 31, 2012 [18 favorites]

Why would you want to be married to someone who obviously doesn't respect you? She doesn't even put the slightest value on your feelings. You almost certainly deserve better.
posted by Ostara at 11:21 AM on January 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

Every 3 minutes i picture her naked attacking this do I find clarity right now?

Get some space. Move out if necessary. Stop letting these images replay in your head. When the thought comes to mind, think of something else. If that means you can't think about or see her right now, that's what you need to do. Give it some time for these feelings to subside. Then, talk to your girlfriend, possibly with a therapist, about what happened and what to do about it. If she is the one, she will still be the one in a week, or a month, or however long it takes you to calm down about this.

as a general rule, are people who take back cheaters suckers and fools? or adults working through the ups and downs of a long term relationship.

Either. Sometimes both at the same time. Hard to say. But here's the rule I'd use to make the decision: can you forgive her, fully and completely, and move on? Can you imagine getting back to a place in your relationship where it's late, she's not home yet, but you still trust that she's not doing anything that's worrying you? Can you get to a point where this will be ancient history, never to be discussed again?

I have a friend whose wife cheated on him six months before the wedding. They got married anyway, but for eight years, that betrayal was his trump card in any argument. It was corrosive for both of them. Ironically, she was faithful after that - it was his cheating that eventually brought the whole thing down. But to me, trying to build a life and family with someone that you can only trust provisionally...letting that sort of conflict and calculation crowd out open-hearted generosity and love...that seems like just about the worst thing in the entire universe.
posted by psycheslamp at 11:23 AM on January 31, 2012 [3 favorites]

It is true that alcohol lowers inhibitions and makes people do things that they might not otherwise do. But it does not generate create out of thin air new desires or tendencies; it only amplifies what is already there.

She put herself in the situation, and clearly the 'blackout drunk' part is an exaggeration -- she specifically asked her friend to leave the room so she could fuck the guy in question. There were a million little points on the timeline of that evening where she could have decided "you know, out of respect for my bf, this is probably not a good idea to continue at this point." It wasn't "one mistake", it was the end product of a whole pattern of mistakes which demonstrate a lack of respect for you and your relationship.

Unless this is an event which somehow fundamentally changes her personality (and frankly that is unlikely - adults rarely 'change' like that), then I think ought to strongly reconsider whether this is the kind of loving, healthy relationship you want and deserve to be in for the rest of your life.
posted by modernnomad at 11:24 AM on January 31, 2012 [5 favorites]

Right now my principles tell me to man up and kick her to the curb and move on.

Listen to your gut. I could regale you with my own stories (yes, sadly plural), but I have found no substitute for dignity.
posted by rhizome at 11:32 AM on January 31, 2012 [4 favorites]

There's obviously a pattern here and no indication or even likelihood that something like this isn't going to happen again. It doesn't seem like she has any respect for you at all, and I doubt that's going to change if it hasn't already.

You sound like you've got quite a bit going for you, so why are you wasting your life investing energy into this person? I'd get out before this happens again and you end up with an STD or worse.
posted by Fister Roboto at 11:35 AM on January 31, 2012

I am so, so sorry for you. This is an awful situation for you to be going through. Here you were, preparing to propose, and she has betrayed your trust completely. I don't blame you for feeling mixed-up right now.

Her friend walked in on them, right? So there was a witness. And yet she still denied everything, even that they were out with other guys at all, before you basically wore her down.

That, more than anything, has my red flags going up. Well, that and the "I love you" text she sent after midnight, which nows seems, I'm sorry, pretty calculated to assuage her guilt over what she'd either done by then or was planning to do with this guy.

Maybe she felt things were getting serious and sabotaged them herself. I don't think therapy could *hurt*, really, if the two of you stay together. But I also don't know that it will help, given her history.

If I were you, I would lean heavily on your friends right now, talk things through, and get the support you need from them. I also think that to get your head clear, you need to spend some time apart from your girlfriend, and really consider what your life will be like with her as your partner without all the drama between you getting in the way.

I wish you the best of luck. You can move on from this. Give yourself time to decide which direction that moving on will be.
posted by misha at 11:39 AM on January 31, 2012

Take a break if you need to, to calm down and think things through so that you have the clarity to make the decision.

But, you know the right decision to make. This is not the woman for you. You must leave her. Yes, you would be a colossal chump, fool, and doormat to stay with her after this.

This was not an aberration. This is who she is. This is what she does. You said that, and you know it yourself. You cannot trust her, and you would be betraying your own human dignity to stay with her. She's a lascivious, untrustworthy party girl at heart and she will not change.

You need to find someone who loves you enough that there are NO indiscretions EVER in the relationship. You can do so, so much better.
posted by jayder at 11:40 AM on January 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

I have a friend whose wife cheated on him six months before the wedding. They got married anyway, but for eight years, that betrayal was his trump card in any argument. It was corrosive for both of them. Ironically, she was faithful after that - it was his cheating that eventually brought the whole thing down. But to me, trying to build a life and family with someone that you can only trust provisionally...letting that sort of conflict and calculation crowd out open-hearted generosity and love...that seems like just about the worst thing in the entire universe.

So I have a lot of anecdotes along those lines. In my general experience, I'd say odds are pretty good that if this relationship doesn't end with this, it will get a lot worse, it will get toxic in new and unique ways, friends will stop wanting to hang out with the two of you together because they hate how poisonous and disrespectful the relationship has gotten.

Anyways, you specifically asked for clarity and not a cacophony of DTMFAs. Don't imagine yourself alone. Don't make this a comparison of your life with your current disrespectful girlfriend and a life of solitude on the dating circuit. Instead, imagine the choice you have over the long term. You seem like a guy who's got his life together and wants to get married, I'm sure that can happen for you. Now, do you want to be with, 10 years from now, your girlfriend, or someone who respects you? When you're feeling down or vulnerable or on top of the world, your girlfriend? Or with someone who you know supports and respects you?

This is not about being with GF vs being single. That's apples and oranges. It's about the baggage you want your marriage to carry around
posted by midmarch snowman at 11:40 AM on January 31, 2012 [9 favorites]

I have been your girlfriend. And I had a lot of excuses, and a lot of rationalizations, and very little ability to change my behavior. It took A LOT of work, and A LOT of really, really big life changes, including getting sober (which was the hardest thing I ever did). My ex-bf didn't know about all of it, and I eventually broke up with him because I hated what I was doing to him. I think that might have been the kindest thing I ever did for him. Because the next three years that i spent figuring out who I was and what I was doing and coming to terms with that were incredibly difficult and I think he dodged a bullet by not having to be there for it.

This is not to say that I wasn't capable of being kind and loving and understanding and all those things that tricked him into believing I was worth it. But on some levels I was incapable of caring if I hurt his feelings or destroyed his self esteem. I was also capable of lasting for sometimes 2 or 3 year stretches without doing anything "wrong". Just when he could trust me again, I would betray him.

I don't love sharing things like this publicly, but I think you should know that the only reason I'm okay with it is because I work really fucking hard every single day to not be the person that I used to be. Because that person is ugly, and shitty.

So you may want to think about if you'd want to go on that journey of discovery/self-loathing/healing that she would have to go through to leave this behaviour behind. And that's a question of if she's even willing. Feel free to memail me if you'd like to talk more.
posted by thankyouforyourconsideration at 11:46 AM on January 31, 2012 [24 favorites]

Friend went through something vaguely similar in that his fiancee cheated while on a business trip. I don't know all the details, but it sounded like it was her in part her freaking out over getting married and loosing her independence, and previous sense of self, and in part her testing his owncommitment (in a totally fucked up way). They seem happily married now, have been for a decade, and have a beautiful daughter.

However, in between, my friend postponed the wedding for a year or more, and his fiancee did a lot of work in therapy. The relationship only continued because both of them wanted it to continue and were willing to work through many issues (including the betrayal of my friends trust) to make it work.

At this point, its not clear that your girl is willing to do what it takes. And you, you are completely justified in your doubts. No sane person would blame you from walking away from this, but if you decide to go forward you should do it one step at a time and realize that it is going to take effort on your part, as well as hers, to rebuild trust.
posted by Good Brain at 11:48 AM on January 31, 2012

[She] has thus far been true.

This is wishful thinking. The likelihood of the first time you caught her being the first time she was unfaithful is very low. Sorry. You can't change this person. Either embrace an open relationship, which seems impossible from what you have written, or get out of there.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 11:50 AM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

On top of what everyone else said:

1: She was willing to have UNPROTECTED sex with a near-stranger. That means she does not value her health and life.

2: She was willing to LIE TO YOU afterward, potentially putting you at risk. That means she does not value YOUR health and life either.
posted by arcticwoman at 11:58 AM on January 31, 2012 [8 favorites]

i truly believe her guilt.

Anyone can feel guilty for having wronged someone (or for getting caught). Anyone can promise to do better. What matters is whether they change their behavior. Has she made an appointment to get tested yet? Has she gone to an AA meeting yet? If she's serious about changing her ways, she'll take concrete steps immediately.

It's going to be hard for you to get to a point of detachment here; your emotions are going to be involved no matter what. It makes total sense that you're going to be conflicted. Acknowledging that, and recognizing that there might not be any way to repair this damage, might help you be more comfortable with your decision.
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:58 AM on January 31, 2012

I love her.
Oh, and a random one, as a general rule, are people who take back cheaters suckers and fools?

Of course they're not suckers and fools. Sometimes people might take back someone they later regret, but other relationships recover.

You *weren't* married. She *did* tell you.

You LOVE HER. Give it a shot.

The whole history of other people's relationships isn't as always as clear and unmuddied as it looks from the outside. People lead complicated lives. People fuck up, sometimes spectacularly.

If nobody ever forgave anyone for anything ever it would be a sad world.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 12:04 PM on January 31, 2012 [4 favorites]

I don't think it was a mistake or an accident. She didn't accidentally drink until she lost track of herself and had sex, she drank in order to lose track of herself and have sex. Even if she was blacked out along the way, she knew what she was going to do. I think she did it precisely because it was the one unpardonable sin and alcoholics just have to go there. It's almost like we're saying, "I'll prove you can't possibly love me." We punish ourselves--punishing you is collateral damage.

I've heard similar stories for decades from women alcoholics who, once they are sober a while, can actually see what they were doing with alcohol and sex although while it was going on they had not a clue why they kept getting into so much trouble. I've also got a story (never fear, I'm not telling it now).

Alcoholics are not affected by alcohol only when they are at that moment drinking, they are living the life of an active alcoholic all the time, making the choices an alcoholic makes. That includes a stunted sense of responsibility and a very self-centered view of the world and above all, lying to themselves and, more often than not, to everyone else.

Take this seriously because she will get worse; she won't get better unless and until she takes some major steps to face up to all this. It takes time and a lot of work and she might not be willing to do it. You can't make that decision for her. Sometimes losing the love of your life will wake an alcoholic up but I wouldn't count on it. Forgiving her and carrying on as usual doesn't really seem to be a good idea for either one of you.

You said that it would hurt but you could survive breaking up. If you do so, I wish you no lingering pain and the reassurance that you might be literally dodging a bullet here.
posted by Anitanola at 12:06 PM on January 31, 2012 [23 favorites]

She is an alcoholic, by definition, and needs treatment and counseling. I encourage you to support her while she gets sober. You should only marry her after she has been sober for a significant period of time (over a year).

In addition to treating her alcoholism, you should seek therapy together to deal with the aftermath of the cheating.

Only if you can resolve both these issues should you consider marrying her. And be aware that she will always be an alcoholic, will never be able to consume any alcohol once sober, may relapse, and will forever need your support for her sobriety.
posted by amaire at 12:09 PM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

realize that it is going to take effort on your part, as well as hers, to rebuild trust.

This is true, but I don't get the impression that the OP is someone who is putting this all on his girlfriend.

OP, I get the impression that you are contemplating biting down on your feelings and doing what you think is the noble, forgiving thing even though it's hard and painful.

And if that's what you decide to do, soberly and after much thought, then I support you, for what my support is worth. It is your life and you are the only one who can make this judgment. You can choose this pain.

But you can also choose something else, some other or lesser pain (it is probably unrealistic to suggest that there is a "no pain" option). You will not be any more or less of a good person for deciding that this life, with this woman, is not the life you want to have -- and deciding this now, before you've made a life-long commitment. It's okay if you decide that you don't want to put in the effort -- and that you don't have to have a reason other than that you don't want to.

You can forgive. Forgiveness is good. But forgiveness doesn't have to mean marriage or a relationship. Keeping this relationship may come with costs -- to your self-esteem, to your ability to trust others, to your sanity, to your ability to feel secure and safe with the people who love you.

I meant to say this earlier: I am so, so sorry you have to go through this. Take care of yourself.
posted by gauche at 12:10 PM on January 31, 2012

"She didn't accidentally drink until she lost track of herself and had sex, she drank in order to lose track of herself and have sex."

This has really been my experience, too. I think some people know they want to get into some shit, and they drink to get into it. The form these dramas take might be a genuine surprise, but I don't think the fact that there was a drama is a surprise. How can it be? It's kind of the point sometimes.
posted by amodelcitizen at 12:18 PM on January 31, 2012 [14 favorites]

You need fidelity and commitment - she needs extra sex and relationship freedom.

What you want out of a relationship is incompatible. It would probably do more harm than good for you two to continue to see one another.
posted by mleigh at 12:18 PM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

She has a promiscuous past, has cheated before, slept with multiple men inside of a week and continues to have many more male friends than female.

Even leaving aside her cheating on you, these are all red flags. I've never yet known a promiscuous person who didn't have some serious issues she or he wasn't dealing with (i.e., an eating disorder, substance abuse issues, a lack of genuinely emotionally intimate and caring relationships, a disturbingly callous or even abusive attitude towards others etc). Which means in my judgment, given that your gf has continued to indulge in some out of bounds behaviour within the context of your relationship, that this woman had issues that she has not dealt with.

And for her to have many more male friends than female... it's really not a good sign when someone doesn't relate well enough to others of their own gender to have an equitable ratio of same sex/opposite sex platonic friendships. This is someone who uses her sexuality to relate to and hold on to people. My bet is that a lot of these friendships with men have always bothered you a little because you get the feeling a lot of them have the hots for her and that she's keeping them on tap.

I'm going to join the "dump her and don't look back" faction here. Your relationship doesn't sound salvageable. This woman sounds messed up and you should not trust her with your future happiness, much less with that of any children you might decide to have with her.

And I'm so sorry you're in this situation. Best of luck to you in whatever you decide to do.
posted by orange swan at 12:22 PM on January 31, 2012 [4 favorites]

I agree with everyone else that the alcohol is clearly a problem for her, but I don't think you can write it off as the cause of her cheating. Plenty of alcoholics and addicts don't cheat on their significant others. There is something more than just drinking going on here, and if I were you I would not be jumping into a lifetime commitment with someone like her.
posted by something something at 12:34 PM on January 31, 2012

I think that you might benefit from reading Drinking: A Love Story, by Caroline Knapp. The chapter on sex has been put online.
As discussed on the blue.

(though all opinions welcome, my guy friends are predictable),

You're 35; your guy friends are thoughtful adults by now, or should be. Your guy friends may be saying what you expect to hear. . . but that doesn't mean they're wrong. They've seen you with your girlfriend, they've heard you talk about her, they know what you and she are like together. Their advice may be predictable because they are saying what is obvious to everyone but you. Don't discount the input of the people who know you and her the best.

posted by endless_forms at 12:38 PM on January 31, 2012 [8 favorites]

Just to sound a slightly different note from the rest of the thread: I do know of people who've been through very similar situations and ended up in strong, committed and lasting relationships. Obviously it took hard work on both sides, and equally obviously your girlfriend has some genuine problems that make this a rocky road forward if you choose to follow it. But there is potentially a road there.

I think the crucial question is what her attitude towards this incident is. "Guilty" is pretty irrelevant. Does she see this as a serious problem that she needs to address or does she just see it as a kind of weird one-off for which she's terribly terribly sorry? If the latter, I'd say it's just a matter of time before something similar happens again. If the former...well, people can change if they really put their minds to it. I know alcoholics who behaved like utter assholes every time they got drunk who stopped drinking and became sweetie-pies. I know people who used to bed a new partner every week who settled down into contented monogamy with the same person for decades. I'm not saying whether you should or shouldn't give this another try--we'd have to know a lot more about the two of your before we could answer that--but I would say that if she can convince you that she genuinely wants to change into the kind of person who wouldn't do this (and if you think she has some real handle on what it is that made her do this), it's not impossible that she really could.
posted by yoink at 12:39 PM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

What would seal the end for me would be never feeling 100%, if we had kid's, that they were mine. I'd always have an inkling of doubt after her history.

And so I would wish her well and move on.
posted by taff at 12:42 PM on January 31, 2012

There's "having a past" and then there's "displaying a pattern", and patterns - no matter what they are - are damned hard to change, even when you're aware of the pattern, thoroughly hate it and are working your ass off to make it stop.

From your description, if there's awareness of the pattern on her side, there's not enough motivation (or maybe not enough horror) to place her into the "working her ass off" camp. Or at least, there wasn't before this. There may be, now.

Even if she is now aware of the pattern, even if she is now working said ass off... she is at the start of a long and arduous journey, in which she will invariably backslide at least once, if not more - which may "only" mean drinking, or may mean more. This represents a laudable effort on her part, even taking backsliding into account - BUT it means a lot more stress for you. Think very carefully about whether you're willing to go through that... and how many times you're willing to go through that.

It is not only possible but likely that the situation, as it stands, will devolve into you playing the authoritarian "parent" while she falls into the role of shamed and/or defiant "child". This can be hellishly destructive to any relationship, and damned hard to avoid - especially when you already feel wronged, and she already feels guilty (and/or defiant). Being constantly cast in the role of "bad child" - especially if you've done things that make you feel you've earned the role - can be incredibly damaging, and could actually hinder her recovery. Consider this carefully, too.

If she decides to take on the HELLACIOUSLY difficult task of discovery/self-loathing/healing that thankyouforyourconsideration mentioned and so eloquently described (been there/done that/still doing it/need a t-shirt? I have dozens) and you decide to make the commitment to stick with her through it - make no mistake: it is not her battle, her effort, it is YOURS, the plural you - both of you, together. She will need to find the strength to face herself and all the things she doesn't want to see in herself, and you will need to support her through this - and it is all very good, very noble stuff, and really, really fucking hard. And wanting to "do the right thing" or be the good guy is not going to do a damn bit of good if the attempt saves her and breaks you - or ends up breaking you both.

It is possible to get past this betrayal and salvage a happy, healthy relationship from what seem to be the ashes. It will take a LOT of work, on both sides - constant work, without reprieve. It may be well worth the effort, in the end. It may not. It may be some of all of the above and a whole lot more besides - in fact, that's the most likely outcome, I'd wager.

In the end you are the ONLY one who can determine whether it's worth it - and it may be that you need to take a break from the relationship before you can even make that determination (in which case, the situation may find its own resolution). No amount of wisdom, experience or logic from anyone else can change your determination of whether this is where you truly want your life to go... as you well know.

The only solid advice I can add is: when you decide - don't let it be a matter of pride. Hurt, yes - trust, most emphatically. But don't let your pride be the deciding factor, and don't base it on some line you drew in the sand in the past about what is and is not acceptable - a line you drew before the current situation happened. Those aren't the things that matter. Trust, and mutual willingness to work toward a future together through all difficulties - those are the things that count.

*sigh* And I'm sorry you're going through this - both of you: you are without a doubt a wronged party in this equation, but it can't possibly be easy to be in her shoes, either - and I wish I could hug you both. I hope you find where your heart lies, and that the path to the destination is smoother and swifter than anticipated.
posted by mie at 12:45 PM on January 31, 2012 [5 favorites]

How to get clarity:
Take time alone to think it over. Express yourself (talk, write a journal, art, music, kickboxing) and distract yourself (watch tv, work, study, group sports) in alternate until you have some perspective on it. You may need weeks or months to figure it out. I would suggest taking a break from her, but not making any other major decisions during this time.

What I think:
Sometimes if you really love someone you have to be hard on them. You've tried (by the sounds of it) to be the supportive bf and give her the chance to change, but she hasn't done it. Often people who don't take these chances need a wakeup call - losing something she really loves (you) due to an alcohol problem may be the only thing to push her to change. (And if she does't really want you, well you don't want to marry her anyway) So I think you should drop her, and make it clear this behaviour is the reason why. If she sees that it breaks your heart as well as hers so be it. You will be doing her a favour.
posted by EatMyHat at 12:51 PM on January 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

Another lie in her life: we all know that actions have consequences. She has shown, repeatedly, that she does not believe this is true for her. Letting her get away with that lie is not helpful or kind.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 12:59 PM on January 31, 2012 [4 favorites]

I really like greenish's answer because it gets to the heart of the issue. I would never want to cheat on my boyfriend, because I care about him more than partying, hook-ups, &c. It doesn't take an effort, I just do. I used to like partying as a single girl, but my relationship is more important. I'm not saying I'm flawless, but there is no amount of hotness, excitement, nothing inherent in the sexual act or fun of intoxication that has any kind of tidal effect on me, because for me a happy relationship is really the apex. That is my priority. It sounds like your girlfriend is more impulsive, caution-to-the-wind, and not disposed or ready to prioritize an adult relationship yet. If you take a break and she sees it as an opportunity to cut-and-run or let loose, she's still hanging on to the perks of being free. They're more appealing to her than a traditional relationship, for some reason.
posted by stoneandstar at 1:08 PM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

[...]how do I find clarity in this incredibly raw state so I, and only I, can decide what to do?

For me, the best way to clear my mind is to take a road trip. Pick a destination at least 12 hours away, then get in the car, on a bus, or on a train, and go. The act of being on the road, by myself and in unfamiliar settings, has always caused me to suddenly see with crystal clarity what I need to do. And in 50+ years of living, I have never regretted a decision I made during a road trip.

If it's not feasible for you to take a trip, another thing that might work would be to check into a hotel room for 48 hours or so, and don't go anywhere except to eat.
posted by MexicanYenta at 1:27 PM on January 31, 2012 [5 favorites]

As to how you can survive the period of painful, obsessive, post-traumatic hyperfocus and get some clarity:

Is time spent apart a possibility? Could your GF crash on someone's couch for a couple of weeks?

You could use some support and a sounding board. Do you have a friend (someone who's not also a friend of hers, or you're putting them in an awkward situation) who you could talk to and mull this over with? And/or is getting emotional crisis counselling for yourself a possibility? Or just peer support through an online community? E.g. a message board for people in a similar situation.

Every now and then, try to distract yourself. It's awful to have something painful constantly running through your mind. Can you think of any activity that requires your total concentration, to get a moment of respite every now and then? This will sound inane, but last time I was in a bad state I found great comfort in taking a physically very difficult dance course. It didn't solve anything, of course, but afterwards it always felt like a small victory to realize that yay, I didn't think about [insert shitty thing] for 60 whole minutes! Diving would work for me, too, or wall climbing, or horse back riding, or surfing... Or I don't know, maybe just gaming. YMMV. Just don't get too hooked on escape, I'm sorry but you should keep it temporary.

Eventually, you two can work on this together. Yeah, couples counselling. Even if you end up breaking up, it can help in the process a lot.

I have no experience with Al-Anon, only you can say if it sounds like a good idea. If you think the current crisis is just an acute manifestation of how your life generally revolves around her (her issues, her poor boundaries, her use of alcohol or other problematic behavior) then you might also benefit from self help literature on codependency. Or maybe When Things Fall Apart is more up your alley.

I'm sorry you have to go through this. Hang in there. You'll find the right answer; trust yourself.
posted by sively at 1:35 PM on January 31, 2012

Honestly, I wouldn't suggest trying to have an open, poly, or other non-monogamous relationship with this person, because she clearly has trouble respecting agreements. Non-monogamous relationships have agreements and boundaries that need to be respected, too. Cheating is not poly, and poly is not cheating!

If I were in this situation and I wanted to salvage the relationship, I would make getting sober and getting treatment for her impulse control and other psych issues an absolute deal breaker.

I'd also be concerned about her professional future, considering that all this shit went down in the context of her work life.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:56 PM on January 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

I don't believe "once a cheater, always a cheater." Anyone can make a mistake; it's what they do (not what they say, or what they feel, but what they do DO) after the mistake that really shows you who they are and what they're made of, character-wise.

But twice a cheater? Three times a cheater? An unknown number of times a cheater? That's not just a pattern; it's a semaphore message. And to me, that message that you're receiving is that she is a profoundly troubled person with a serious drinking problem who repeatedly makes bad choices that wound herself, her partner, and her relationship (and putting your health at risk, to boot).

This doesn't mean you don't care about her, or that she's not worthy of being loved. It does mean that she has some very serious problems that getting married (or even simply staying in this relationship) will almost certainly not fix.

I'm sorry you're going through this. I hope she will consider getting treatment so that she has a framework for doing the hard work of getting her life back together. But I think your gut is telling you that you don't want to stick around to see if she does it. And I think, in cases like this, you have to listen to your gut.
posted by scody at 2:04 PM on January 31, 2012

Other issues aside, don't allow yourself to get into the position where you might have spontaneous "make up " sex. You need to be using condoms for the time being, so this should be an agreed upon component of the any plans to move forward.
posted by bonobothegreat at 2:10 PM on January 31, 2012

It seems that you and the girl in question do not share the same moral code, do not have the same values. She is still playing around like a wild child, her behavior is not acceptable to you. Will she ever grow up? Give yourself some time to think about how little common ground you have with her, and decide if there is anything to build a future on.
posted by Cranberry at 2:10 PM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm not really looking for what decision to make from the hive-mind (though all opinions welcome, my guy friends are predictable), rather how do I find clarity in this incredibly raw state so I, and only I, can decide what to do.

I'm going to refrain from giving any advice at all about the relationship. I will just tell you that, in situations like these, the ONLY thing that has helped me to clear my mind has been 5-8 hours of exhausting, absorbing physical activity out in nature. Something like a long hike up a steep mountain would work.

If you do go the hike-up-the-mountain route, I recommend bringing a notebook with you and pulling it out when you get to the top, and then again when you get to the bottom. Write it out and see if you can't find any insight or clarity.
posted by ourobouros at 2:15 PM on January 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

I think the clarity is this: you have to do what you have to do, and it will hurt and be confusing and will obsess you, but you still have to do it. Unfortunately, that's just the way it is.

Sorry, it sucks.
posted by tel3path at 2:29 PM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Adding to the pileon but from experience:
- Each time you cheat, it gets easier and easier to cheat
- If cheating tends to be tied to certain circumstances (like drinking a lot) then each time you put yourself in those circumstances and cheat you are more and more likely to cheat next time you're in those circumstances

The cheating doesn't stop until the cheater makes a conscious decision to work on themselves to stop being a shitty person. And that includes not putting themselves in the circumstances that they know lead to cheating. Cheaters know what circumstances lead to them cheating, even if they aren't planning on cheating or know that the cheating is going to happen they know where their weak points lie. When blackout drunk your girlfriend may not be aware she's having sex with a random dude, but at this point she knows that drinking a lot around some guy she finds attractive is bad news. But she's still doing it. That pretty much says all you need to know.

(Also, when dating ex-cheaters or someone who's cheated on you and you still want to make it work, the dialogue should not be "I am so sorry baby, I love you, it will never happen again" but "I am so sorry baby, I love you, these are the steps I'm taking to remove the temptation and make sure it never happens again and address the reasons I felt compelled to cheat in the first place.")
posted by Anonymous at 2:41 PM on January 31, 2012

I see that it is time again for Shouraku's Candy Store analogy:

You put a young child on a chair in the center of a large candy store and tell them that they are not to touch the candy under any circumstances while you are away. You then leave the child completely alone in the store with a view that would not allow you or anyone else to walk in and catch him without him having ample time to completely hide his misdeeds.

In this situation, there are three “basic” outcomes:

1) The child follows the rules and does not touch any of the candy. He may be tempted, but he does not budge from his chair, he is unbreakable.

2) The child sits calmly for a while, but eventually the allure of the luscious and delectable candy starts to wear on him and he has just one little piece. Since the piece of candy was so very good and really didn’t cause any harm, he decided to have just one more until, if left alone long enough, he is gorging himself. He didn’t mean for it to happen that way, it just started small and spiraled out of control.

3) The moment that you leave the store he leaps upon the candy and eats more then his fill, not caring about the agreed upon rules.

Which category a person falls into determines how I will respond to their actions. If I believe the man is unbreakable, then I would have no problem with him flirting up a storm with every woman in town. Why would I? I know that his resolve is strong.

However, if I have reason to believe that the man I am with can be tempted onto the slippery slope, then I may to question (respectfully) his decision to have dinner alone with his ex who still wants him every Friday, or go on a week long ski vacation with his friend and his friend’s irresistible sister.

What this has to do with you:

She is #3. You now know that she will fall down the slippery slope when put on the edge. Either she needs to agree to never let herself get into that position again (because she obviously can't handle it) or you need to break up with her. This would possibly mean giving up drinking entirely and not hanging out with laxed/enabling friends.
posted by Shouraku at 2:42 PM on January 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm a therapist. Couples come to see me to decide whether or not they want to break up all the time. Many folks find a lot of clarity about where they think things are headed in the first few counseling sessions. When someone guides the conversation to tough questions that you may not have asked, or may not have thought to ask, the answers can be very revealing.
posted by OmieWise at 2:50 PM on January 31, 2012 [4 favorites]

Your girlfriend sounds like someone who's too afraid to do the breaking up and will treat you like this until you do it for her. Do yourself a favor and walk away. I'm sorry you're going through this - I've been there and it sucks. But it really does get better.
posted by Space Kitty at 2:53 PM on January 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm worried that the clarity you want won't appear while you're still in this relationship, especially in this limbo phase her decisions have put you in. I'm sorry, but I'm not optimistic about this scenario improving - in your position, I would run for the hills and see if excising a woman who has treated you so poorly from your life brings a kind of clarity with it. You don't want to picture life without her right now, but it doesn't sound like life with her is all that swell either.

Oh, and a random one, as a general rule, are people who take back cheaters suckers and fools? or adults working through the ups and downs of a long term relationship.

As written, this question is pretty hard to answer without using a mighty broad brush. That said, I once took a cheater back and came to gravely regret it. I wouldn't do it again.
posted by EatTheWeek at 3:42 PM on January 31, 2012

I've put up with "indiscretions" many times, and EVERY SINGLE TIME it turned out that I should have ended things the moment it happened.

Please, please learn from my example -- you're 3 years into it; don't wait until another 3 years go by to figure out she wasn't worth it. And if she's really worth being with, you can always try to work things out after a year or so passes and she has this behavior out of her system.

Also (as I've said here before and will no doubt say again), relationships should be a joy. Are you feeling joyful right now? Will you EVER feel joyful about this experience? Then move on.
posted by coolguymichael at 3:51 PM on January 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

So, the question, how do I find clarity right now? I can't work. I can't sleep. Every 3 minutes i picture her naked attacking this guy and it's preventing me from thinking clearly on what to do. What steps do I take to make sure I am making the right decision, rather than one of impulse and hurt. It's all so fresh that I'm not thinking big, and i need to think big.

You can not find clarity when a pillar of your support system not only collapses, but does so on someone else. The best path to peace is to get rid of the problem.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:25 PM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm a 35 year old, good looking, successful, charming guy in a large southern california city, have loved before and I'm capable of loving again

You have a good head on your shoulders. It is time for new adventures.

posted by jnnla at 4:45 PM on January 31, 2012 [4 favorites]

If she cheated once, she'll do it again. Dump her now and save yourself trouble down the road. You don't want to wind up as someone's depressed, lonely, broke ex-husband.
posted by Afroblanco at 4:50 PM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've never yet known a promiscuous person who didn't have some serious issues she or he wasn't dealing with (i.e., an eating disorder, substance abuse issues, a lack of genuinely emotionally intimate and caring relationships, a disturbingly callous or even abusive attitude towards others etc).

No. For some people, it's called "Being in Your Early Twenties." Or "Maybe I will try polyamory to see how it fits, because that's an interesting model I'd like to explore." Or "Relationships are new and confusing, so I am going to do dumb confusing things for a while until I figure it out, since I have no experience to know any better." Or "I know I am not ready for a lifelong partnership yet, so I'll have more casual sex in the meantime." Or, whatever. I mean, yes: it would be very disconcerting (and a very bad sign) if she cheated on every man she's been in a monogamous relationship with. But there are some details that were glossed over, so if we're talking college-age art school sex here, or a smattering of early-20s fuckups, then it might not be relevant at all. I know plenty of people who have had pasts that would probably have been labelled promiscuous, but who were also 100% faithful and loving in their long-term, committed relationships. Often, their pasts directly informed their commitment in these monogamous relationships, because they got to know themselves, and ways to help foster a happy relationship, very well.

That said: In our relationships early stages, there were several similar indiscretions. A flirty IM and picture (non-nude) exchange with a complete stranger and a year later blackout drunk at a bar she kissed a stranger.

This is not just distant history, something that happened while she was discovering herself before you met her. This is something that happened in YOUR personal history. That, coupled with the pattern of problem drinking, seems to be the biggest concern. It's not that she's had a past and you're worried, it's that she is engaging in the same behaviors now and seems to have no intention of stopping. If she is not trying to get treatment for her drinking, or not going into therapy for how to better deal with her destructive behavior, or doesn't even really see her current actions as a big deal problem in your relationship, then, yeah. You probably ought not to get married, and probably ought to seriously reconsider this relationship in its entirety.
posted by vivid postcard at 5:12 PM on January 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

Regardless of what silly things alcohol can entice people into doing, I do not believe that any amount of booze can make somebody violate one of their deeply held values. Anniecat said she could not imagine ever cheating, and somebody like that, when drunk, might dance on tables or sing bad karaoke, but they sure as hell won't cheat. Your girlfriend is obviously not like that, and to do this after 3 years together, I wouldn't hold a high expectation of her changing.

posted by UbuRoivas at 5:15 PM on January 31, 2012 [4 favorites]

You gain clarity, as others have said, by taking time to yourself to clear your head and emotional space.

If the two of you live together, it would be a good idea for her to find another arrangement for a couple of months. It would be even better if she could move out entirely, so you aren't faced with transient belongings that might trigger unproductive thoughts. If neither ideal is available, spend as much time on your own as you can, preferably doing things you enjoy.

Putting the relationship on hold seems like a good idea. There's a lot to be said for hitting the metaphorical "pause" button, not pursuing anything else, and simply taking time to yourselves to think things through.

I know a lot of people jump right into couples therapy, and maybe that's a good idea...but it seems to me that it might be more worthwhile to get some space to really consider if it's her you want to fight for, or the relationship (big difference, I think). I'd lean towards putting the couples therapy on the table after a few weeks of personal meditation, or maybe even after some independent counseling for yourself, if only to run through your feelings on it and get it out of your system in a productive space.
posted by batmonkey at 7:45 PM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

Honestly, I only gain clarity when I decide on a path and stick to it. It may not be the right path, but the only way I can figure that out is to make a decision and get out of the mess of confusion that I'm in. Figure out what seems like the most logical path (you've already had plenty of advice on that) and stick to it.
posted by DoubleLune at 8:45 PM on January 31, 2012

"Maybe I will try polyamory to see how it fits, because that's an interesting model I'd like to explore."

Cheating is not polyamory. Polyamory is responsible non-monogamy. That means making agreements with all your partners and sticking to them. They may be quite different from monogamy agreements, but they're agreements.

People can be cheated on in polyamorous relationships. It happens all the time. Breaking agreements with a partner, whatever those agreements may be, is disrespectful.

The honorable way to explore polyamory is to create agreements in advance with a partner. Getting blind drunk and fucking someone else isn't exploring polyamory, it's being disrespectful and irresponsible.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:06 PM on January 31, 2012 [3 favorites]

First of all, the last thing you should do is move out -- or have her move out. Yes, cohabitation is not marriage, but it's your shared space -- which means it's her space too. Yes, she had an indiscretion but it's her home as well. She didn't kill anybody. She cheated.

Now, as far as your decision, what I am going to say may be relatively unpopular but them's the breaks so to speak. First off, you are not married. That is very important, for you and she have not betrothed yourself to each other in perpetuity as of yet. Yes, you are living together, and yes there is a strong commitment, however there isn't a ring on it yet, thus you are technically not married.

A good mate used to have an occasional indiscretion, and when pressed about it, he said, "I have a girlfriend, not a wife". Modern society has made the two infinitely similar, yet there is a substantial difference.

It's not fair to hold her to the marriage standard, when, you have in fact, not married her. Further, in terms of the cheetah changing its spots argument -- she's always be that way, or that's how she is -- perhaps. And believe it or not, some people would be fine with that. Or, perhaps, when you get married, she will change.

You have a relationship built on honesty and communication. She didn't lie to you about it, and told you all the details. That right there is a sign of a loving relationship.

She sounds like she has some issues with using sex to validate herself, as well as a bit of a self-control problem as you have pointed out.

Further, your first reaction seems to have been to stay with her and work on it.

So do that. If you move out, or move her out for a while, that's bullshit. Either stay and work it out, or go find something else.

And for god's sake, reduce the morality of it. There was a P in her V and your upset. That's fine. People has been practising indiscretions for a long, long time. But call it what it is. It's not infidelity because you're not married.

If I may rant for a moment, this is one the problems with cohabitation and the whole agro monogamy before marriage thing. Cohabitation is not marriage. Long-term dating is not marriage. Whilst society has somehow developed the consciousness that both are "trial marriages", neither is marriage.

And to say she won't change is a bit stupid. A lot changes when two people get married. You don't marry a static person, frozen in time. A psychologist said once, the point of being married is not to make you happy, it's to make you married. And that relationship is built on trust and honesty, both of which you seem to have.

Put those images out of your mind and please do not listen to all of the browbeating and apologetic self-indulgent responses above. OMG I am sooooo sorry you had to goooo through this... how terrible. I am soooo sorry it's happened to you... OMG she is the devil.


1) Decide if you can get past this or not. And that's your decision, not a community decision.
2) If you want to work on it, support her in her endeavours to sort out the negative behaviours.
3) If you can work it out, put a ring on it.

And if this seems harsh, let's treat each other as real people, not as idealised objects. Life is long, we're wired for sex, so to speak, and we're need to be understanding of each other.

If you marry her, you may end up blissfully happy forever and when you're 70, this will be a funny story. Or it may go down in flames like a motherfucker when she sleeps with your son's soccer coach. Or you can leave, start something new, and the future may be one of the same two storylines.

Regardless, forget about the cheating. Either you want to marry her, or you don't. And now it's time to man up and make a decision. How much do you love her?

And don't overcomplicate it. Chances are that any grief or stress you feel is equally or moreso going though her head. I'm not defending her, but as mentioned, we need to treat each other like people, not imaginary characters we have built up in our minds on the back of unreal expectations.

And if anyone wants to say "When I got married, I didn't want to cheat" or "I would never cheat on my husband", in the former case, good for you. In the latter case, good for you. Go on with your happy life and please don't rub it in anyone else's face. Because there are a lot of wives in happy marriages who would never cheat. They're miserable know-it alls that can make other people feel like shit, and are energy vampires to those around them, but no, they never did cheat.

Cheers chap. You're a good guy and you have a good girl. Figure out if you can manage this speed bump or if she drove the car off the cliff. When you make a decision that you feel good standing behind, those images will disappear from your head. Right now your animal brain is trying to figure out to what degree this incident is a threat.
posted by nickrussell at 2:54 AM on February 1, 2012

"It's not infidelity because you're not married."

I think many people in cohabiting, serious, and indeed not-so-serious relationships would disagree with that, and the disagreement would not be based on confusion about what does and doesn't constitute marriage.

A lot of people would be unwilling to bet a wedding ring that someone who did this before marriage would not also do it after marriage. Women are always taught to expect that any behaviour a man displays before marriage will continue after marriage, and that any change will be in the direction of less consideration and kindness towards them, not more. I think this conventional wisdom is true, and remains just as true with the genders reversed.
posted by tel3path at 3:49 AM on February 1, 2012 [11 favorites]

To address the question of clarity, what you are dealing with on your end (without considering her at all for the moment) is what you want, what you know, what you feel, and who you believe you are. If we all only and ever chose what is unambiguously in our objective best interest, the question about what to do now would not even occur to you. So you are bouncing back and forth between Logic (which is up to at least Def Con 2 about now in term of danger-warning), Instinct (which, if healthy and unfettered, is probably also squirting out lots of FLEE! signals), Desire (which wants what it wants, and is loathe to abandon hope), and Character (which we will short-hand as "internal belief-system" for convenience).

A likely scenario here is that desire is teaming up with character on the pro-forgiveness side, while logic and instinct are shrieking at you to cut your losses. Character may be saying "you were ready to promise to love her forever, in sickness and in health; now that the rubber meets the road, what are you going to do?" Desire insists, "it can still be good; you can still have what you want if you are willing to work a little harder! Are you going to just give up?"

Logic says, "um... am I the only sane one here? This thing is so over," while instinct just keeps going, "PING! PING! PING! PING!"

What happens next depends on what voices are loudest over time, or better exercised, or more deeply programmed or ingrained. One who doesn't trust their instincts, or feels their instincts have betrayed them will tune them out easier; one who is led by desire may always be influenced by their longing, until desire wanes or diverts. Character has very strict ideas that say "I'm this sort of person," and resists compromise; logic is insistent, but sometimes short-sighted, and almost always cold comfort, which can make it easier to reject.

How to reconcile all these inner views? It's something we all struggle with, sometimes all our lives. Experience can bring wisdom that helps to tease out which voices are usually most reliable, but failing that, talking these various arguments through with a trusted and insightful friend (or perhaps a therapist) can help bring some order to the chaos. Just being aware of the nature of the conflicting feelings as discrete impulses and trying to determine their individual underlying dynamics may help you begin to sort things out.

But here's one thing that I believe you can count on: when making a decision like marriage, wait until all those voices are in agreement. I've done it both ways, and the second time, with the chorus in harmony, I did it right. I am grateful every single day that I made the choices I did: to leave the first time (but not until after many painful years of dissonance among the voices), and to commit heart and soul the second time.

Another way to possibly gain some clarity about what it is you are actually dealing with is to put aside the stone act of betrayal for the moment and look at everything that surrounded that act. I'll abandon objectivity here and echo what some others have pointed out upthread: to get to the point of being (nearly) blackout drunk and having sex with someone else, your girlfriend had to navigate at least five different steps of escalation, choosing each time to place herself at ever increasing risk of falling off the fidelity wagon. She is making choices when sober that pave the way for bad behavior when drunk, and that's the aspect that would give me most pause even if my nobler nature were inclined to be forgiving about betrayal under the influence (– which, in my case, no, it really wouldn't be now, having been there and done that). At any rate, it seems that what you must evaluate is is not just a single moment of drunken idiocy, but a system of decision-making that leads there, for whatever reason.
posted by taz at 5:11 AM on February 1, 2012 [9 favorites]

Mod note: Folks, direct answers to the OP and do not make this your personal soapbox please. Thank you.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:38 AM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Al-Anon, not AA, is the place you want to visit if you want to understand (by hearing other people's stories) what life with an alcoholic might look like, in all its permutations. (Al-Anon is a support group for the friends and families of alcoholics, an affiliate of AA.) A lot of people find clarity and comfort and understanding there; visiting an Al-Anon meeting might be one way of your stilling your mind and seeing things more truthfully so you can make the best decision.
posted by Clotilde at 9:00 AM on February 1, 2012

Or it may go down in flames like a motherfucker when she sleeps with your son's soccer coach.

I'm not in agreement with all of nickrussell's (rather strange IMO) rant above, but I will say that my first thought on reading your question, That situation's not actually all that complicated. If he were married with kids, then it would be complicated.

Do consider that, if you continue with marriage and if you want to have children, the stakes will rise. If she were to cheat again and/or if the alcohol abuse were to escalate and kids were in the picture, you would be in situation where your freedom to leave would be much more hemmed in than it is now.
posted by torticat at 9:03 AM on February 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm going to answer your actual question—how do I find clarity right now? I can't work. I can't sleep. Every 3 minutes i picture her naked attacking this guy and it's preventing me from thinking clearly on what to do—with someone else's answer.

The Four R's are a technique for dealing with obsessive and repetitive thoughts. If you're thinking about this every three minutes, then do them every three minutes. I've been where you've been, more or less, and they helped me break free of the filmstrip running constantly in my head. I hope they can do the same for you.
posted by Zozo at 12:07 PM on February 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm also a little curious if, in your gut, you know she can't be available to you in some way and if that's what inspires your love for her and your desire to marry her, when she's clearly not committed to you.
posted by anniecat at 4:48 PM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

You made an effort to qualify just how drunk she was, three times saying she was "blackout drunk." I get the feeling that qualifier is important to you, as if it were a way to downplay her actions. I assumed that meant she blacked out and was raped while unconscious. But she wasn't. She's the one who kicked her friend out (which says a lot about the quality of her 'friend'), and she was on top, straddling him.

I think it's important to consider why that term matters so much. My guess is that you're using it as a way to justify why she would do such a thing. I've had my share of way too much to drink, but as I look back on my actions, I realize that I never did anything I wouldn't have wanted to do while sober. I suggest you need to take a good hard look at who she is, even when sober, and ask yourself "Is that what I want in a wife? a partner for life?"

I think you believe she'll do something similar again. And I think you're right. I'm not sure if I believe that once a cheater, always a cheater... but I do place great faith in who a person is at their core. Who is she, at her core?

I agree with a comment above saying your situation isn't complicated. Really, it's not. No kids, no marriage. The time is right to move on, otherwise, the past she hasn't left behind will also be your future.
posted by 2oh1 at 5:25 PM on February 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

You don't have to make any decisions right away. There's no way you can or will be thinking clearly for a while. So table the decision and just take life day by day until your mind clears. Just let yourself process and absorb this new, awful state of affairs. It's going to be your daily reality for a long time, regardless of what you decide. She can afford to be in suspense for as long as you need.

As for whether or not you'd be a fool to take her back, well.... I don't think it's foolhardy to try to save something you love. I've learned, though, that you can burn yourself out trying to fix something that can't be fixed. I don't regret trying to save something I loved. I do regret spending months teaching myself that loving someone meant enduring pain. I am now numb in a way I wish I weren't.
posted by millions of peaches at 2:37 AM on February 2, 2012 [3 favorites]

Here, read this:

And other than that, give yourself some time to feel and not try to figure it out and make any decision before you're ready to.
posted by tacoma1 at 7:26 PM on February 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

Mexican Yenta's advice to go on a car trip just seems right to me. Can you get a week off work? Long weekend? If you can, grab a close friend if one is available, and point your car towards a National Park or a state park. As inhabited as Southern California is, there is tons of amazing Wilderness a half day's drive away or less. There is even more stunning wilderness a whole day's drive away.

Grab a buddy, get in the car, and drive somewhere beautiful. Hike around, sleep under the stars, eat camp food, and talk when it suits you. Then, make a decision.
posted by HighTechUnderpants at 10:14 PM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

A person that does this to you,
or puts herself in positions that, historically, have shown to lead her to such choices
does not want or deserve to be in a relationship with you.

Do not marry this woman—the best that would come of it would be that nothing would change.

If you live together, she (not you) needs to move out today. And you might invite a good friend of yours over for a couple of days so as to have a good ear/sounding board/shoulder.
posted by blueberry at 3:50 PM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

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