Is it possible for a relationship to be rekindled after infidelity?
July 15, 2013 11:14 AM   Subscribe

My girlfriend of about 2 years cheated on me. She first decided to break up with me a few days after she cheated. She made up some reasons which didn't make very much sense. Then a few days later after not speaking she admitted why she had actually broken up with me. I didn't say very much back, I didn't get very emotional towards her. She continued to text and try to contact me, telling me how much she misses me and how she screwed up so bad, but I've been completely ignoring her. Part of me wants to get back together with her... though logically this seems like a terrible idea.

We are both young, first serious relationship for both of us. I always told myself cheating would be a dealbreaker in any relationship, I would HAVE to leave immediately if a girl did that to me. Frankly, I never thought my ex-girlfriend would do this to me. I trusted her so much and my faith in her was utterly shattered. My mother cheated on my father (allegedly) and destroyed our family. She knew about my past and how deeply that experience affected me. I was already a paranoid, anxious, overly jealous person before (though I can normally contain these thoughts). I can only imagine how much worse these mental problems will get. I often ponder how evil she must be, as from the sound of it she planned on cheating to some extent, it wasn't just an in the moment mistake, and even worse, she knew that it was the worst thing she could have done to me. Why not just break up with me and do as you please afterwards?

I am extremely depressed, angry, ashamed, and a number of other negative emotions. I loved her... and still sort of do. I constantly think about how she will move on and be with other men and I run over the situation of her cheating in my mind over and over again (I don't know the details because I didn't ask). Despite this, a small part of me wants to call or text her, just to talk to her. A small part of me wants to get back together. The issue is I can never forget about this, possibly forgive but never forget. I can never fully trust her again. In fact I'm pretty certain that I hate her.

I have resisted the urge to contact her at all for a couple of days now, but its difficult. Which finally leads me to my question, do you believe that a relationship can continue after something like this has happened? Should I attempt it? Should I stay on the path of no contact and attempt to move on?
posted by YoungConfusedMan to Human Relations (38 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
This is the easiest question I have ever answered on here. Continue no contact. Get yourself to a therapist.
posted by thewumpusisdead at 11:18 AM on July 15, 2013 [7 favorites]

The issue is I can never forget about this, possibly forgive but never forget. I can never fully trust her again. In fact I'm pretty certain that I hate her.
If you believe this, then you must move on. Nothing good will come of getting back together with her, especially if this is where your head is at. Take the pain, absorb it and let yourself heal. Do not respond to her or talk to her until you can read all of the above and see the anger and pain that's in your three sentences and know that it was written by person that you once were.

None of those sentences hint at forgiveness and if you're feeling pain now, you're going to feel even worse if you reconnect and rekindle something.
posted by bl1nk at 11:22 AM on July 15, 2013 [12 favorites]

Continue no contact, get a therapist, and give it time.

You are still raw now, but if you thought you were paranoid and jealous now, you will be unbearible if you get back with your Ex.

Fidelity is one of those things. Of course it would be easy to cheat "in the moment" and claim that your emotions got away with you, but because our word is important to us, we don't do that. We steer clear of people who can't control these urges because we can't trust them. ESPECIALLY if we are vulnerable about this one topic.

As it stands now, this girl will never be right for you. What she did, she did with open eyes. She knew exactly what she was doing and she did it anyway. Clearly she is only as faithful as her options.

She will move on, she will be with other men, and perhaps she'll be faithful to them. Oh well.

You will move on, you will be with other women. That's okay.

But seriously, let her alone. Don't contact her. If you think you feel terrible now, think about how much worse it will be if you keep repeating this same drama.

You'll be fine. I promise.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:23 AM on July 15, 2013 [7 favorites]

Do not attempt to be in a relationship with someone you hate and don't trust.
posted by KathrynT at 11:25 AM on July 15, 2013 [17 favorites]

do you believe that a relationship can continue after something like this has happened?

Sure, some folks can make it work.

In fact I'm pretty certain that I hate her.

But not you guys.

Continue the no-contact, stay broken up. Sorry you're going through this. It'll be ok.
posted by phunniemee at 11:26 AM on July 15, 2013 [36 favorites]

It's ok to be done. It's ok for it to be over. It's ok to not try to save something with someone who hurt you so badly. Sometimes, I think we feel like we have to try to save every relationship we have, but we don't. Although you occasionally miss her, it's normal - it's normal even if you really don't like her and don't have a lot of respect for her right now. It's not a sign, however, that you should rekindle the relationship.

Stay no contact. Talk with a therapist. They're good, neutral sounding boards, and will help you work through the negative emotions, and help you reframe what's going on, so you can learn and grow from this experience.

Also? Take care of you. Eat decently, as well as you can for now. Exercise, even if it's just going for a walk. Be nice to you.
posted by RogueTech at 11:28 AM on July 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

If the only reason you want to get back with someone is because you don't want her to be with anyone else, and you think you hate her, you need to avoid contact with this person for both your sakes. Also, get some therapy.
posted by xingcat at 11:28 AM on July 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

Some people forgive infidelity. You know that you're not one of those people. And this is your first serious relationship? You know that it's vanishingly unlikely that it would have been the last one, even without this happening, right? Relationships end; yours just ended. It hurts to be cheated on but you'll heal and be fine.

FYI, funny thing about breakups is, people almost always have moments of regretting them and missing the person etc, no matter how correct and necessary and appropriate the breakup was. Experience these feelings but don't listen to them, there's no signal in this noise.

Sorry it had to end this way, it hurts I know.
posted by fingersandtoes at 11:28 AM on July 15, 2013 [6 favorites]

Can a relationship survive infidelity? Yes. Can yours? No.

You said:

My girlfriend of about 2 years cheated on me. She first decided to break up with me a few days after she cheated.

And though I'm sure that's the way your ex has communicated it to you, I'd say otherwise. Knowing your past and your feelings on the matter, she didn't decide to break up with you after she cheated. When she cheated, she broke up with you. Whether or not that's how she sees it, that's the fact of the matter.

It hurts like hell I'm sure, but I promise it will get better. I almost always say 'try to keep in contact with your exes' but in this case, shut it down and keep your 'no contact' rules. Good luck.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:29 AM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

OK, look. Yes, relationships recover from cheating all the time. Different relationships work in different ways, though, and it sounds like yours does not work this way; I seriously doubt that you can make it work. And why would you want to? A relationship where you are raw, angry, suspicious, and jealous is way worse than no relationship at all. Move on as best you can. If you can afford it, short term therapy is probably a good call, just so you can process some of these feelings in a more productive way.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:29 AM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yes, relationships can come back from infidelity, but I don't think yours will. You describe her as "evil", that you "hate" her, and that "you can never fully trust her again". These are not the thoughts and feelings of a person whose relationship is likely to survive.

I think it is okay to have fidelity be a dealbreaker (it is for me too), and considering what happened with your family and your parents, I totally get why this is hurting so much.

Your relationship is done.
It is extremely unlikely that anything healthy or good is going to come from your trying to salvage this realtionship.
Go no contact and STAY no contact.
Find a counsellor so you can really work through these feelings you're having.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 11:29 AM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

It's not the thing she did that can or cannot be overcome, it's the trust and your reaction to it.

Right now you're subscribing all sorts of moral words like "evil". This is a terrible head space to be into get into a relationship with someone because at best your distrust is going to make you ask for all sorts of concessions that are not conducive to a healthy relationship.

Seriously, do you want to date this person again and then spend the rest of your relationship trying to punish her for her crime, or protect yourself against it?
posted by Phalene at 11:31 AM on July 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

I think it's a really bad idea to consider the possibility of rekindling anything. She misses you and feels bad because she did something bad; that's kind of how it works. You will miss her, but what you're really missing is the time before she cheated on you and you thought everything was good.

That said, I'm actually really good friends with my one ex that cheated on me; probably because we have literally been through everything together now. Emphasis on FRIENDS, though.
posted by destructive cactus at 11:39 AM on July 15, 2013

This the same girl from your last two questions, right? This is the third time in four months that you've posted a long, anguished AskMe about this one relationship. Go back and read those questions. Ponder for a moment on the amount of time and energy and heartache you've poured into this relationship. That's not anything that she's "made" you do; that's a choice you made on your own.

And now, ask yourself, why keep choosing to be in this situation that seems to make you so deeply unhappy?
posted by kagredon at 11:42 AM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Part of why you want to contact her is that, for a period of time, she was the most important person in your life and the person you turned to when you were upset or unhappy, so now, your instinct is to reach out to her, not as her, but as the person you can confide in.

That part will fade with time. There are other people to whom you can turn for comfort. Start exercising that part of your social muscle so that it rebuilds, and let atrophy the part of your social muscle that was linked to her. You can, and perhaps should, also find a therapist in whom you can trust and confide.

As others have said, this is not a relationship-ender for everyone, but that's not your question or your answer. Your question is whether it's a relationship-ender for you, and given what you have said, I think it is.
posted by janey47 at 11:44 AM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

You say you hate her. Why on earth would you consider a relationship with someone you hate?

If you're thinking this out of some kind of sense that grown-ups are supposed to accept that not everyone's perfect and that grown-up relationships take work and stuff like that - and I actually sort of suspect that may be what's going on - you're making the same mistake I did. Yes, relationships take work, but not like THIS. The kind of work they mean is about things like working out a true partnership and being able to talk things out when they get on your nerves a little, and about finding the courage in yourself to be vulnerable to your partner. Being a supportive partner does not mean you are giving up your own right to HAVE a supportive partner, and if someone breaks that initial contract then yes, you are absolutely in your rights to give up.

All those things people say about a relationship taking work do a piss-poor job of also saying "but there's such a thing as too much work, and there is a point when you can give up". Someone cheating on you and you being this hurt is a point when you can give up.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:48 AM on July 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

Look.. it's OK to not be in a relationship. And this one certainly is not working out for you, from history and from this question. Breaking up is something people do, and young people generally more often, you are searching around for what works and in time you will find it. this does not work.

With time you may come to the point where you don't hate her, because that is kind of what time does, but it is no reason to stay around waiting for it to happen.

IMO your two options are to: continue to completely ignore her, or, send (1) ONE message to the effect of "we are done, stop trying to contact me, I do not want to talk to you" and then completely ignore her.

Go get drunk for a day or something. Take a week long trip, jump in an ice cold lake... something to give yourself a little reset.

you'll be ok
posted by edgeways at 11:51 AM on July 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

I have resisted the urge to contact her at all for a couple of days now, but its difficult. Which finally leads me to my question, do you believe that a relationship can continue after something like this has happened? Should I attempt it? Should I stay on the path of no contact and attempt to move on?

I don't have an answer about what you should do, but I can tell you that you shouldn't connect these two things. During a breakup, even when the other person has betrayed you horribly, it's very natural to experience "difficulty" resisting the urge to contact the other person. She was a significant part of your life for two years, and quitting anything cold-turkey is hard—whether it's a substance or a habit or a relationship, whether it's for the better or not. It isn't difficult for every person in every circumstance, of course, but it is very natural for it to be difficult.

Don't read into that difficulty and conclude that it's some kind of indication that you would be happier if you reconciled, or an indication that you must have enough love toward her to make things work, or whatever else. It's not an indication. I'm not telling you that you can't make things work; that, I don't know. But you definitely cannot conclude anything from the feelings you're having other than, "Damn, splitting up is hard." Yep. It often is. That's all you're discovering.
posted by cribcage at 11:52 AM on July 15, 2013 [5 favorites]

Please seek therapy to help you process the impact of your parents' relationship on your life and love ways. Pay special attention to why you are holding on to this girlfriend way past her expiration date as evidenced by your previous questions. And, not to make too much of your username, ask yourself why you identify as YoungConfusedMan. Consider a Brand New Day.
posted by carmicha at 11:53 AM on July 15, 2013

After reading just this question, I absolutely agree that you should not rekindle this relationship.

After re-reading your past questions, I really urge you to stay as far away as possible from this woman, always, and to seek therapy. You've got a lot of stuff going on, past and present, and I think working with someone to untangle all of it will get you into a much happier place.
posted by jaguar at 11:58 AM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

I often ponder how evil she must be, as from the sound of it she planned on cheating to some extent, it wasn't just an in the moment mistake, and even worse, she knew that it was the worst thing she could have done to me. Why not just break up with me and do as you please afterwards?

Someone did this to me, too, when I was younger. To make a long story short, I had told him about this really upsetting way a dating relationship had ended in the past, he was super sympathetic, and then he basically went out and did the exact same thing; really, one of the most shocking things about it was just how many of the little details were the same.

But I don't think that made him EVIL. I think it made him a bad person for me, or possibly anyone to date. And I was very hurt when he did what he did. But I think people are messed up in all kinds of ways and do things for all sorts of messed up reasons that we may never understand. I just don't think chalking it up to EVIL is helpful.

I want to tell you that since then, I have dated people who are extremely honest, and I think once you have that experience, you will have absolutely no desire to go back to your ex. You know how there are certain people you can date, and you can tell yourself in your mind that you believe the things they say when they don't add up, but deep down you really don't? Or like they tell you that they will do something or not do something and you're not completely confident that's what will actually happen? It is hard to describe what a relief it is to date someone who is extremely honest. Where they say something that you have NO doubt at all that it is true. Where, deep down, you DO trust the things that they say. That experience was just a relief for me, more than anything, a huge relief. It is very stressful to be with someone who you don't (and maybe have good reason not to) trust.

You ask if you could go back to someone who cheated. For myself I don't know if I could even go back to someone who tells white lies. I mean, I could, but why would I now that I've experienced being with people who never do that?

Just move on. It's totally natural for you to want to talk to her. Your brain is just used to that, talking to her is a habit that you have and we are creatures of habit. That is going to subside a lot with time, the longer you go without talking to her.

If it's your first relationship, then this is all you know. I think that's part of why your brain keeps circling around to thinking about how to make it work with her. If it's your first/only relationship, then I think it's easy to be unconsciously thinking that this is the ONLY relationship or that this is just what a relationship is. And so if you want one you have to make this one work out because it's the only one. But that is not actually true at all.

And yes, please get therapy, because despite what other people do, it sounds like your paranoia and jealousy would be making you miserable no matter what kind of relationship you were in, and you might end up taking them out on someone who was not doing anything wrong.
posted by cairdeas at 11:59 AM on July 15, 2013 [5 favorites]

It's hard to accept the ending, but she was unfaithful, and then lied to you some more. I loved her... and still sort of do. You are on your way to healing from the hurt. Was the relationship so great that you would really want to go back? It really sounds like you don't want to, and I would go with that.

You're young, and your parents' relationship made a big impression, but a committed relationship/ marriage can survive infidelity, but both partners have to really want to salvage the relationship, work hard on it, and even then it may not survive.
posted by theora55 at 12:01 PM on July 15, 2013

Your relationship with her is not fixable. Your relationship with yourself, though, totally is.
posted by sm1tten at 12:16 PM on July 15, 2013 [4 favorites]

She doesn't miss you, she misses not feeling guilty. More lies. Kick her cheating ass to the curb.
posted by rhizome at 12:29 PM on July 15, 2013 [4 favorites]

I'm with the keep-her-dumped crowd. KTMFD. Start by asking her not to text you.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:46 PM on July 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

By the way, young is great. Young is resilient. Maybe you kind of had to go through this experience first-hand after enduring the parental fall-out all the years prior. And now you have, and yes, the flame was hot and it hurt. Nthing that therapy can help you "see" the hot hot places/people you need to avoid in the future.
posted by thinkpiece at 12:56 PM on July 15, 2013

Some people can make it work after an infidelity but it doesn't sound like you can. It sounds like you have a bunch of work to do on your personal baggage. If it were me, I might want to talk to her to try to understand where it went wrong but that's a very not easy thing to do. It does not sound like you would cope well with it. It does not sound like talking to her would be an enlightening growth experience. It sounds like it would probably just be further embittering.

I will nth "stay no contact and see a therapist."
posted by Michele in California at 1:12 PM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is something I am not proud of but when I was in college, I cheated on a guy. He was a rebound boyfriend after another guy broke my heart. He was nice to me and he liked me a lot but I wasn't into him. Meanwhile, I had a class with a guy who I had had a crush on for a long time and we started seeing each other. So I had to dump rebound guy.

Rebound guy said that my reasons for dumping him were stupid, he loved me, we could make it work, (sound familiar?) etc. I hung out with him occasionally because I thought that was the nice thing to do. Plus we sort of worked together so I couldn't be hostile. But I felt so frustrated. I thought, I already dumped you, why do I have to keep reminding you that I dumped you, I am seeing someone else, why can't you get that? In some ways, he took advantage of the fact that we sort of worked together and I had to be nice to try to convince me that we should get back together. And I was too immature and that I needed to ovary up and say, dude, it's over, I'm sorry.

I was wrong. Your ex was wrong. But her actions say that she does not want to get back together. Save yourselves a lot of grief and listen. It's like you're allergic to strawberries and she decided that's the only thing she can eat so you're asking us if you should just stab yourself with an epi-pen on a continuous basis.

Can relationships survive infidelity? Yes. Can yours? Maybe it can but it sounds morbidly dysfunctional. IME cheating isn't a disease, it's a symptom that something is very wrong. Keep ignoring her. You two are not good for each other.
posted by kat518 at 1:19 PM on July 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

Once lost, trust is nearly impossible to re-establish. It might be worth attempting if there were, say, a marriage or children involved, but that is not your situation. If you were unwise enough to try and get back together you would, sooner or later, be looking for signs of infidelity and that is a path to madness.

Fix yourself, find someone else.
posted by epo at 1:28 PM on July 15, 2013

I was already a paranoid, anxious, overly jealous person before (though I can normally contain these thoughts). I can only imagine how much worse these mental problems will get.

In order for you to have healthy relationships, you have to work on this first.

The ex girlfriend? Meh. Continue with no contact. She has much to learn, too.
posted by clearlydemon at 1:42 PM on July 15, 2013 [4 favorites]

As everyone else has said, trying to salvage this relationship would probably be a bad idea. To me the biggest factor is that you're young and this was your first serious relationship. Relationships when you're young often don't work out, and as you get more experience you'll probably learn more about what makes relationships work (and how to avoid staying in one that is not working).

This one pretty clearly didn't work out, so take whatever you can learn from the experience and move on. If it's possible for you to go through the breakup with nothing more than vague feelings of wanting to talk to them again, then that probably means it wasn't some kind of once in a lifetime perfect relationship that you'll never find again. At any rate I doubt that in 10 years regardless of what you relationship status is at that time you will look back and say "I wish I had tried to make things work with that ex-girlfriend who cheated on me".
posted by burnmp3s at 2:14 PM on July 15, 2013

Re youthful relationships:
Given your baggage, I would say that if no one landed in the ER, morgue or prison, it is nbd (or I might even say it is a wild success). Walk away. Do some therapy. Feel okay about it all.

(I say this as someone who has worked stupidly hard to have relationships end without ER, morgue or police involvement. I am not trying to be flippant or mock your history. If it sounds tongue in cheek, that's laughter at my own Greek Tragedy filled life that you are hearing.)
posted by Michele in California at 2:24 PM on July 15, 2013

There are fibs, little white lies, peccadilloes, and other small lapses that are easily overlooked. Because of your background with the conclusion that your straying mother 'wrecked the family', you will consider your ex-gf's betrayal a deal breaker. Move on no mater what ex-gf promises. You will never trust her.
posted by Cranberry at 2:27 PM on July 15, 2013

I often ponder how evil she must be

This is not worth pondering any further. You considered cheating to be a dealbreaker - stick to your guns on this one! Continue no contact, move on with your life. You'll find somebody else who won't cheat on you.
posted by number9dream at 2:29 PM on July 15, 2013

(Ignore this comment for about two months -- )

The good thing about being young is that you can move on with your life. You can meet and date many different wonderful people. Staying bitter -- or worse, staying in a bad relationship -- delays that process. Don't waste more of your time on this woman.

(-- and for now go ahead and be as angry as you want to be, while maintaining "no contact")
posted by salvia at 5:32 PM on July 15, 2013

So you were good enough to date for two years; but the second she found someone else, she cheated on you --- you might say she was sort of testing to see if she thought that new person was somehow "better" than staying with you. Her opinion was, yes: seeing that new person WAS a better deal.

But now, it sounds like that new relationship WASN'T a 'better deal' after all (did that person just want a one-night stand? Were THEY just cheating on THEIR partner? Unknown), and so rather than be single, she's trying to return to her fallback position: you.

You deserve someone who will treat you better than that.

Please go fully no-contact: no phone calls, no texts or emails or anything else. Delete her from your fb friends list; block her calls and messages; never respond to anything she sends. Don't worry about her reaction or hurting her feelings: she certainly isn't worried about YOUR feelings!
posted by easily confused at 5:51 PM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

There must be some little thing you've been meaning to do more of (go on a hiking trip with friends, learn how to juggle, watch an entire season of Scrubs...), and this young woman just gave you the fantastic gift of more time. Close your eyes, say a silent thank you, and move on.
posted by jander03 at 10:18 PM on July 15, 2013

Anyone who has ever experienced this (like me) and moved on (like me) has never regretted that they didn't get back together with the person. She doesn't sound like the "one that got away". She sounds like she is too immature to be in an adult relationship.
posted by dgran at 7:40 AM on July 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

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