Sanity check: whether to break up after (minor?) infidelity
February 24, 2017 7:33 AM   Subscribe

Following the discovery of a partner's recent one-time unfaithful behavior, a great deal of soul-searching has led to no clear answers on how to react. Is still-present love from both parties enough to warrant relegating this event to the past, or is it wiser to adhere to a strongly held principle that such behavior is unacceptable, recognizing that there were growing doubts about compatibility anyway?

Some details about the situation follow:

Us: A mid-twenties cis hetero couple a bit more than 1.5 years into a relationship, part of which was long distance. We now live together.

The relationship:
Started strong as a summer romance wherein we saw each other nearly every day, then survived a significant move. She's sweet, bright, and has a penchant for taking on as much as she can handle (work, arts, etc.), which I deeply admire. She loves the fact that I'm difficult to rattle and rarely become upset, loves my sense of humor. The physical chemistry has been good, and although I'd wager we have less frequent sex than the average for our age group, it's not due to lack of attraction -- just more our speed. (We've explicitly discussed this as a point of curiosity and have concluded that neither of us feels unfulfilled there). We have similar talents outside of work and love being around each other.

The relationship hasn't been without problems. I have sometimes been frustrated by her tendency to become quickly overwhelmed by situations that elicit an emotional response (e.g. a difficult interaction at work, a comment in a social setting taken as a slight), sometimes "shutting down" and withdrawing for hours with little warning.

I certainly haven't been perfect. There have been times when reactions I've had in social situations have made her feel small, dismissed, or as though her feelings have been invalidated. These are moments that are unintentional on my part but regarding which, on reflection, I've seen why I've been in the wrong. For the purposes of this question, please assume that her complaints here are definitely valid, but also that they don't rise to the level of abuse. Please also assume that although these situations have come up occasionally, they've been getting less frequent, and we've always been able to find time to clearly communicate to each other our thought processes, feelings, and how we can move forward.

The event:
A couple of weeks ago at a social event, we had a speed bump of a similar nature to the occasional problems described in the previous paragraph. We found time to talk about it, and I thought that we had settled the issue. However, in the middle of last week after her therapy appointment, she came home and I could tell she was upset. I asked her if she was, and she revealed that she had been having doubts about whether we were really doing better about addressing our occasional problems; i.e., whether we were making progress as a couple or just running into the same issues. I admit that I sometimes have had very similar doubts about the relationship. We talked through this worry, me suggesting that we had time to discuss and work through this, but her suggesting that it might be better for her to take some time to stay with relatives -- she was suggesting doing so that very night. I was surprised by how distressed she was -- I had thought we were doing pretty well recently -- and managed to convince her to stay for the night. This was a long discussion and I can't remember all of the details, but I thought I had made it clear that I was going to work to do better in the future and we could move forward. The next morning I was quite rattled by this talk and was terribly worried.

A few days later, I made a big ask of her that I saw as totally unrelated. Background info: a fellow in an arts project she's involved in (we'll call him X) was recently described to both of us as not quite a "missing stair" in the community, but somewhat of a sleaze, often pursuing women in that arts group whom he has some influence over within that sphere. She was friendly with him in the same way as she is with other members of the group. However, about a week earlier, I had begun to notice (in the same way that a manager probably notices an employee always switching browser tabs when he comes by) that she was closing her computer screen or flipping her phone over at odd times, and I would sometimes catch a glimpse of his name. I was worried that X was flirting with her and that she might not realize his intentions. Therefore I asked something that felt a bit gross and invasive to me: I asked if I could see his messages to her, thinking I might end up asking her to shut him down.

She refused, which rocked me. It turned out the reason was simple impossibility -- she had deleted their messages in a panic because (as she admitted right then) a few days earlier, the morning after our hard conversation, she had gone to his place and had some kind of amorous physical interaction. (I didn't ask for specific details regarding extent, but if it matters, she claims they didn't have sex). I was totally blindsided by this. She had to go to an event, and once she left, I chose to spend the night out of town to think. I told her that I was terribly hurt and that we'd talk the next day.

The decision:
Long story short, after much thought during that 24 hours away, I ended up calling things off once I returned. She is now claiming that her actions were a terrible mistake and that the event has made her realize how deeply she wants us to stay together. I still love and care for her deeply, but I keep thinking that one of the core assumptions about the relationship was invalidated: whichever problems we ran into, at least we could always take the time to work out our problems with each other first. Regardless of the physical betrayal, I couldn't believe that she, at that moment of deciding to go where she did that morning, would value honesty with X over honesty with me. Furthermore, even once the act itself was out in the open, there's been enough reticence to open up to me that I still feel in the dark about many associated facts (haven't gone into detail on these).

I've always thought that infidelity would be an instant deal-breaker for me. I had told myself that except in the cases of physical danger or abuse, there is always an obligation to a partner to seek to resolve the problem or properly cut things off. But I'm more confused than I would ever have anticipated. Is it hypocritical to cut things off just once I've been deeply hurt, even though I've been guilty of hurting her feelings in the past? Or is this betrayal fundamentally different than the problems we had encountered? Is the desire to return to normalcy after such a jarring event clouding the idea that we should have recognized fundamental incompatibilities even in the absence of this event?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (35 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
IF this is going to cloud your trust in her going forward, end the relationship now rather than dragging the inevitable. If you can forgive and I mean truly forgive (not checking her phone, not trusting her to tell you if it happens again) then live a happy life.
posted by radsqd at 7:37 AM on February 24, 2017 [2 favorites]

She is now claiming that her actions were a terrible mistake and that the event has made her realize how deeply she wants us to stay together.

FWIW, this is what literally everyone says after they get caught cheating.
posted by ftm at 7:41 AM on February 24, 2017 [59 favorites]

Is it hypocritical to cut things off just once I've been deeply hurt, even though I've been guilty of hurting her feelings in the past?

No. This is a trust issue. Presuming you guys were in a monogamous relationship and this was against the rules of that relationship. For some people it's a bigger deal than others. If you were a couple who had been married for 20 years I might lean towards the "hey seek counseling, try to work this out together" angle, but if you're young, the relationship is new-ish and it seems like your decision may have been (to this outside observer) the correct one.

managed to convince her to stay for the night.

This is the one part of what you said that sounded.... odd. She was thinking she should stay with relatives, was really upset, and you sort of ... overrode her feelings to get what you wanted? And then the next day she went to this guy's house? It sounds like you guys may not be on a level playing field from an agency standpoint which would be a concern of mine if you did decide to go the "work it out" route.
posted by jessamyn at 7:42 AM on February 24, 2017 [30 favorites]

You're both in your mid 20s and this relationship is just 1.5 years old (with no discounting for its summer fling origins and long-distance period). It shouldn't be so much work at this point. You should still be in the throes of mutual delight, exploration and excitement. Even if you get past this speed bump, you won't have fixed the fundamental problem that you just aren't all that into each other in the ways necessary to forge a sustainable, successful partnership.

Both of you should take what you've learned through this relationship and move on. I'm sorry.

PS In hindsight I've been grateful to certain exes for their infidelity; it brought fundamental questions to the fore.
posted by carmicha at 7:48 AM on February 24, 2017 [14 favorites]

Adding to what the others are saying: I'm not a big fan of society's narrative that says "OMG, she cheated once, she's evil, you must dramatically fling all your clothes into a suitcase and slam the door on the way out like in the movies, even though you love each other." Nobody is perfect, and both she and you have flaws. Relationships take hard, hard work on both sides. You wouldn't be human if that weren't the case. But yes, if it's this much work in your 20s, there are many, many other options out there.
posted by Melismata at 7:51 AM on February 24, 2017 [8 favorites]

she revealed that she had been having doubts about whether we were really doing better about addressing our occasional problems; i.e., whether we were making progress as a couple or just running into the same issues.

She reached out to someone else because she fundamentally isn't sure you guys are right for each other.

Now that she's been caught out, she has had time to reflect and really doesn't want to lose you. But, is this because she is afraid of being alone, of being single, or is it because she really truly loves you?

Personally, I'd say she sounds quite reactive. She isn't sure what she wants. She's having doubts about your relationship, she runs to someone else. You break it off with her and she's desperate for another chance.

I would venture that if you DO give it another shot, she would be placated for a couple of weeks but then all of your previous issues will rear their ugly heads again and you'll be back at square one.

I don't think she is a terrible person at all. I just think you are both young and figuring things out. I would agree with one of the posters above who states that this is a relatively short term relationship and you're probably both better off just saying goodbye and seeing what else is out there.
posted by JenThePro at 7:56 AM on February 24, 2017 [8 favorites]

She seems immature (and maybe you would too, if we heard this from her side). I wouldn't be able to trust someone after this. Maybe if she had come home from the "amorous encounter" and immediately told you and asked for your forgiveness. But no, she continued to talk to the guy and hide it from you. What if you had not confronted her? This probably would have gone on for awhile.
posted by AFABulous at 7:58 AM on February 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't say that infidelity is a cause for an immediate breakup. Infidelity is a symptom of a relationship that isn't working and produces the conditions where infidelity becomes possible. You guys were already working on this, and -- how much work should this really be? For a couple in their 20s?
posted by Capt. Renault at 7:58 AM on February 24, 2017 [3 favorites]

My rule of thumb: When you list out all the pros and cons and tldrs and whatever, the thing you say last is how you really feel, and you're really just asking permission to feel that way:
Is the desire to return to normalcy after such a jarring event clouding the idea that we should have recognized fundamental incompatibilities even in the absence of this event?
posted by Etrigan at 8:11 AM on February 24, 2017 [9 favorites]

You've gotten some great advice, but I just want to address this:

Is it hypocritical to cut things off just once I've been deeply hurt, even though I've been guilty of hurting her feelings in the past?

This is not really super-relevant here. You don't have to be the "one in the right" to break up with her. You don't have to add up all of her infractions, all of your infractions, and then if yours are less than hers, you get to break up with her. Breaking up is a unilateral decision (especially when you're young and unmarried and don't have kids) that doesn't require complicated justifications. If you are deeply hurting each other, that's enough reason to break up, if it's enough reason for you.

I would suggest that you can be kind to her in this process by not casting her as the "bad one" who forced you to break up with her. It does sound like you both were having doubts about the relationship, and you both were hurting each other. Really, that's enough.
posted by lunasol at 8:26 AM on February 24, 2017 [18 favorites]

It's not just an infidelity. It's clear from your description of her words that difficult evening that you two are not in agreement concerning the state of your relationship. You think you have the occasional problem you're working on, with issues on both sides. She thinks she may need to break up with you on the spot. Meanwhile, you are "accidentally" noticing names on her screens like a work supervisor (!) and then asking to see all her communications with someone on the supposed assumption that he could be flirting with her without her realizing it (!) rather than asking her about her interactions with him, which would be the first step for most partners with any trust in each other.

Based on the limited information you've given us, there is a whole range of possibilities here, from her simply having a strongly different view of how well the relationship is working for her than yours (which unfortunately can happen to any couple) to your engaging in harmful and controlling behaviors with her into which you have zero insight. I don't want to be dogmatic on where your problems fall, but I don't see a good future for the relationship anywhere within that range.
posted by praemunire at 8:29 AM on February 24, 2017 [8 favorites]

Yes, it is a terrible mistake to cheat on your partner. To me, it is unforgivable. YMMV. You need to decide if it's a dealbreaker for you. There are women out there who won't cheat on you. If you want to find one of those people, you need to stick to your original instinct.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:32 AM on February 24, 2017 [3 favorites]

Regardless of the physical betrayal, I couldn't believe that she, at that moment of deciding to go where she did that morning, would value honesty with X over honesty with me.

I don't quite understand why you think this happened or even what it means. It seems much more likely to me that she chose the sleaze to go to for comfort because you don't have to be honest with a sleaze or consider his feelings when you're in distress. Some mental contortion along the lines of, it's not as bad if I do it with someone I don't respect.

Beyond that though, I have noticed that there's a very strong trend, backed by I assume very strong social pressure, to always say "It's not the cheating I mind, it's the [whatever]," where [whatever] is something that's socially acceptable in your peer group to be upset by.

that is just to say that it is completely possible to be destroyed by the physical betrayal, and legitimate to decide the relationship is over because of that. There does not have to be a bigger or more symbolic issue at stake for you to be hurt by this and to choose not to forgive it. It's enough on its own, if you decide it is.
posted by queenofbithynia at 8:33 AM on February 24, 2017 [5 favorites]

You were both having doubts. She wanted a break and then had a thing with another guy. She's saying it was a mistake and wants to stay together because:

1. she's busted;
2. she probably wants you to think well of her;
3. she's busted.

From what I gather, she wouldn't have told you about this one instance had she not been busted (and my money's on there's more than one interaction -- it's like when someone cops to doing one thing, thinking that absolves them from everything they did).

I was worried that X was flirting with her and that she might not realize his intentions.

I doubt this. You wanted to check her stuff because you didn't trust her and from your description of her behavior, clearly something hinky was going on. Please don't pretend you were trying to protect her from an amorous clown because she's too immature to recognize flirtatious behavior. You wanted to confirm your suspicions, which you did.

You were having doubts and wanted to work it out. She was having doubts and screwed around with someone else. Time to pull the bandage off. Break up.*

* Whenever a person is asking for a sanity check, they're asking for permission to do what is already in their heart. You don't need permission. Just do it.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 8:35 AM on February 24, 2017 [25 favorites]

I've been in (and seen others go through) relationships where infidelity was a relationship-ender immediately, and others where people tried and failed to work through it, and others where it was in fact eventually worked through. The basic fact of infidelity isn't what breaks or successfully remakes a relationship - it always has a context, and what happens next depends on that context.

It's okay to stay and try to make it work even if you always thought you wouldn't: Living something is different than mentally playing it through in your head before you're actually confronted with it. Don't break it off just because you told yourself that you would, hypothetically, sometime in the past; you don't have to hold yourself hostage to your past self's intentions purely on principle, if you find they no longer make sense to you in the moment.

That said, my outsider's view of this particular context is that it's really a pretty new relationship and one that you seemed to already be doubting before this happened, and it's not the strongest basis to rebuild from. I think this might be a "walk away now" situation or at the very least a "take some time apart and then see how you're feeling once the immediate aftermath dies down" situation.
posted by Stacey at 8:43 AM on February 24, 2017 [6 favorites]

I was worried that X was flirting with her and that she might not realize his intentions.

Please tell me you didn't think an experienced 25-year-old woman wouldn't be able to pick up on the fact that another man was flirting with her and needed you to interpret his words for her. If you didn't trust her, own that - it sounds like you had good reason not to - but don't disguise your actions in some kind of damsel-needs-saving narrative. She clearly didn't need your protection from him.

You're mid-20s and it's a an early LTR with lots of drama, so I'd say move on and apply whatever lessons you learn to your next relationship. Hopefully one of those lessons learned is that the person you're with has agency, for better or worse. And if they express a need for some space (to go stay with relatives, for example), then give them space.
posted by headnsouth at 8:49 AM on February 24, 2017 [26 favorites]

If you have any thoughts at all about staying together, you need a third eyeball on this. See a therapist together to have him or her evaluate your communication styles and your compatibility. It sounds to me like you are a little too overbearing for her to handle. But it doesn't sound like you guys are anywhere near "beyond hope." It's impossible to tell just from hearing just your perspective.
posted by SLC Mom at 8:51 AM on February 24, 2017

I.....don't think that a relationship this new for people this young should be this much work. I think this is the natural break-up point. To be honest, when I hear "we need to work to grow as a couple", I start to get uneasy anyway, because before you've really built a life together, you should "grow as a couple" organically.

If it's a lot of work to get on enough of the same page even to date, that bodes ill for a happy long-term relationship. It's one thing to need some therapy to work through a specific issue, or to process a big, shared life change; it's another to need couples therapy to work through the very early stages of a relationship.

think it's really easy to get into a headspace where a relationship is treated as a given, like it's a chronic illness. If you had a chronic illness, it would be very reasonable and appropriate to seek out different therapies to find out how to live most comfortably; it would be very reasonable and appropriate to accept that some things you might want to do would be impossible because of the illness. You'd look for ways to expand your world while still dealing with the constraints of the illness, and that would be a very sound response. But this isn't in fact a good response to personality differences in a relationship, especially a new one.

For me, I think you should end the relationship now, not because of the infidelity per se but because you've gotten into a pattern where the relationship itself sounds like it's adversarial, a lot of work and more of a project than a pleasure.

I don't know how many relationships you've had, but it is very possible to have a relationship where you don't need generic assistance to "move forward" and "grow" because your basic personalities and goals align already.
posted by Frowner at 9:00 AM on February 24, 2017 [14 favorites]

I had begun to notice (in the same way that a manager probably notices an employee always switching browser tabs when he comes by)

I just wanted to say that you got good advice above but this analogy is deeply weird and, coupled with your throwaway comment that "her complaints here are definitely valid, but also... don't rise to the level of abuse," is giving me pause. Have you thought about individual therapy to work out some of your stuff that you're bringing to the table here? It's going to crop up again in future relationships, certainly, which I say because I think that yes - this one is over. I'm sorry. Best of luck and take care of yourself.
posted by sockermom at 9:00 AM on February 24, 2017 [24 favorites]

Also looking through your timeline -- she returned from her therapist appt and you had to ask if she was upset because she wasn't going to say anything -- just give out upset vibes (ugh). She was upset and she wanted to spend the night elsewhere, and she was probably planning on spending the night with this guy. She stayed the night instead with you, you two had a laborious conversation and the first thing next morning, she booked to his place where something happened.

She's not playing fair with you. Break up.

Also "her complaints here are definitely valid, but also... don't rise to the level of abuse" gives me pause. So, has the notion of abuse been tossed about? Although we can only see your side here, it's clear she made plans to get out. Let her get out.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 9:11 AM on February 24, 2017 [8 favorites]

If this were truly a one off/weird situation and/or if you guys had been together for a long time or were married, I'd say try to work through it if you think that is a possibility. In this case, it sounds like you guys were heading toward a break up regardless of whether or not the cheating occurred, so maybe this is a good natural ending point for the relationship.
posted by rainbowbrite at 9:13 AM on February 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

Mid-20s; at 1.5 years already rocky; so little trust that you demand to see her messages (!); such fundamental disconnect in perception that she is thinking about breaking up while you are thinking everything is going well; AND her reaction to things coming to a head with you is to seek comfort with another guy within hours? This is not your forever relationship. It's time to end it.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:28 AM on February 24, 2017 [4 favorites]

Hurting her feelings =/= her cheating.
Others are right, 1.5 years in to a relationship in your mid-twenties should not be like this. You should follow your gut and, also as others have said, learn from this relationship.
posted by shesbenevolent at 9:35 AM on February 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

When I was in my early-mid twenties and everyone thought they were an adult but were still figuring out this whole "human relationships" deal, having an affair as a way to spur on an interminable but inevitable breakup was pretty common. If I'm reading the timeline right she had been flirting with this guy for at least a couple days before her therapy session. She hasn't been happy for awhile but she hasn't really learned how to communicate that to you, or she didn't feel safe doing so.

I think your instincts that this relationship is best ended are the correct ones. NOT as a punishment to her or validation that you are good and she is evil, but because it really doesn't sound healthy for either of you right now.
posted by muddgirl at 9:38 AM on February 24, 2017 [4 favorites]

Let this relationship end. It's over. Neither of you want it to be over in the short term, because dealing with the end of things and moving out and the rest really fucking sucks, but it's over. It'll be worse if you drag it out.

I agree with others who have noted a few flags in your description. I understand the desire to "convince" someone to stay (and I did something very similar at like 23/24), but it's um...never ok, really? You can say, "I really don't want you to leave," but dude. She wanted to leave. You pressured her into not leaving. Then she cheated, ensuring that you would let her leave. This is not invalidated by the fact that she now wants you back; that's pretty normal for a break up, I think. Everyone has second thoughts when confronted with the difficulty of moving on.

But she wanted to leave. Let her leave, and take this opportunity to think about the relationship from a distance. Don't stay in contact. Go cold turkey.

And know that doing some problematic things doesn't make you necessarily a problematic person, it just makes you young and imperfect. But, you know. Work on that.
posted by schadenfrau at 9:46 AM on February 24, 2017 [5 favorites]

Also, seconding muddgirl. This isn't about a winner or a loser or deciding who's right or wrong or justified or whatever. You aren't right for each other right now, and you know this because at least one of you is unhappy in the relationship and looking for hamhanded ways of getting out. (And didn't have the skills to do that, so she cheated.) That's enough. Sometimes people just aren't compatible, and it says nothing about either of them as people.

Also...being cheated on really fucking sucks. It's ok to let yourself have all the feelings about that. She should have come to you and just broken up with you, but my guess (or my experience) is that people don't just cheat when they don't have the skills to communicate to their partner, they cheat when they don't have the skills to communicate with themselves. Sometimes it's easier for the person who was betrayed to remember or realize that the person who betrayed them wasn't doing it maliciously, but, you know. You also get to be pretty pissed off.

Do what you need to do, and allow yourself some leeway.
posted by schadenfrau at 9:50 AM on February 24, 2017 [5 favorites]

I think now is the time to realize your lingering unmet needs with her. Most precisely, the one you intimated to us: the one where you're feeling like you're in the dark still. You both need to come very, very clean with one another, with the goal of finding true space, coherency, and acceptance around the issue. You need to feel satisfied and like the trust is worth rebuilding. You should know how it will be felt going forwards. Otherwise, I too, don't suggest you continue, as hard as that'll be in its own way.
posted by a good beginning at 10:03 AM on February 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

Yeah, you don't sound like you trust her at all, and never have, even before the cheating. You convinced her to stay, so you didn't trust that she was doing the right thing in leaving. You tried to check her messages, so you didn't trust her communications with X.

The fact that you were "right" in not wanting her to leave (because she would have gone to cheat on you) and in wanting to see her messages (because they were evidence of her cheating) does not change this fact at all. You don't trust her. You never trusted her.

Don't get back together with someone you don't trust.
posted by chainsofreedom at 10:50 AM on February 24, 2017 [3 favorites]

I've always thought that infidelity would be an instant deal-breaker for me.

This is what most everyone thinks until they're presented with a real-life scenario. It's up to you to figure out how to move forward. Crowdsourcing opinions can help you deal with your decision and your feelings, but it can't (and shouldn't) make the decision for you.

A word from a couple decades later in life: infidelity is something you'll be faced with in almost any relationship, whether it's openly addressed or not. There's an element of human nature at play here, and the odds increase over time. For some people, any kind or duration of infidelity is too much, and that's valid--as are the many variations on accepting and moving on from infidelity.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 11:18 AM on February 24, 2017 [4 favorites]

I had a similar situation as you. My partner was pseudo-cheating on me and denying it. I anonymously posted it here and the universal response was DTMFA. I ignored that advice, and I'm glad I did because a few years after the fact, things are better than they've ever been and we're about to get married. Metafilter is very quick to suggest breakups, even before less extreme measures have been tried.

That said, the thing that saved our relationship was that my partner owned up to what they were doing, apologized, immediately cut off contact with the offending parties, and truly tried to fix the problems in our relationship that caused the rift in the first place. We also did not have the nagging problems your relationship had - other than the pseudo-cheating, the relationship was very good.

Let me suggest a thought experiment: let's say that your partner apologizes and truly never does this again, and you believe them and the trust issues are fixed. Would you want to stay in this case? If you don't think you'd want to stay even in this highly idealized scenario, it's time to let it go.

If you WOULD stay in this hypothetical scenario, then it's time for you to make a list of the things that you need to be happy in the relationship: presumably them truly coming clean with you and opening up and being honest. What else? Take that list and really evaluate whether you think she is capable of meeting those requirements, given where you're at. If you think it's very unlikely, let it go. If you think there's a realistic possibility, then present the list to her and see how it goes. If she reacts positively, maybe give it another go, with a date to re-evaluate a month or two out. If at that point things are looking better, congrats! If not, then let it go.

I mean, as you can see, a lot of things need to go right for it to work out and only one thing needs to go wrong. It's not IMPOSSIBLE that it works, I know because we did it in my relationship, but I'm not going to claim it was easy. It was only because both of us put 100% into the relationship and each other immediately that we survived. But if you are both really interested and really into doing the work, then it's survivable. But you have to both be willing to give your all, and you can't control whether she is or not.
posted by zug at 11:34 AM on February 24, 2017 [6 favorites]

Infidelity is a complete deal breaker for me, and it has in fact ended a couple of very serious relationships for me in the past. It would end my marriage to my beloved husband, and it would also wound me fundamentally.

So, now that you know where I am coming from, let me tell you that I think you should listen to your own heart. If you feel this relationship is deep and meaningful and satisfying enough, and if you think this breach of trust can be mended, there is nothing wrong with giving your partner another chance.

I do see some things in your account of the relationship that make me wonder if it is right for both of you, though. First, I think you are a good deal more committed to honesty than she is. This is a big thing because if honesty is a fundamental value or need for you, you are never going to be able to make this relationship work. Second, I think she acts much more than you do on emotion. More rational people tend to be drawn to more emotional people, but you have to really respect and value each other's modes of operation, and I'm not picking that up as to either of you. I think you tend to critique her emotional responses, and she feels unheard and criticized by your rationality. This appears to be a significant area of incompatibility, and it isn't one I think you can fix. Third, like others, I am picking up that you are in the power position in this relationship. That doesn't mean you are abusive, but it does mean you two are not on the same level, and that is fatal.

I'd give some real thought to how solid and rewarding this relationship really is, in short. And again, I think you have to spend some time asking yourself what your heart is telling you about giving her another chance. (I think identifying your own emotions comes a bit hard to you, so it is worth trying to do that.)

Best wishes to you.
posted by bearwife at 12:40 PM on February 24, 2017 [4 favorites]

Look when someone is cheating on you, its very possible to pick up on the signs subconsciously. Then you might try to convince yourself its not true. Still the signs persist and you start looking for proof one way or another because the nagging feelings of fear and dread wont go away. You feel suspicious and then you feel guilty for not trusting someone you love. Its making you crazy, a horrible trip through a house of mirrors where everything reflected is ugly and distorted. You wonder how you got to this point. You struggle to figure it all out.

My advice is, get off this ride now. Its no way to live, and it can do you some long term damage. If she had confessed to you unprompted, maybe I'd be tempted to give her a chance, but as others have said, she only confessed because she was caught. I dont think true trust is possible after that.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 1:06 PM on February 24, 2017 [5 favorites]

I just wanted to say that you got good advice above but this analogy is deeply weird and, coupled with your throwaway comment that "her complaints here are definitely valid, but also... don't rise to the level of abuse," is giving me pause

I really really noticed this too. Also that "we" had a speed bump of the type where you make her feel small, dismissed, or invalidated (your words), and you thought "we" had settled the issue and the discussion was whether "we" were making progress. I really wonder exactly what this was, and if it is just a "speed bump" why was it big enough to make her question the relationship, and why is this a "we" discussion instead of an "I" discussion, as in, I hurt her by invalidating her, I am working on my issues, I am making progress? I don't see much sign of owning your behavior and taking responsibility. Plus, I notice what looks to me like a very neat trick in which she has become the villain and you the victim, and this earlier pattern of "speed bumps" is conveniently forgotten. Also, her grievances are about how you hurt her, while your grievances are about how she's not behaving the way you would like. This is super super fishy to me.

I notice that she had intended to go for comfort to her relatives and you blocked her from that, somehow, by "convincing her to stay", which I read as an alarming act of control. By acting surprised at how distressed she was, you downplayed the seriousness of the "speed bump" which for her was serious enough to shake the foundations of the relationship. Through this you communicated to her that you thought her distress over her injury, that you caused, was inappropriate, which I read as another alarming act of control. See: making her feel dismissed and invalidated. Her infidelity here, though a problem for your relationship, reads to me as less of a betrayal and more of an act of resistance. Pressure being released, asserting that she controls her own life, that sort of thing. I think it's a reaction to the deeper pattern.

I could be wrong, but whatever this is, I don't think it is healthy, and the two of you don't seem set up to come together in a healthy way. Frankly I don't think staying together is a good idea.
posted by PercussivePaul at 1:51 PM on February 24, 2017 [14 favorites]

Doesn't sound like you love her. This is all super rationalized. For her sake and yours let it go.
posted by spitbull at 7:42 PM on February 24, 2017

Regardless of the physical betrayal, I couldn't believe that she, at that moment of deciding to go where she did that morning, would value honesty with X over honesty with me.

Based on how the discussion where she wanted to go stay with her family went, this isn't surprising at all. She said she wanted to go, you guys then have a conversation so long you don't remember exactly what you said and she wound up not leaving. She may feel like you talked her out of getting the space and time she wanted to process things.

I suspect she cheated on you as a way to self- sabotage the relationship: do something unforgivable so you dump her instead of talking her out of leaving you. That's not to say it's your fault. If that is what she did, that was very immature of her. Her pushing back now could be sincere, she now regrets her actions and wonders if you guys can work it out. Or it could be her trying to make you be the bad guy. Either way I'd personally not want to deal with it.

Also, like some others have noted some of what you describe seems a bit troubling. Part of it may be a response to whatever clues you were picking up re: infidelity. You may also be someone who needs to talk through something to process. That's fair, but some people need to process internally first, and letting them do that can help your conversations be more productive.

And for future reference, you shouldn't try to argue someone into staying with you. It's not good for either of you.
posted by ghost phoneme at 5:34 AM on February 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

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