The woman I've been dating did something to hurt me really badly, and I don't know how to proceed.
August 24, 2012 6:58 AM   Subscribe

The woman I've been dating did something to hurt me really badly, and I don't know how to proceed. Yes, this is long.

I have been dating an amazing person for the past 1.5 months. Even though it's a short amount of time, everything moved lightening fast - after 3 weeks, we were spending 4-5 nights a week at each others places, planning weekend trips together, meeting each other's family and friends (and getting along great) and the future in general. We talk every day and have told each other, in some of our most intense moments alone together, that we are falling for each other. Again, this might sound like something that moved too fast after a month and a half, but it felt right - I've never connected with another person this way and never been so attracted to someone on a physical and emotional level. She told me she felt the same. Unlike other people I've casually dated, I feel strongly about her and like there is potential for a serious, long term relationship.

But there's always a catch - whenever I broached the topic of a serious, exclusive relationship with this woman, she told me she couldn't do it and that she wasn't ready yet (she had gotten out of a particularly rotten LTR 6 months before). She said she liked me so much and so intensely that she didn't know what to do, be we agreed we should just keep dating and enjoying each other and see where everything goes. I told her flat out - upon her asking how I'd feel - that while she is allowed to do what she wants and I recognize that there is nothing I can do to control her, the idea of her with someone else would utterly devastate me because I just am not interested in doing the same. She reassured me she is also not interested in seeing or sleeping with anyone else, nor does she want to. And so I didn't worry. And so we continued our "casual" relationship that consisted of extremely non-casual things. And every day we saw each other we continued to grow closer.

And then she slept with someone else. The night before a romantic weekend vacation that she had suggested we go on together. She told me about everything 2 days after we got home from the trip. It was with a work colleague in her industry that skews extremely aggressive males who try to sleep around often with peers. Of course, there was alcohol involved.

As I told her I would be in such an event, I am absolutely crushed. I am feeling a mix of feelings:

- Foolishness - In a way I brought this completely upon myself. She specifically told me she was not ready for a serious relationship, and I had this idiotic idea that we could still be together and date each other while she sorted out her feelings. I realize I should have cut it off when she told me she wasn't ready to be exclusive and let her get in touch with me when she's ready, but I knew that I would have regretted cutting everything off so abruptly for a long, long time. I took a risk and it backfired. A lot of this is my fault.
- Anger - Angry at myself, but also angry that even though this woman told me she did not want a serious relationship, her actions spoke otherwise: Spending entire weekends together, meeting friends and parents, talking about spending the holidays together, holding each other really close and talking about how strongly we felt for each other. These were mostly things she initiated and I bought into, not the other way around. She also told me that she saw a future with me. I felt so safe and comfortable with her and can't believe she would let herself act so serious with someone she "wasn't ready" to be serious with.
- Disgust - That she would sleep with someone else and then share a bed with me the very next night, after how intense everything had been between us. I've been using protection with her, but not sure if I should get tested to be safe (I slept with her multiple times after).
- Disappointment - She did something to me that I just couldn't imagine doing to her. It feels this is clearly an indicator of who ultimately cares less. I am hurt and disappointed that after making very clear to her how I would feel if she did this, she chose to do it anyway.
- Jealousy - Someone else got to have sex with her and be inside her and see her in a way that only I (albeit selfishly) wanted with her all to myself. She says she didn't mean for it to happen and was drunk and caught up in the moment, and all I keep thinking is "well it must have been a pretty passionate moment" and picturing/imagining everything. This feels like my most irrational and possessive feeling and I hate it but it's there.

I have told her all of these things and she has been apologizing profusely. She has been calling and emailing me to let me know how sorry she is, how horrible she feels, and that she only told me the truth because she realized she had to if she saw a future with me and wanted to be serious with me, which she realized she wanted. She said that our weekend together after her fling made her realize she wants to be exclusive, but she had to tell me this before she felt she could move forward.

I think her telling me was really honorable and it's nice that NOW she wants to be exclusive - and I really want to forgive her and forget about all of this and just move forward. I mean, if this turns into something long the grand scheme of things, encountering a bump in the road like this 6 weeks in, before we were technically "serious" (no matter how we both claimed to feel and act otherwise) should be miniscule...right? I feel like I SHOULD be able to get over it, but I'm so scared I wouldn't be able to do that - this feels like such a bad foot to start a relationship on. I'm having so much difficulty even looking at her and thinking about her and feeling the same physical and emotional attraction that I did before this all happened. I'd feel like there would be a little ball of resentment inside me at all times, and it would set a nasty tone for our entire relationship. And of course I'm so scared that I simply wouldn't trust her, and clearly it's all pointless without trust.

I guess I just need perspective. It has been a day since learning this. Should I cut it clean? Should I cut it clean and give her time to get herself together and maybe try again in the future? That would feel the same as just letting her go and I'd still feel awful. Should I try to resolve this and move forward? How do I forgive? How do I let go of this all, the disappointment and jealousy and nasty thoughts, and trust someone again? What can I discuss with her to make things work? I just don't know what to do and feel frozen, like everything is the wrong decision.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (80 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
If you're stepping into a relationship with psychological hurdles involving anger and jealousy and disgust, you're making a bad decision.

You know what's awesome? Getting involved with a person and not having to deal with any of this. It's totally awesome. Go find yourself some of that and just leave this situation before you write another seven paragraphs about someone you've known for forty-five days.
posted by griphus at 7:08 AM on August 24, 2012 [80 favorites]

You don't need to make a decision right now. Let yourself cool off. How you feel in a few days or a week from now will be more telling about how you want to proceed.

But sometimes you need to have a taste of the vanilla ice cream before you realize you wanted strawberry all along. This seems to be a one time deal and she came to you to admit it. People don't confess to this stuff proactively (was it proactively) unless they really care (or, occasionally, if they want to hurt someone badly...but this doesn't feel like that to me).

All of the things you're feeling are normal after being betrayed. But honestly, I think sometimes the people who are the most loyal in the long run are the people who know what it was like to mess up like that and who have no desire to feel that way again.

If you do decide to work things out, talk to her about how she can avoid putting herself in this situation again. Make it clear to her what you expect out of a partner.

Good luck.
posted by inturnaround at 7:08 AM on August 24, 2012 [17 favorites]

I have been dating an amazing person for the past 1.5 months

You hardly know this person. What you do know has revealed that she isn't the person you expected/were looking for.
posted by deanc at 7:12 AM on August 24, 2012 [45 favorites]

A roommate of mine in college started dating a guy at the beginning of freshman year. At Thanksgiving (they still weren't technically exclusive, but they had lots of sleepovers and spent nearly all of their non-class time together), he went home and slept with an ex girlfriend. The roommate was inconsolable.

I told her I thought it was pretty shit of him to do, speaking from my personal experience and how I would feel about it, and suggested that she dump him.

Another roommate told her, "look, you guys talked about being exclusive beforehand and you knew for certain you weren't exclusive, he hasn't done anything wrong," and told her to give him another chance.

That was nearly eight years ago. As far as I know, there haven't been any other similar blips in their relationship. They'll be getting married in a few months.

So. Right now, this is really 100% about you and if you can be OK with it. You knew she wasn't exclusive with you. Even if she was acting like she was, if you had put it on paper, she wasn't. She slept with another guy, technically within the bounds of your non-exclusivity. I think it says a lot that she told you about it so she could start a relationship with you honestly. If you think you can make that OK in your head, go ahead and continue the relationship. If you don't think you can make that OK, you guys need to go your separate ways.

Either way, this:
Someone else got to have sex with her and be inside her and see her in a way that only I (albeit selfishly) wanted with her all to myself.
needs to stop. Because ew.
posted by phunniemee at 7:12 AM on August 24, 2012 [80 favorites]

I think you've laid out all the salient points. She specifically did not promise exclusivity, and her actions have crystalized how she feels about your relationship. It is good that she told you about it soon after. But of course all your hurt feelings are valid. I don't think there's a clear right answer here, you have to figure out what you personally can deal with. You don't need to decide today. But if you continue a clear talk about expectations is definitely in order.
posted by yellowbinder at 7:12 AM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Should I cut it clean?

Yes, this is never going to work. She doesn't want the same things as you, and this event will gnaw at you as long as you are together.
posted by spaltavian at 7:13 AM on August 24, 2012 [3 favorites]

I definitely understand why you feel the way you do, and I think I would feel similarly. However, she has been honest and straightforward with you and it sounds like you have a great relationship otherwise. If you do break up with her it will be about your own feelings, and not her actions, and that seems like a shame.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 7:15 AM on August 24, 2012 [3 favorites]

I want to tell you to relax, enjoy your crush (limerence?), and just enjoy this person, but on the other hand you're a bit too crazy with had her 'apologizing profusely'? You want to know how to 'forgive'? For her being with somebody else in your one and a half month long open relationship.

It is all way too much drama for six weeks in; whether or not you can dial that back is (largely) up to you. I would apologise to her for putting her in a position where she felt she had to 'apologise profusely' for something she had made quite clear might be in the cards. She did not, on hearing that you would be devastated if [etc], become responsible for your emotions there.
posted by kmennie at 7:15 AM on August 24, 2012 [34 favorites] the grand scheme of things, encountering a bump in the road like this 6 weeks in, before we were technically "serious" (no matter how we both claimed to feel and act otherwise) should be miniscule...right?


You answered your own question. You have something potentially amazing, but it took some time before it solidified and both partners decided to be exclusive. That's what's happening here.

Don't throw it away because your ego can't get over a little bit of meaningless sex. It wasn't about you - she didn't do this to you, and it wasn't a big deal, and in fact it might have done you some good because it might have been just the thing that she needed to convince her that she really does want to be with you.

Don't throw everything away over a trifle.
posted by tempythethird at 7:15 AM on August 24, 2012 [18 favorites]

So, a few thoughts here --

It's hard to assess how much of the intensity between you two is genuine versus what you're wanting to see. You are obviously very much into this girl and while she seems into you as well, there does seem to be some ambivalence within her about commitment. It's also possible that her desire to be 'exclusive' with you is coming out of guilt/fear of losing a relationship, rather than a genuine desire to be with you. That is something that you should talk through with her.

I think the general AskMeFi trend will be to say "cut it clean". Folks here tend to fall in the camp of "cut bait, don't waste your time, plenty of people out there who will treat you right." I think there's a lot going for that, but to present the other side -- it doesn't sound like boundaries or expectations were properly set (or a lot of mixed messages were going on -- I mean, seriously, "you can do what you want, but I'd hate it if you did 'x' " is a really passive-aggressive way of saying "I don't want you to do 'x'. ") So if you do try to work this out, don't pussyfoot around what your expectations and boundaries are, and listen to each other and try to hear each other, not just hear what you want to hear from each other.

Also, yes, you need to figure out how to forgive and trust her if you are going to make it work. Chalk it up to unclear expectations and poor judgement, and let her prove to you that she's learned from it and turned around. She's the one who slept with someone else and hurt you, but if you never learn to let that go, your distrust and contempt will play an equally large role in toxifying your time together.
posted by bl1nk at 7:19 AM on August 24, 2012 [4 favorites]

Well, technically she didn't cheat on you, since she did specify that it was only a casual relationship. That said, I feel like you're definitely being unfairly treated. She gets to sleep around while you're pining away for her, but as soon as she's had her fun, you need to be exclusive? That's just not right.

If I were in your shoes, I would give her a chance (because she did the honorable thing and told you) but at the same time, I would tell her that your feelings were badly hurt by what she did, and you need her to know exactly how it felt before you can proceed with a relationship. Therefore, you don't want to go exclusive with her until you've slept with somebody else also, so that she can appreciate on a personal level how badly she hurt you and will be less likely to do it again. (Or, if she prefers, you get a pass to cheat on her exactly once while you're in the relationship.)

If she accepts such a bargain, then she's being fair with you, and I think the relationship might be worth pursuing. Otherwise, she's not treating you as an equal, and you should DTMFA.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 7:19 AM on August 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

Fair enough, she said she couldn't be exclusive, but actually telling you that she had slept with someone else when she knew that you'd be devastated just seems outright cruel. Simply based on that I wouldn't progress a relationship with this woman, but YMMV.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 7:20 AM on August 24, 2012 [8 favorites]

I'm guessing the work event was on her mind when you two started seeing each other. It sounds like maybe she wanted to have the freedom to do whatever at that event, and now she has, and maybe now she really is ready to be with you.

This is not ideal behavior, of course, but it is human. She didn't technically commit a foul, so if you can forgive her maybe you should just talk about whether she really is ready to settle down.
posted by skrozidile at 7:21 AM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

If someone makes you feel this bad less than 2 months into a relationship, they're not going to make you feel any better with time. Break it off.
posted by xingcat at 7:26 AM on August 24, 2012 [3 favorites]

you put yourself into a relationship you didn't want to be in.

And you are wondering if you can forgive her

You should apologize to her for radically misinterpreting the nature of your relationship, and the exploding in bad feelings when you had to confront that reality.

You willingly entered into a short-term non-committed open dating relationship. The go all romeo on her when your feelings are hurt?? Did she hurt you? Yes absolutely, is that a nice thing to do to someone? no it is not. However: Being hurt does not make you right.
posted by French Fry at 7:27 AM on August 24, 2012 [46 favorites]

I got to "1.5 months" and didn't need to read the rest. Life is too short! Move on!
posted by valeries at 7:28 AM on August 24, 2012 [8 favorites]

Good Lord! Take a 96-hour break from her and call her next week if you want. Why the urgency to Do Something?
posted by Mr. Justice at 7:38 AM on August 24, 2012 [4 favorites]

A few others have pointed out that you had an officially non-exclusive relationship, even if you took it for granted as otherwise. She didn't commit a foul, so move on from that detail.

You want an exclusive relationship. Nothing wrong with that, but she clearly doesn't, as expressed by both words and actions.

Move on to someone who does.
posted by pla at 7:46 AM on August 24, 2012 [3 favorites]

Maybe this is the universe--or her-- telling you to cool your jets for a bit? I agree that you don't have to decide right now. It could be a blip; it might be a dealbreaker. Sleep on it and proceed with caution. See how you feel about this in another month and a half. You may find this breaks the limerence you're feeling or it may even end up making your relationship stronger.
posted by Lieber Frau at 7:47 AM on August 24, 2012

Stuff happens. Step back and think it over, and if you find that wanting to be with her outweighs your outrage and hurt then figure out how to let it go. And if you decide to carry on, make sure both of your agree on what's okay and what's not okay.
posted by idest at 7:48 AM on August 24, 2012

She was clear from the start that she did not feel capable of being exclusive. You seem to think her actions in the relationship meant she felt differently. But people in open relationships also do things like " Spending entire weekends together, meeting friends and parents, talking about spending the holidays together, holding each other really close and talking about how strongly we felt for each other. ... she saw a future with me." You seem to feel this is a "gotcha": she said one thing but did another, except her behaviour was consistent all along.

I detect a strong sense of slut shaming in your language. You should look at what the root of those assumptions are because it will be problematic in most sexual relationships you have. Reading that you have left her the expectation that she needs to "apologise profusely" multiple times for something that needs no apology makes me very uncomfortable.

I think this is more about power in your relationship. You started off with you being more invested in the relationship and thus she had the power. You were uncomfortable with that and are now using guilt and shame to make her "prove" she is worthy of you and giving you all the power now. I am sure this power feels good temporarily but it is not sustainable in a healthy relationship of equals. If you are not able to acknowledge the mistakes you have made, let go of the idea that you need to forgive her (and that she did anything that requires forgiving) and commit to listening to your partner then you can have a good relationship.

How this relationship functions from now on is really up to you because you have created a negative dynamic that only you can break.
posted by saucysault at 7:49 AM on August 24, 2012 [48 favorites]

Life is too short. You both have different goals and ideals of a relafionship. It simply will gnaw st you. If its meant to be , set her free and she will come back. If not you dodged a bullet. Plus 6 months isnt s LTR. Maybe for her itnis which is a sign within itself.
posted by handbanana at 7:54 AM on August 24, 2012

I am not certain if you should cut bait here. However, if you can’t stop having such an intense relationship with this woman, you have no real future with her.
Intense relationship is extremely bad for your emotional health and well being. Intensity can blind you to your partner’s flaws and serious relationship incompatibles. When you experience those extreme highs in an intense relationship, it feels good. Then you hit a low, and instead of evaluating the relationship by both the highs and lows, you fight to keep the relationship because the highs feel SO GOOD.

If this relationship is going to work, both of you need to back off from this intensity. Slow the eff down. Stop spending all of your time together. Stop taking trips together. Your relationship needs to breathe because otherwise you are not going to be able to evaluate if you are compatible as a couple. Every time you want to kick it into high gear, tell yourself this: I have known this woman for 1.5 months, I don’t know her well yet. I need to slow down and let this thing run its course.
posted by emilynoa at 7:56 AM on August 24, 2012 [9 favorites]

Exclusive relationship or no, this person knew that you would be devastated if she slept with someone else. Then, she slept with someone else.

Hammurabi might rule that she violated no codes, but she did demonstrate that she was willing to knowingly hurt you in order to satisfy needs that were of a higher priority to her. So, here, I think you have a clear indication that your value to her does not match her value to you.

If you want to see if it this changes, at least give it a break for a few weeks and come back to it with a clearer head, and go back in slowly this time.
posted by ignignokt at 8:00 AM on August 24, 2012 [6 favorites]

Either way, this...needs to stop. Because ew.

That's unnecessary. The OP is in a lot of pain and admitted those feelings quite blatantly under the umbrella of jealousy, then described them as irrational and possessive and said, "I hate it." It's a good thing for anonymous posters seeking emotional help to feel comfortable being truthful about emotions that might be difficult to admit for whatever personal or societal reasons, and "ew" is not a helpful response.

I guess I just need perspective. It has been a day since learning this.

I don't think that writing several paragraphs anonymously and then asking a group of strangers, "Should I cut it clean?" is a wise approach. You may have only known her for 1.5 months, but we have known you far shorter. However, needing perspective is a great reason to bring your situation to AskMe and I'd suggest that's exactly how you should view this thread.

Note that you're getting polar-opposite responses. That might tell you there is no wrong answer. I would propose that the comments ascribing thoughts, motives, etc. to "her," a person we know only through your words, are less valuable than the comments offering you anecdotes. "My friend was in a similar situation. Here's how it played out..." Look for more of those. That is one way to help build your perspective (your word, and a good one).

Then take some time. Maybe a day, maybe a week, whatever you need. The reason is because perspective tends to be the sum of experience (personal or secondhand) plus time. Spend some time with your situation, and others' anecdotes if you might find them helpful, and let that soak in a bit. See her during this time, don't see her during this time...either way, just be conscious in your head that you aren't rushing any particular decision but you are giving yourself time. You are letting perspective develop.

Then decide what you're going to do, knowing that you asked a crowd of strangers and got lots of totally opposite responses. Whether your decision works out well or badly, you can have some consolation that you made the same choice that a lot of people would have. You are just like the rest of us.
posted by cribcage at 8:04 AM on August 24, 2012 [29 favorites]

Ditch her. NOW. She may protest. She may agree to be exclusive with you now. Don't take the bait.

Yes, you feel foolish, but at the end of the day, it doesn't matter how you got here. In fact I'd challenge you to let go of that now because it's not helping you at all. You feel how you feel about it. She doesn't want the same things as you do. It's intense and hard to walk away from, but you want to be in a relationship with someone who considers your feelings BEFORE they become a nuclear explosion. You were clear with her about your feelings. She basically disregarded them. She never made you a promise, but if she knew you were feeling the way you felt and she wasn't feeling the same way, she should have left you be.

I'd say now is a good time for a clean break with no hard feelings. You just aren't on the same page.
posted by pazazygeek at 8:06 AM on August 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

People whose actions don't match their words will drive you completely crazy in the long term. They'll make you doubt your instincts and they'll make it hard for you to trust people in the future. I suggest avoiding people like this as much as possible.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:07 AM on August 24, 2012 [8 favorites]

Mod note: Folks, be constructive and quit name calling. Thank you.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:09 AM on August 24, 2012

I think she's been honest with you at every turn.

That thing where she said she wasn't ready for an exclusive relationship was your cue that she wasn't ready for an exclusive relationship. That you responded with 'well okay but if you don't behave as though we are in an exclusive relationship anyway then I will be really hurt' was, while sort of understandable, unfair to her.

Jealousy is a primal and difficult to overcome emotion, so I totally understand why you are feeling like this. But the situation here is as much of your own making as it is hers. If you care about her as much as you say you do, you'll get over the jealousy.
posted by ook at 8:13 AM on August 24, 2012 [12 favorites]

I detect a strong sense of slut shaming in your language.
She is not yours.

Stop projecting; the OP neither did or said these things. He listed a bunch of reasons why it hurt him.

This question is not about who is right. Every single person telling you who should apologize is answering the question they want to read, rather than the actual question.

OP, it doesn't matter who was honest or upfront. It's pretty clear you are not okay with this. She works with him. She is going to see him again and again. How are you going to deal with that? I think we both know the answer is "poorly".

This well is posioned, and it doesn't matter who is at fault. In fact, there is no fault here. Neither of you did anything wrong, but you want different things. Just move on.
posted by spaltavian at 8:15 AM on August 24, 2012 [7 favorites]

And then she slept with someone else. The night before a romantic weekend vacation that she had suggested we go on together.

This. If she really felt the need to confess a casual one night stand, which she knew would hurt your feelings, why wait until after your romantic weekend? Because then it would spoil her plans for a fun weekend with you, that's why.

I've never understood people who feel the need to purge their souls by telling their partner they slept with someone else, when they knew it would inflict pain. She could have told her girlfriends, a therapist, heck, even her dog.

This would be a deal breaker for me. That's a mind game. Stop playing and find someone who cares about the same things as you. She could be on the rebound, she could be a player, or just immature. But now she has Drama with a capital D. Fun, fun, fun! But no fun for you. Run away and do not look back.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 8:15 AM on August 24, 2012 [17 favorites]

(which I mean not in the imperative "you must do this" sense, rather "it will happen on its own". If it doesn't, then your feelings are more about the possessiveness than about her as a person.)
posted by ook at 8:16 AM on August 24, 2012

whenever I broached the topic of a serious, exclusive relationship with this woman, she told me she couldn't do it and that she wasn't ready yet

As so many wise MeFites have said, believe what people tell you about themselves.

She didn't break any relationship agreements, because she didn't make any relationship agreements with you. But it's very clear from your post that monogamy is important to you, and I don't think you're likely to get it in the long run from her.

Disgust -- That she would sleep with someone else and then share a bed with me the very next night, after how intense everything had been between us.

This is how open relationships and polyamorous relationships and non-exclusive relationships work. Millions of people do this every day.

However, it seems really clear that this isn't for you, and that's okay. Your desire for a monogamous relationship is yours to have.

I totally think that people who have been in open and poly relationships can choose monogamy successfully (because I know that I exist, and that my monogamous marriage of 12 years exists), but in my observation it rarely works well when the choice is reactive, like hers would be here.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:20 AM on August 24, 2012 [3 favorites]

Exclusive relationship or no, this person knew that you would be devastated if she slept with someone else. Then, she slept with someone else.

If someone says they don't want an exclusive relationship then someone doesn't get to emotionally blackmail them into doing so.

As MMD says, whether she should have told you about it after she made clear she did not consider the relationship to be exclusive is a spearate issue. I suppose someone could claim transparency or openness on health grounds, but it seems a bit mean.
posted by biffa at 8:20 AM on August 24, 2012 [3 favorites]

Can you get over your own anger, jealousy, and disgust? Really get over it? If so, then move forward with her. If not, then end things. What you can't do is get back together with her but hold on to your anger, jealousy, and disgust. That will just poison the relationship. This is all so raw. Take a couple of days. See whether you think you can get over this.
posted by Area Man at 8:20 AM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

You honestly don't know if this is an important event yet. There are examples in-thread of relationships that took a non-exclusive sex event as a growth point that inspired the couple to become exclusive. There are lots of people saying just the opposite, it's time to call it quits. Either could be right, or maybe this isn't even a pivotal event.

My belief is, the one thing you know for certain is that you're upset, and anything else you feel right now is going to be totally clouded by that. It's been a day since you found out about this. Any decision you make right now will be entirely driven by "upset", and by this one action - not by actual thoughts and feelings about her as a person or about you and your happiness or about your relationship. Don't break up with her for at least a week. Don't get engaged for at least a year. It's hard to step back and say "let's not get too fussed over this", but you don't really know what it means yet. Talk through this right now, sure, but don't let it be the only thing you talk about, and come back in a couple of weeks or a month and revisit it - your perspective is going to keep changing.

So far, "taking it slow" is the last thing anybody would use to describe your relationship, but maybe it's time that changed: take some deep breaths, take a step back, and try to look at the big picture and the long term. An event/action like this can mean a lot of different things to different people, and it will take time to figure out what it means to the two of you.
posted by aimedwander at 8:23 AM on August 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

Been where you are. He told me the very next day. Still loved him and continued the relationship. I could never truly forget it, even though we were, like you, specifically not monogamous on one side. It poisoned the relationship for years and years because I could not let it go. There was always DRAMA!, it got brought up in the many fights, either because I brought it up, or because he would interject, angrily, that I was about to bring it up. We are not still together as a monogamous couple.

I nth the suggestion to take a breather, and give yourself time to find out how you truly feel about the person, the relationship and the actions that occurred. This isn't just that she slept with someone else, but that she, in a non-exclusive relationship, felt the need to tell you about it, and during what would otherwise have been a romantic weekend. Also nthing the suggestion that you take it slow if you proceed. 6 weeks just isn't long enough to truly know someone, no matter how much time you spend with them.
posted by Meep! Eek! at 8:51 AM on August 24, 2012

I have told her all of these things and she has been apologizing profusely. She has been calling and emailing me to let me know how sorry she is, how horrible she feels, and that she only told me the truth because she realized she had to if she saw a future with me and wanted to be serious with me, which she realized she wanted. She said that our weekend together after her fling made her realize she wants to be exclusive, but she had to tell me this before she felt she could move forward.

This paragraph is full of things she wanted and did, things done no matter if it hurts you. Even telling you is selfish and on her terms, for her feelings.

Sleeping with someone else rarely helps a relationship. Sleeping with a coworker doesn't help that. Sleeping with a coworker and then going on two day romantic weekend with you and then telling you to assuage her own feelings is like three extra nails in the coffin to make sure the first nail stays in.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:53 AM on August 24, 2012 [11 favorites]

Well.. while this is keep dating and enjoying each other and see where everything goes, even if it doesn't go anywhere good, the fact that she asked you at some point how you would feel if she slept with someone else and then proceeded to do it really bothers me. Even if she didn't have the intention of doing it, the fact that she broached the subject makes me think that she knew it was a possiblity... and that's probably the point at which I would have really considered bailing.

I think it's all too fresh and new and you are still moving too fast. You are trying to resolve a situation you just found out about. The only thing that can really give you perspective on this is time by yourself.

Is it possible to move past this? Sure. It is okay if you want to just cut bait? Absolutely. There's really no wrong answer here. You need to do what feels right for YOU. It sounds to me like you're so emotionally invested in this woman and the potential relationship that you keep telling yourself that you SHOULD be able to move past it, but you fear that you can't. That's a completely legitimate fear to have, and one that many people would understand. I think it'd be kind of hard to just hit the reset button on such an intense relationship, myself. At the very least I think the two of you need to inject some space in the relationship.
posted by sm1tten at 8:55 AM on August 24, 2012 [3 favorites]

I've never understood people who feel the need to purge their souls by telling their partner they slept with someone else, when they knew it would inflict pain. She could have told her girlfriends, a therapist, heck, even her dog.

I agree. If it was a one-time thing that was never to happen again, she should have kept it to herself. She told you to make herself feel better, not to make you feel better or to otherwise improve the relationship. Just because the truth is on your mind does not mean it needs to be on your lips. I say this as someone who committed a similar infidelity in a LTR. That partner never knew, and the pain and regret was (and remains) mine alone to bear. (one could respond and say that I kept my mouth shut to avoid being caught. there is certainly an element of truth in that)

Despite the open nature of this relationship, she engaged in an act that she knew would cause you great pain and then told you about it, but only after a romantic weekend away. And let me guess, your treat?

You two want different things. What you want is something better than her. May I suggest reevaluating your dating behavior?
posted by Tanizaki at 8:58 AM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ugh, sorry, this must suck.

Here's my take. Every relationship goes through a rough patch now and then. You ride them out, if you ride them out, because you've built something worth saving. But that's assuming there's already a solid relationship in place. To my mind, there's no such thing as a rough patch 1.5 months into a relationship. That's not a rough patch - it's a relationship that didn't work out.

Relationships take work sometimes. But not right away. If you're having conversations where people are crying and in pain and feeling things like disgust and betrayal within the firsts two months of dating, it's time to bail.
posted by Ragged Richard at 9:06 AM on August 24, 2012 [5 favorites]

Okay, what I was trying to get across with my story is that what you need to do is figure out if this is a dealbreaker for you. If you can't forget it, TRULY just forget it, not forgive it, but have it somewhere in your mind, it's a dealbreaker. No matter how much you two love each other, if it's a dealbreaker for you, the relationship will not, IME, work.
posted by Meep! Eek! at 9:18 AM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

There's absolutely nothing wrong with your feelings. Jelaousy is a feature, not a bug.

But she never betrayed you. Specific discussions were made and agreed to. She has done nothing wrong.

You have to decide if you want to date her or not. You may get over the feelings, you may not. Only time will tell.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:20 AM on August 24, 2012 [3 favorites]

I have also observed that people who are not dating exclusively -- the successful ones -- are very open about it, but they don't make it a habit of bringing up their other dates or sexual partners to anyone else they are dating. It's more along the lines of, "Oh, I'm busy that night, how about Tuesday?" Not, "I like you lots but I might date other people." In general, they tend to choose sex partners who are okay with it.

I'm not talking about open relationships, I'm talking about casual dating without a goal of long term commitment. It's not really polite to throw other partners in someone else's face because in general, it leads to bad feelings and comparisons, and yes, jealousy.

Confessing after the fact and then claiming she wants to be exclusive is a like closing the barn door after the horse has escaped. It's not what she did, and technically, yes, she did tell you that she doesn't want to be exclusive. It's how she went about it after you made your feelings known.

She should have stopped right there and said, "well, I don't know that I can promise that I will never sleep with someone else. Do you want to keep going or shall we call it quits?"

And I am not just talking about women, I have seen men do the same thing. Their 2nd booty call comes into town unexpectedly, and they invite her to the pub where they are having a date with 1st booty call, then leaves with #2. And I'm sitting there seeing the crushed look on #1's face, when all the guy had to do was say, "oh, sorry, Mom called, gotta run and help her fix her fridge, or gee, just remembered I have to get up early tomorrow, can I drive you home?" And then meet #2 afterward. It's just in bad taste, unless everyone is mature and totally accepting of the situation.

Because unfortunately, people do get attached to each other when you're having lots of sex and going on outings and meeting their family. Only you can decide if you want to keep going with this, but it just seems like you're in for a world of hurt with this one.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 9:25 AM on August 24, 2012 [3 favorites]

Okay, that sucks.

Nevertheless, I have to echo the sentiment that you should've took her at her word that she was just playing things by ear and didn't want anything exclusive.

Speaking as someone who's very monogamous and doesn't do casual relationships, this is something I would strive to unearth from a potential partner from the get-go. How did you two meet? What did you know about her before the first date? If my date told me he didn't want an exclusive relationship, that would be the last date I'd go on with him.

Unfortunately you invested way too much too soon and now you've lost your shirt, so to speak. End this relationship and find someone who wants the same things you do. That person is out there, and it's not her.
posted by Anima Mundi at 9:28 AM on August 24, 2012

This feels bad to me. If she knew that fucking somebody else would "devastate" you, yeah yeah yeah, no betrayal, but nonetheless, she did this in a way that would cause maximum damage (i.e., she did it at a work-related function, the timing, that she told you, etc).

You don't really do that to somebody you honor and respect.

Also, beware the pleading and crying emails and messages. I mean, I've done it too, but never when I've been in a good sane place.
posted by angrycat at 9:29 AM on August 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

yeah, just to tag into what Meep! Eek! posted: I've seen a few relationships where one party hurt the other due to poor communications \ mismatched boundary settings \ confused expectations, and in cases where the injury lingered with one of the partners, it has always been fatally toxic.

In some cases, the two involved would take a break and come back together after some time away. They'd take it slow. They'd give each other space. And then things would get good for a while and then dissolve messily, painfully and terribly. Sometimes it was because the injured party would harbor resentment that would make them terrible to their partner, in other cases, the lack of true trust would cause the person who committed the original injury to repeat themselves because they almost felt like it was expected of them.

In cases, where both parties were able to figure out a way to move on, it's been fine. And if they aren't together now, it's for reasons aside from this injury/infidelity/trust breakdown.

This isn't to say that you must forgive her. As many here have said, if you honestly feel like you can't do this, then you're justified in cutting this off and moving on. But if you do go back into it and you don't forgive and forget, then one of you will break the other's heart in ways that are more painful than what you're experiencing now.
posted by bl1nk at 9:36 AM on August 24, 2012

Dude, when she told you she wanted the relationship to be non-exclusive . . . and you told her that if she slept with someone else you would be devastated . . . and she still wanted to keep the relationship non-exclusive for the time being . . . that was your cue to expect something like this. A relationship can be exclusive, or it can be non-exclusive; it cannot be "non-exclusive, but I still don't want you to sleep with anyone else." It might be that, for some weird breakup-related reason, she thought she had to do this before committing to another exclusive LTR, and insisting that the relationship stay open for the time being is about the clearest possible way of alerting you that this might happen. It was not exactly kind of her to do this knowing that you wouldn't like it, but in the end it's your job to insist that your deal-breakers really are deal-breakers.

Given that, everybody has their own, not necessarily rational, boundaries for what they can and can't accept in a partner. Is it possible for you to reframe this in your mind as "Great, she finally got it out of her system, and now I can get the exclusive relationship I've wanted all along"? If so, hang. If not, bail.
posted by ostro at 9:42 AM on August 24, 2012 [9 favorites]

Why do anything today or tomorrow or next week?

Disengage for awhile and see if you feel anything worth saving in the relationship. Tell her that you're not ready to be in an exclusive relationship with her. You're taking a break for a few months - she's free to see other people and so are you. Then you see other people.

Once you are away from the OMG Drama, you'll have a clearer perspective on what you want and whether you can accept this behavior.
posted by 26.2 at 9:57 AM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

When she told you she wanted the relationship to be non-exclusive, and you told her that if she slept with someone else you would be devastated, and then she told you about it? Sounds like she felt guilty, even though she was clear that yours wasn't an exclusive relationship. She probably felt guilty because she knew that was what you wanted, but she wasn't/isn't ready for that because of just having exited another exclusive relationship.

In my experience, these kinds of imbalances in a relationship lead to rocky times. Not that it's impossible to work through them, but for as long as you want more than she's willing to go, it's going to be difficult for you.
posted by benbenson at 9:58 AM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Unfortunately, because of information asymmetries etc., it is impossible to conduct relationships in a lawyerly fashion. You cannot simply request everything you want, reach explicit agreement, and then follow the established rules. Well, you can do that, and to some extent you have to, but it can't get you all the way.

In this case, you explicitly agreed that you were not exclusive, but you may have thought that even though you were not "technically" exclusive that you both "felt" exclusive, that this was a sort of trial period for an exclusivity that would be "technically" solemnized later if it worked. You may have thought that, because of your budding relationship, she wouldn't want to have drunk sex with a hard-charging co-worker, even if it was "technically" within her rights to do so.

Now, to put it simply, you know otherwise.

This is all just to say that you are right to feel upset, and even angry. Anger is the emotion that protects you from people taking advantage of you, from abusing your expectations. Own it.
posted by grobstein at 9:59 AM on August 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

I think her telling me was really honorable and it's nice that NOW she wants to be exclusive

It wasn't honorable, because it was the whole point. It was a test. It will only get worse.

The reason that you feel so intensely about this person you barely know is because she and you both want to feel that intensity. This kind of behavior and storms of emotion will continue, because on some level it's what you both want. Provoking that feeling of devestation (and possessiveness, ie validation of her) in you was her entire goal; if you'd suggested an open relationship when she brought it up, or just been indifferent, she'd probably have dumped you. The drama is the whole point, so any kind of emotionally healthy move in the relationship that would diffuse tension will be rejected. Even the "casual but not casual" stuff you've been doing is a part of this, because it's racheting up the drama. A truly casual relationship is boring. True commitment is also boring. "I've never felt this way before" is exciting, until it isn't, at which time the ramp-up to the next manufactured crisis begins.

You can have a healthy, normal relationship, or you can have her. You can't have both.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 10:01 AM on August 24, 2012 [8 favorites]

You need to ask yourself what you want and need in a relationship right now. If you need exclusivity, then that is what you need to tell her. If that can't or won't happen then this is not the relationship for you no matter what the limerance is telling either one of you.

And for goodness' sake both of you need to slooow dooown and get to know each other.

I can understand her need to be honest with you, and although it did hurt you I think it was important that she told you-she didn't have to tell you but she did. It is important information that you are entitled to consider any way you so choose. We can't make that choice for you.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 10:02 AM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's only been a day. Give yourself some time to process this and see how you feel. You don't need to make a decision about your relationship with her today. You don't!

That said, yes, she told you that you weren't exclusive and so she technically didn't cheat, but her behavior was still shitty and hurtful. She asked how you would feel if she were with someone else. You told her you would be devastated. Then she slept with someone else (a colleague, at that, and one she apparently knows tries to sleep with anyone who wears a skirt?). Then, knowing it would hurt you very much, she told you. Then, when you told her that you felt hurt, she apologized and suddenly wanted to be in a committed relationship with you -- despite the fact that nothing about her status as recently exiting a long term relationship has changed, which says pretty clearly that she doesn't want you to break up with her, not that she wants to be committed.

This isn't how you treat someone you care about.

Look, maybe you both fucked up here. If you needed exclusivity, you should have told her that and insisted on it as the deal-breaker it was. But at the same time, you were pretty fucking clear about how much it would hurt you, and it's not ok to to know someone's boundaries and then violate them because, hey, after all she did tell you she might hurt you (or more precisely, she told you she didn't agree not to violate your boundaries/hurt you).

So, I doubt her sincerity in suddenly being committed to you or wanting not to hurt you, when she has already shown that she is fine with hurting you.
posted by J. Wilson at 10:23 AM on August 24, 2012 [6 favorites]

Give yourself a few days to recuperate from this before you make a decision. You're still in the peak of your emotional reaction, let it subside a bit. Then review this thread and see what answers resonate with your remaining feelings on the matter.

One thing though - if you choose to stay, you will have to let this go. No holding it against her, no allowing yourself to become irrationally possessive or jealous, no treating her like a guilty party. She did not betray you per se, she was clear you two weren't exclusive at that point. Moving forward, the mature thing is to discuss expectations for an exclusive relationship. If you foresee yourself being unable to move past this, let her go now.
posted by lizbunny at 10:25 AM on August 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

Sigh. So there is no way of knowing whether she really feels like she mad a mistake sleeping with the other guy and now she knows for sure that she wants to be with you. Or if she feels bad about hurting your feelings so she's agreeing to date you exclusively as a sort of apology. Or if she's just crazy and does this kind of sh*t to guys all the time. The reason you don't know which of these people she is is because you've only known her for a short period of time, and you've only known her in the context of you guys dating (meaning you weren't friends with her, you didn't get to observe how she normally treats guys).

Knowing all this, consider the fact that even if she "technically" did nothing wrong because you guys aren't exclusive, even after she reassured you that she had no interest in sleeping with anyone else (obviously a lie), that she still did not care enough about your feelings to not hurt you! She knew you'd be hurt, and she still went through with it. Do you want to be with someone like that?

If there was a way for you to know what kind of person she is overall (without your current biased opinion of her possibly being THE ONE because of all these magical first-month-of-relationship feelings), then maybe you'd know whether this is something you can get over. But since you don't know that, you don't even know if she's just saying she wants to be exclusive now because she feels bad about hurting you, and doesn't know how to un-do it, even though it might not be what she wants.

If you are willing to take the chance and possibly get hurt, go for it. If not, then stop this relationship. While there is always a chance that she might actually want to be with you now, I am thinking that most likely, if she wanted to be with you, she would have, and would not have hurt you like that in the first place.
posted by at 10:40 AM on August 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

She was crystal clear she didn't want to be exclusive. She wasn't. Now she wants to be exclusive and you're mad at her because she wasn't?

She didn't lie. She didn't have any interest in sleeping with someone else in particular but was clear she was keeping her options open by refusing to be exclusive. She then got drunk and exercised her option.

This woman actually sounds pretty straight up and honourable to me. Frankly I suspect a lot of the people saying RUN AWAY are dragging their own baggage into your hallway: this is a six week non-monogamous dating relationship, not a six year supposedly monogamous marriage.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:04 AM on August 24, 2012 [16 favorites]

Give yourself some time away from her. The weekend is coming up; spend it apart and doing things you find utterly distracting. Wait until the pain is less fresh before making any decisions.

If you do choose to be with her, know that you need to forgive her fully. You have to stop yourself cold when you find yourself thinking about what happened. You can't hold it against her or secretly nurse fears, fantasized imaginings of how it went down, and negative assessments of her character. You have to be able to see her as your moral equal. If you don't think you have it in you to do this, or if your gut is telling you that she is not a good person, it would be a bad idea to try to be in a relationship with her. It wouldn't be fair to either of you.
posted by rhythm and booze at 11:05 AM on August 24, 2012

I'm more trusting than most of the people here. She apologized. Maybe she realizes she made a mistake. I would give her another chance. But take some time to figure things out.
posted by massysett at 11:15 AM on August 24, 2012

What bothers me about this situation is the clear sense that she still doesn't know what she wants, and is dragging you around with her. If she'd requested openness, owned up to what she wanted, and conducted herself congruently, it'd be one thing. The issue is that she tearfully confessed this indiscretion, revealing that she considered it unfaithful to you. What doesn't make sense there is not that she wanted non-exclusivity, but that she obviously also considers her actions cheating, making me question why she dragged you into it to begin with. I understand that she's swayed by your feelings on the matter, but clearly not enough to have amended her own position - just enough to act selfishly on all grounds. The reason I don't see this as honorable is because of the tearful confession. I suspect you're reacting more to her telling you that you've been betrayed than to the actual action. If she came to you and said "I'm ready for exclusivity," and revealed at some point down the line that there was a night with someone else before you became exclusive, would you feel as betrayed as you currently do? I may be wrong, but I suspect not - if that had been the case, she wouldn't be confessing that she cheated, but informing you that she has always acted in accordance with the rules established for the relationship. Again, I may be wrong. It may be that hearing a year into an exclusive relationship that there was an incidence a year prior, before exclusivity, would be just as devastating. That, we'll never know.

And all of the sudden, she wants exclusivity now. That strikes me as very emotional decision-making, and not necessarily something to trust for the long term. I agree with everyone who's suggests taking time off to process, for both of you.
posted by namesarehard at 11:17 AM on August 24, 2012 [13 favorites]

'honourable'? What a bizarre misuse of the word. The tears and offer of monogamy seem manipulative to me. Tread carefully, perhaps away from this.
posted by epo at 11:32 AM on August 24, 2012 [6 favorites]

I read these types of posts and I just want to give you all hugs because I feel like I'm talking to my early mid-twenties self. And I've found the happy, loving, respectful relationship that everyone's looking for and I want you to find it too.

So here's the thing: My husband would never ever treat a girl like this. No way, no how. He's a decent enough person to realize that's a shitty way to treat someone.

There's a girl out there that won't treat you like this. You just have to demand to be treated better and keep looking.
posted by bananafish at 11:59 AM on August 24, 2012 [5 favorites]

I think namesarehard really distills the essence of this. There is nothing wrong with non-exclusive relationships. There is nothing wrong with monogamous relationships. There is a lot wrong with how she handled this.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:08 PM on August 24, 2012 [5 favorites]

You know what I think? I think she didn't want to be exclusive, because she had a thing for that specific guy at work, and she was willing to lie to you about having no interest in other people right now in order to leave that option open for herself. Then, after getting and taking the opportunity -- followed by a romantic weekend with you -- she became overwhelmed by the guilt and so admitted what she'd done.

If you want to be in a relationship with someone who wants you but does not respect you, by all means stay in this relationship. If you want to be in a relationship with someone who wants you and respects you, you'll have to break this off and keep looking. Good luck.
posted by davejay at 12:14 PM on August 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

Yeah, and what namesarehard said.
posted by davejay at 12:17 PM on August 24, 2012

She has been calling and emailing me to let me know [. . .] that she only told me the truth because she realized she had to if she saw a future with me and wanted to be serious with me, which she realized she wanted.

This seems awfully fishy. Why did she have to kick the crap out of your heart if she realized she wanted a future with you? It makes no sense to have a relationship policy of absolute honesty/full disclosure if you're dating other people. If she wanted a future with you, you'd think she'd be trying to lay the groundwork for something good. Either she's completely selfish, completely clueless, or doesn't really want a future with you but wants to see you get overwrought. I really hope, for your sake, she's just misguided here.

At the very least, if exclusivity was what she really wanted in this moment, she could have said something like, "So, I've decided you're fantastic and I really want to be exclusive with you. There's something I feel I have to be honest with you about before we embark on this adventure."
posted by Miss T.Horn at 1:33 PM on August 24, 2012

There have been a lot of comments, so apologies if anyone has touched on this.

Your questions says that she did something TO hurt you, not THAT hurt you.

Do you feel like it was done to you? To push you away? Anything in that family?

If so, maybe that's the part you need to really look at. She was upfront about not being monogamous. It doesn't change how you feel about it - I get that. But if you feel - as your question says literally - that she did it to hurt you, there's more for you to look at.

Maybe that's what you have to ask her. Maybe that answer will help you get more clarity. I know it could just be semantics and you didn't mean anything by your phrasing, but it's worth a thought.
posted by crankyrogalsky at 2:06 PM on August 24, 2012

Ditto namesareheard.

To takes a special kind of cruelty to mash one's open relationship into your face. I mean really...who the heck would spend a romantic weekend with you and THEN say she couldn't resist banging the (one of many) alpha male(s) at the office (no less).

In my opinion, this woman is on the rebound, craved your new found intimacy, but then reminded herself it's "too soon" and affirmed that by her actions.
posted by teg4rvn at 2:11 PM on August 24, 2012 [4 favorites]

It takes a special kind of cruelty to mash one's open relationship into your face. I mean really...who the heck would spend a romantic weekend with you and THEN say she couldn't resist banging the (one of many) alpha male(s) at the office (no less).

A person who enjoys open relationships and/or is polyamorous would totally do this, with presumable enjoyment by all parties.

OP, you are not this kind of person and your kinda-girlfriend should not be with you. Break up with her for her own good.
posted by nicebookrack at 2:20 PM on August 24, 2012

Yeah, she done fucked up... but only in the skeevy confession. I think it's possible she thought she was really doing the right thing in confessing- but that's not really the point, is it?

Dumper her or don't- but take this as a lesson.
You jumped head first into something that was only a few weeks old. That is too soon to be this invested. At least for you. If things are going break neck speed, slow down.
posted by Blisterlips at 2:29 PM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Reading your first Graf: She didn't do something TO hurt you badly. She did something WHICH hurt you badly. Ponder the difference.

If she were posting this, asking how to deal with a guy she liked but with whom she'd been very honest, I would tell her that you don't own her vagina. Her actions may have crystallized her feelings, but your attitude now may make her reconsider.
posted by cyndigo at 4:06 PM on August 24, 2012 [5 favorites]

I think that just because she can get off on a technicality doesn't make this honourable. She was clear about not wanting exclusivity, and you were clear about how that would make you feel even if you technically acquiesced to it.

She then proceeded to rub your face in that nonexclusivity that you acquiesced to, knowing how it would make you feel, and now your distress is technically your own fault (because you can't impose exclusivity on her against her will, because you shouldn't have gotten into an intense relationship in the first place, blah blah).

So what!

She could have acted with the best of intentions and may honestly believe that telling you what she did was more honourable than keeping it to herself. I actually think that is not an unlikely prospect. Other not-unlikely prospects are that it was a test, or that she is confused and doesn't know what she wants, or (the darkest possible interpretation) that she gets her jollies being cruel, not just dramatic, but cruel.

I think it does make a difference what her motives were, and I see that other people have tales of successful relationships that followed after repairing this kind of damage. I personally only have experience of people severely hurting me in ways that could've been technically legitimate, could've been just tactless, could've been unconsciously cruel, not sure really.... And doing all I could to repair the relationship and then going on to have really hurtful (to me) relationships that went on hurting me for a very long time. Didn't have anything I could rightly complain about at least by some standards... Other than that I just kept getting hurt by someone whose modus vivendi was just to hurt me and it was my place to accommodate that. But according to others here, there are other ways it can go.

I can't read this woman's motives and character very well, not least because it's seen through the prism of someone who also doesn't know her. It may be the case that the relationship looks different from her side. What I do know is that if this hurts you then a legalistic interpretation won't change that, except perhaps by adding to your pain. You've been hurt because the situation is hurtful, however it got that way, and whatever you decide, please don't add self-blame to the mix.

What I would say to her is that whatever she might have thought, and whatever you might have said, this just makes it all the more clear to you that whether or not the relationship is "serious" you do want it to be exclusive. You don't want to impose that on her against her will so you've decided not to see her any more, even though it devastates you to say so and you will miss her greatly.

If she doesn't want you to leave, tell her you'll reconsider but you want some time without contact, say, three weeks to a month, after which you'll get together and decide how to proceed, You don't have to block her in any way, in fact it's good if she can see when you're online, but don't call her, don't take her calls, hide-without-blocking her on TwitMyFacePic, filter her emails and don't email her.

Try, genuinely try to go out and have a reasonably fun-like time without her. This will be torture and agony, but you will politely keep that to yourself, so as not to be a total buzz kill to your friends (who understand and are sensitive to your plight). Wangsting about it except in very private - like, to one friend who doesn't know her - will cause you trouble so don't do it. Occasionally mention the reasonably fun like things you are doing, like "out with Zenith and Gus having gelato and soaking up the sunshine". Don't be all ZOMG I AM HAVING THE TIME OF MY LIFE, TEH CHIXX0RS, SEE HOW THEY ARE ALL OVER ME because that may not be terribly convincing, especially to you. But I hope you see what I mean here.

If she is toxic or dramatic, this will put her off, because she will want someone who obsesses over her ALL THE TIME, like you are doing now. You need to behave in ways that will cause her to screen herself out if she's any sort of unhealthy attention seeker. I recommend that you hold your nose and buy a copy of Why Men Love Bitches, not least because it is the last book she will expect you to be reading. Then, do what the book says (with you playing the role of the Bitch, just to be clear... It's the empowered role in that book).

I don't recommend these behaviours at all frivolously. I am not recommending a game-playing, cynical approach to relationships and I am not in any way trying to trivialise your struggle, because I can see that your pain is great. The thing is that when you're swept away by intense emotion, you need to fly by instruments and these are tactics that have successfully protected me from people who, wittingly or unwittingly, were toxic to me. If she is sincere, that will soon become apparent if you show that you can in fact live without her and if you stop giving acting, or rewarding, highly dramatic behaviour.
posted by tel3path at 4:15 PM on August 24, 2012 [5 favorites]

Another vote for the give it a chance. I've seen almost exactly what phunniemee describes, with the same wonderful outcome. You weren't exclusive, she was honest, and that's not to be taken lightly. It's only been a few weeks, so whoa, deep breaths.
posted by hypersloth at 5:58 PM on August 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

Many many strong marriages have had rockier starts.
This is fresh. Give it time. It could be a defining point in your relationship. Do not rush one way or the other. Rather, take this opportunity to sit down with a neutral third person and talk things through. Oh yes, I mean counseling.
posted by SLC Mom at 6:04 PM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Breathe. Really. This sort of thing happens, does not mean she is a bad person, does not mean she does not love you, does not mean you can't trust her. She TOLD you she wasn't ready to make the commitment; then when she was ready, she came clean with you so that your start together would be made on an honest foundation.

You want a firsthand anecdote? My own husband slept with someone in our exploratory period - a period when I knew, absolutely, that we were meant to be together; and he thought so too, but there were extenuating circumstances and we never said we were exclusive and etc etc. - and I was crushed. Devastated! How could he, when it was so clear to me that he and I were meant to be together? How could he, on a weekend that was the one-year anniversary of something I'd thought was really meaningful? How could her hurt me like that? How could he be so stupid? Sure we weren't officially exclusive but... couldn't he see that I was the one?

I decided that, as furious and hurt as I was, I wasn't going to give up our future together just because he was lonely and got drunk with this girl one night. I gave it a chance. And years later we are very happily, monogamously married.

Don't "forgive." There's nothing to forgive. You're hurt because she screwed that guy that night and it's natural to be jealous - but she didn't owe you monogamy at that time. She does now, and she has promised to give it, so go be happy together.
posted by fingersandtoes at 6:45 PM on August 24, 2012 [5 favorites]

It's been 6 weeks, not 6 years. Relax a little.
posted by inkypinky at 3:23 AM on August 25, 2012

Seems like you didn't respect her candor, and now you feel betrayed because she didn't act the way you wanted her to act. She tells you, now, that she's ready to be with you, but you are conflicted, because you no longer trust her. I don't see anything in your narrative that indicates a breech of trust on her part. I think you've confused trust with expectations.

I suggest that you hold off moving in together for a while. Continue the relationship on whatever terms you two can agree on. This time around, listen to what she tells you. Pay particular attention to the parts that you don't really want to hear.

Also, you may profit by examining your idea of forgiving her for something you did. It was your feelings that were kicked around, but it wasn't she who did the kicking. Keep in mind that she also may be wondering about this.

I had an experience that was in some ways similar to yours. We'd been dating for a few months, and delighted in each other's company in all those magic ways two people are able to do. At one point I wanted her to commit to an exclusive relationship, and she would not agree. I was in agony about this. I was convinced that once I got her to see how much she was hurting me, she would stop doing it--by that, I now realize, I meant that she should stop feeling the way she felt, and feel the way I wanted her to feel. It seems incredible to me now that I didn't really understand that at the time. In short, she loved me, but her version of our relationship was different from mine. I felt betrayed. I turned my agony into uncharitable versions of her betrayal. I won't belabor the process, but after a while I came to realize what I'd done.

By then I'd acted the way a lot of broken-hearted lovers act, more or less like a fool, and broke it off with her completely rather than endure the agony of a less than perfect relationship. I can't say that it wasn't for the best, but I'll never know whether I blew a friendship with a lovely person on account of how I wouldn't let her be who she was.

Please don't assume that I believe my experiences are a template of what to do, or not to do. But maybe they can function as an object lesson in how to avoid setting others up in front of unrealistic expectations, then blaming them for not fulfilling them.

Good luck to you.
posted by mule98J at 11:33 AM on August 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

She reassured me she is also not interested in seeing or sleeping with anyone else, nor does she want to.

This is what I mean by people whose words don't match their actions. This, and saying she doesn't want anything serious but then acting exactly like she does. It doesn't mean that she's necessarily a bad person, but it doesn't make it any less crazy-making. I had an ex who did stuff like this all the time because he'd say what he thought I wanted to hear, or say what he wanted to think. Then he'd do something completely different. It wasn't always something I didn't want him to do, but that didn't make it any less confusing and upsetting.

Hang in there.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:53 AM on August 25, 2012 [4 favorites]

Irrespective of how long you've been together, you're at the resentment stage now and when you get to that stage, the relationship is over.
posted by heyjude at 4:48 PM on August 25, 2012 [3 favorites]

My anecdata, kinda: There was a time when I was sleeping around a bit. I met my now-boyfriend and we were getting along well. I REALLY REALLY liked him and thought he could be The One, but I knew we were not exclusive. I went over to a friend's house and the friend was really putting the moves on me. Previously I would have been happy to fool around, but I told him, "Sorry dude. I met this guy I really like and I would feel weird doing this." In my head I think I thought if I said no, I would be like karmically guaranteeing that the new relationship would move forward.

And it worked! I didn't sleep with the friend, and a bit later my boyfriend and I became official. And I felt like I deserved him because I had been honorable. And maybe that IS slut-shaming, but I think I'm allowed to shame myself?! I don't know, but the point is--people do have the ability to consider their non-exclusive relationships before making possibly-devastating choices. My boyfriend may not have even cared or found out that I did that but *I* would have known, and I would have felt like I was betraying him.

I guess the moral of the story, if there is one, is that you should proceed however you think you'd best be able to deal with it. I am a VERY jealous VERY monogamous person, and I know that I wouldn't recover from a situation like this. In fact, here's some more anecdata for you; when I met my ex-boyfriend he mentioned he had only slept with one other person besides me. The girl he'd slept with was his best friend's girlfriend. While his best friend was in the room. Everyone was drunk, I guess?! And everyone was still friends afterwards. I tried to be okay with it. For 4 YEARS. But when the girl would come around, I was insanely jealous. We eventually broke up (he cheated on me with her, whee!) and I am much happier now.

But think about how you'll feel about her in a few years. Will you feel glad that you stuck it out, or will you feel resentful that she had to sleep with someone else to get to the point of exclusivity? Only you can answer that one for sure, sadly! For me--I know I'd be crazy jealous. For some of our more open and poly MeFites, they'd be a-okay with it. Neither is wrong objectively, but one will be wrong for you.

Good luck and be strong!
posted by masquesoporfavor at 8:24 AM on August 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

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