How to confront a cheating, abroad girlfriend?
September 27, 2006 10:17 AM   Subscribe

How to confront an abroad girlfriend about cheating.

Alright. Grab a drink or a cup of coffee because this one is a little long. I'll shorten it to the essentials, but it's still a tale. And I've got a hangover, so excuse any run ons enetnces and misspellings and what have yous.

I met this girl around St. Patrick's Day. We hit it off incredibly well, foolowed around a lot and spent plenty of time together. I graduated college in May, we decided to stick it out and then she went to India for the month of June. When she got back, I went to visit her for the 4th of July, we spent a few days together, it was great, perfect, whatever. The two of us had a really busy month (She worked everyday 8-4, I worked 9-5) so we kept in touch, but I didn't see her in person again.

At the end of July, she left for Ecuador. She won't be back until December. We had a state of the union chat and decided, again, to stick it out. There was a general agreement there that if one of us got drunk and made out with somebody or took someone home, whatever. It wouldn't be the situation you'd lay awake at night hoping for but, hey, it happens. So, she left. We e-mail back and forth every 2 or 3 days (Usually Mon, Weds, Fri, her internet access is sporadic) and I call her once a week.

Maybe about a month into the trip she sent an e-mail to some mutual friends of ours detailing the fact that she'd met 2 guys, one of whom she referred to as "aminovio", which comes close to meaning "engaged" or "serious boyfriend", but later revealed itself to be a typo. Don't worry. We'll get there. The word she meant was, "amigovio" which is loosely a contraction of friend-lover, or friends with benefits. We went to a small school, so of course the text of the e-mail found it's way to me within days. Secrets are, more or less, the coin of the realm.

I sort didn't know what to do about it. I felt terrible, I feel terrible and before I could really confront her about it, she told me all about the one guy and how he was a jerk and she wasn't seeing him anymore. She didn't detail any romantic encounters they may have had, she made it out to be a kind of friendship gone bad. So, fine. I figured I could lie to myself and put it to bed as long as she came home. At this point, she doesn't know that I know about the second guy. I get drunk one night and send her a real guilt trip of an e-mail, something about "Look, I love that I can trust you and that I don't have to worry about you running around on me", she replies "I'd never hurt you, but I do have my moments". Which, yeah, sucks, but again, a moment or two never killed anybody.

So, the month of September moves by somewhat uneventfully. I still kinda feel like hell about it, but in general our conversations are pleasent and she genuinely seems to miss me and so whatever and ever, amen. But then a few days ago she sent another e-mail to the same group of mutual friends referring to this second boy as "amigovio". She's mentioned this boy offhand to me before, as a friend, but never as a lover, obviously.

Now, I'm okay with a drunk hookup here and there, but this sounds less like a "moment" and more like a sort of casual relationship. It's becoming clear to me that this isn't something I can bury my head in the sand over. I need to talk to her about it. But I'm typically bad in confrontations. What I want to say is two-fold. One, borrowing from Luna: "Tell me, do you miss me?" and the other is: "Do whatever, come home to me, but come home 100%". I've made tentative plans to visit her at the end of October, but I don't wanna spend 600$ to board a sinking ship so to speak.

I guess what I'm looking towards Ask MeFi for is advice. Tips on how to confront the situation, anecdotes about similar situations etc.

Just for background: I'm usually REALLY bad at long distance relationships, but I buckled down for this one. I haven't even so much as touched another woman since she left, but I've been having a really hard time adjusting to "the real world". I went from being fairly popular to being incredibly lonely. I get out a lot, but I end up doing it alone. Things could be worse, but they could be better. And so I think I've sort of projected some of that onto our relationship and I'm letting it kick me around more than I usually would.

Anyway. Thanks for the, erm, tips.
posted by GilloD to Human Relations (53 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The two of us had a really busy month (She worked everyday 8-4, I worked 9-5) so we kept in touch, but I didn't see her in person again.

I don't get this- you were in the same area, but didn't see each other for a whole month because you have regular jobs like most people? Or am I reading that part wrong?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:25 AM on September 27, 2006 [1 favorite]

Move on with your life. Revisit the "relationship" in December when she comes back.
posted by MrZero at 10:28 AM on September 27, 2006

Move on.
posted by Ookseer at 10:28 AM on September 27, 2006

There was a general agreement there that if one of us got drunk and made out with somebody or took someone home, whatever.

Man, when you gamble, the house always comes out ahead.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 10:28 AM on September 27, 2006 [11 favorites]

what Mr. zero said
posted by bitdamaged at 10:31 AM on September 27, 2006

It seems to me that you tried to go through the right steps and come to an understanding about what behaviour is expected while you're apart, but that the two of you actually came away with very different understandings. Her actions match better with your words ('took someone home, whatever') that seem to indicate casual hookups are okay than your life of solidarity and celibacy seems to.

It's reasonable of you to want her to be more faithful than she's being, but I think, given that understanding you describe, she may not know that's what you want. I don't have any specific advice on how to have that conversation (except to do it sooner rather than later), but I have some other advice:

Stop spending all your time alone. You can have friends without having lovers, be they girls or boys. Go out and do stuff with other people. You already realize loneliness may be blurring your perspective, and right now, in this situation, you can't stop her from sleeping with other people, but you can stop you from being lonely. So affect what you can affect.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:31 AM on September 27, 2006

And by 'solidarity', I meant 'solitariness'. Though 'solidarity' is not exactly inappropriate, either.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:33 AM on September 27, 2006

Response by poster: ThePinkSuperhero- She lived in DC, I live in NYC. It wasn't a long bus ride, but neither of us had access to cars. We both had jobs that we couldn't just pick up and go from and it was just a crazy busy month, packed weekends and whatnot. I should have made more of an effort, but that's hindsight for ya.

SaucyIntruder- Thanks for the chuckle. I needed it.

I guess what really astounds me here is that in all the time we spent together, we were very honest, we had great communication. I always figured she'd break up with me long before she began any kind of real fucking around. She's not a person who is really held back by anything, but she is honest. Whcih is why this really came out of nowhere.

I really wanted to just go LALALALALA until December, but I'm not sure that's gonna work anymore.
posted by GilloD at 10:33 AM on September 27, 2006

Yeah, live free for a few months until she returns. Long periods abroad have ways of changing folks, so the girl that comes back in December may not be the same one you saw in July.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 10:35 AM on September 27, 2006

Response by poster: Jacq: Casual hookups are fine. I mean, of course I'd perfer they didn't happen, but whatever. My real objection here is that this doesn't seem to be a casual hookup, but a long string of them with the same person, i.e. a relationship and not just a one night stand.

And I'd love to not be alone, but I moved to a new city, I left all my old friends behind and I've been going out, but it never seems to lead anywhere. I met one person and she's incredibly difficult to make plans with. I'm kind of having a hard time being social and making friends here.
posted by GilloD at 10:37 AM on September 27, 2006

See, the thing is, the way I'm reading this, you had an agreement that you could see other people while you were separated. ...and you're upset that she's seeing other people. It's obviously not wrong to feel the way you do, but it's not fair to her to tell her you're cool with her seeing other people and then be mad that she's doing it.

It doesn't make you a bad person -- I couldn't handle it either -- but you probably need to tell her that you're not cool with it and see how she reacts. Based on my experience and that of friends, long distance relationships seldom work out, but seldom is still sometimes. And it's just until December. Just be honest with her.
posted by SoftRain at 10:38 AM on September 27, 2006 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: SoftRain- I guess what I'm trying to get across is that the agreement we came to pretty clearly was "Oh, sometimes I might get drunk and fuck somebody or make out with them" not "Oh, I might meet someone and spend all my time with them and not tell you about it". Its' the gulf between those things that really bothers me, I suppose.
posted by GilloD at 10:40 AM on September 27, 2006

There is nothing better to get a woman out of your mind than getting another in it. Believe me, I learnt this the hard way.

Go away and explore what life has to offer you.
posted by gadha at 10:43 AM on September 27, 2006

Whatever you think your relationship is, she isn't serious about being with you exclusively. Three minutes after she landed in Ecuador, she was playing the field, and she caught two guys, one of whom she threw back and one of whom she's keeping.

You have to accept that for now and (probably) the future, anytime she's out of your sight, she's going to be playing the field. She may (or may not be) perfectly loyal when she's around you. But she obviously feels zero obligation when she isn't around you. Either you can tolerate this or you can't. Apparently she's coming back from Ecuador, and her new amigo probably won't be. So if you look at it one way, you'll have her back, without competition, eventually. Looked at another way, nothing prevents this from happening again.

There's no way to "confront" someone who's happy with their behavior and in another country. She probably feels perfectly justified in her behavior, based on your state of the union chat and agreement. She isn't telling you to spare your feelings, but I don't think she is actually feeling guilty about doing it.

What you can say is this:

"Dear XXXX,
I heard about your relationship with YYYYY. I feel really uncomfortable with this and I'm afraid I can't continue to be in a relationship with you while you continue to see YYYYY or anyone else. I'm sorry if I gave you the wrong impression in our chat, but I had basically intended for us to be faithful to each other while you were away in Ecuador, and it upsets me that you haven't been."

And then you take it from there. Maybe she'll swear up and down that she'll break up with YYYYY and be perfectly faithful to you henceforth. (Maybe you'll believe her.) Maybe she won't.
posted by jellicle at 10:49 AM on September 27, 2006

This is going to sound terribly crude. I'm sorry. There's a pattern in your text...

You met this girl by fooling around.
You agreed to fool around.
She fooled around and you chose not to.

I've had so many friends find themselves attracted to those with a loose lifestyle, then expect monogomy from them. It never works the way they'd planned.
posted by kc0dxh at 10:50 AM on September 27, 2006 [1 favorite]

Its' the gulf between those things that really bothers me, I suppose.

So you'd be cool with her screwing her way across Central America as long as she never speaks to the guys afterwards? Hard to believe.

That whole "agreement" was her way of saying: "I'm going to fuck around guilt-free, but I'm not going to totally burn my bridges with you, in case I might like to rekindle things when I return." While you pine away at home, she lives it up in Ecuador. Sweet deal for her. For you, not so much.
posted by Gamblor at 10:53 AM on September 27, 2006

What do you hope to accomplish with a confrontation? If she's moving on, do you think you can change her course? You can certainly ask for clarification so that you can make your own decisions about what you want to do, but you can't make her do anything. You can't even make her answer you honestly about what she's got going on.

I think probably she's not having the same relationship with you as you're having with her, unfortunately. And you're using her as a reason to not have a social life, which would make a hell of a lot more sense if you were socializing with her in the first place.

Move on. It shouldn't take that many paragraphs to define a six month relationship.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:53 AM on September 27, 2006

I don't know if she's from Venus, but you're definitely from Mars. "The sometimes I might get drunk and fuck somebody" says that you were opening it up to having sex with others while you are apart. Of course the way you phrased it was "irresponsible sex is okay." If she is having sex multiple times with the same person she is doing what you suggested, only more responsibly.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 10:57 AM on September 27, 2006

Also, was this "agreement" arrived at mutually during your discussion, or was it floated by one of the two parties involved in the relationship? The same party that is now in Ecuador banging other people, perhaps?

If so, that would certainly make it seem a little premeditated, don't you think?
posted by Gamblor at 11:06 AM on September 27, 2006

To me, it sounds like she wants to get out and have fun and is really really hoping you'll end it so she won't have to.

She sent emails to mutual friends calling the guys amigovio. Given what you've said, it seems expected that it would get back to you somehow, and given your drunk email, she knows you wouldn't be thrilled. Plus, her response to your email would signal warning bells to me, even though you were a little overboard on the "I love that I can trust you" bit.

Plus, I think that you've over-romanticized everything somewhat and set yourself up to be a martyr in the relationship/situation. This might come from spending too much time thinking and not enough social stimulation, but I am a random person on the internet who knows nothing of you.

It seems that she's not quite ready for the commitment that you are hoping for. I'd just explain that you know, and that you're hurt, and if she wants to be free, you'll understand. No need for major confrontation or histrionics or plans. Just be honest with her, don't make her promise you anything or pressure her to tell you what you want to hear. That stuff will only hurt you in the end. I'm really sorry, good luck.
posted by ml98tu at 11:07 AM on September 27, 2006

Casual hookups are fine. I mean, of course I'd perfer they didn't happen, but whatever.

Those sentences are so human and so funny and so sad, and I really feel for you and identify with you.

But take a close look at them. They don't really make sense (they make a typical human sort of NON-sense). They reveal a confusion -- perhaps a fear of looking too deeply at what you want. Or at what you fear.

If you'd "prefer they didn't happen," then casual hookups are not "fine." Maybe I'm armchair psychoanalysing you, but I think MOST people who say they're fine with open relationships -- even slightly open ones -- are really NOT okay with them (even if they think they are). But they're afraid they'll lose their parnter if they admit that they're not okay with them.

(I know some people make open relationships work, and my hat is off to them, but I don't think they are typical. Making "closed" relationships work is hard enough for most of us.)

So step one is to get crystal clear what you want. Step two is communicating that to your girlfriend AS CLEARLY AND HONESTLY AS POSSIBLE. You can (and should) be gentle and kind (not pushy or demanding) -- but CLEAR. Not clear about what MUST be; just clear about what you want from the relationship. No, "I'd rather blah blah blah didn't happen, but whatever..." That's too wishy-washy and it leaves too many scary doors open. And no, "I expect you to..." or "I demand that you..." Just talk about YOUR fears and YOUR desires.

Step three -- the really scary step -- is to sit back and see how your girlfriend responds. You have NO CONTROL over this. The ball, at this point, is in her court. As it should be.

She will respond, perhaps accepting your version of the relationship; perhaps rejecting it.

Step four will be your response to her response. If she refuses to commit to a monogamous relationship, than you can stay in the relationship KNOWING AND ACCEPTING that she will not be faithful. Or you can leave.

You can only control what you present to her and how you respond to her decision. That's it.

Now what I've presented here is a really clean, robotic version of human relations. It's very hard to be this forthright and brave in real life. But I think it's worth striving for. It's basically about admitting what you want and don't want, being honest, and accepting that there are things within your control and things you can't control. You can't control here, and you probably can't control your feelings. But you CAN control whether or not you're honest about your feelings. And you CAN control whether or not you stay in the relationship. And you must accept the harsh reality that life and love is, to some extent, a crapshoot.

The problem with semi-open relationships is that emotions are fluid. She can promise all she wants to only have casual flings, but she can't control how she will wind up feeling about any of these flings in real life. Which is why opening things up this way is playing with fire.

"Closed" relationships already play with fire. If you're in a committed, monogamous relationship, there's still the chance that you (or your partner) might meet someone else and fall for them. If you want to stay committed, you have to do your best not to give in to such temptations. But if you allow other players into the bedroom (or if she does), it gets harder (for most people) to control themselves.

One more piece of advice, and I'm probably a fool for suggesting this to young people who are just out of college: there were many mentions in your post about getting drunk, as if getting drunk and screwing up is just something that happens, like a rainstorm. It's actually a CHOICE. You and your girlfriend might want to talk about how alcohol is affecting your relationship.

Good luck!

PS. Don't listen to anyone here who says "move on" or "stay with her." Only you -- by yourself -- can make this choice. No one can help you. Just be armed with honesty and all the facts. Then decide what sort of relationship you want or are willing to put up with (not ignore or go into denial about -- really put up with) and what kind you'd best avoid.
posted by grumblebee at 11:07 AM on September 27, 2006 [5 favorites]

You need to move on. It's apparent that she probably has, and the sooner you come to terms with it, the better.
posted by bshort at 11:08 AM on September 27, 2006

Gillo, several times you mention the two of you deciding to "stick it out." I'm sorry, but I have to ask: stick what out?

You two barely know each other. You met this girl in the middle of March and by June she was gone. And you had a brief reunion over the fourth of July. We're talking two and a half months here.

Sadly, I think that you are making much more of this "relationship" than it merits. And you are definitely making much more of your "relationship" than the girl in question.

So to quote the late Dear Abby, wake up and smell the coffee. Move on. There are plenty of other women out there. But first give yourself time to adjust to being out of college and doing the 9-5 thing. Work on your own inner happiness a little and then I'm sure that you'll find someone who IS interested in having a serious relationship with someone who isn't going to be flitting around the globe.

Good luck.
posted by bim at 11:09 AM on September 27, 2006

You're ok with a drunk hook up but not ok with something more regular and safer? I don't know, if I had to choose, a regular lover would be the option I would feel better over. I guess you screwed up by giving the initial green light. Sorry bud, deal with it or move on?
posted by JJ86 at 11:18 AM on September 27, 2006

Long-distance relationships are pretty much doomed from the git-go. If you both really cared, you wouldn't be apart for long. (yeah yeah yeah, plenty of anecdotes to the contrary, but it's a useful heuristic.)
posted by DenOfSizer at 11:19 AM on September 27, 2006

PS: 5-6 months of romance-induced celibacy is really not all that long.
posted by DenOfSizer at 11:20 AM on September 27, 2006

Devious plan: write to your mutual friends about a wonderful but imaginary girl that you are now seeing. Wait to see what happens when she hears about it.

Then tell your busybody friends that they are assholes.
posted by peeedro at 11:25 AM on September 27, 2006

You are getting good advice, esp. from jellicle and kc0dxh. Clearly you have stronger feelings for her than she does for you. You may just now be realizing it. I'd apologize and move on. Hanging around in the #2 spot rarely improves your chances.
posted by FuzzyVerde at 11:32 AM on September 27, 2006

Response by poster: Guys, Thanks a million. Like I said, I haven't had a lot of people to discuss this with. And those I have are people who are close to me and much more likely to say, "Well, let's get some plane tickets and bust some knees!" than to sit down and talk it out.

I guess it's just then I spent years with crazy girls from broken families who had myriad disorders and then I met this girl and she was beautiful and smart and funny and we got along incredibly well, better than I've ever gotten along with anyone I've dated.

So, the idea of cutting free from that is terrifying in good weather. With my personal forecast being "cloudy as fuck with a chance of lava rain", it's downright unimaginiable. Here's what's been happening: I get bad news, I spent 2 or 3 days in utter misery, I somehow gloss over it and move on with my life. I've been lying to myself about this for weeks now for fear of the truth (And I traffic in truth! I'm just a little sick of it).

I guess my thinking was that if I could just ignore the doorbell for a few months, I wouldn't have to answer the door. And she'd come home and, well, happily ever after. I can't express how well we functioned, and the thought of pulling the plug on that so, what feels like, early is a real killer. I've always been willing to give up an arm or a leg for the sake of a relationship (There's a whole 'nother AskMefi) and I guess here I was willing to give up my heart and my brain, too.

I'm gonna spend the week thinking it out, make sure I'm in order enough and then talk to her about this and about us, where we were, whether we're going anywhere and if we can live it out. Maybe. Maybe not. But I needed to hear all of this from someone else. Thanks.
posted by GilloD at 11:58 AM on September 27, 2006

There was a general agreement there that if one of us got drunk and made out with somebody or took someone home, whatever. It wouldn't be the situation you'd lay awake at night hoping for but, hey, it happens.

She got lucky, and you didn't. How did confront and cheating get into this?
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 12:01 PM on September 27, 2006

Two thoughts: 1. It sounds like she thought she had permission for what she is doing. 2 . You two really don't have that much of a relationship history together.

Do nothing. Don't confront her, email as usual, go out and have a good time. When she comes back you two might pick up where you left off, and then again maybe not. But don't let jealousy goad you into intemperate action. Try not to think about it, throw yourself into some big project to distract you.

Good luck!
posted by LarryC at 12:08 PM on September 27, 2006

Response by poster: Weapons- Because it turned out not to be a one-off thing, It wasn't "Ooops", it became a deliberate thing. But maybe confront is the wrong word.
posted by GilloD at 12:10 PM on September 27, 2006

GilloD: Sorry to pile on but I'm sure you're still in doubt so just remember this:

If you meant anything to her then she'd be emailing her friends about *you* and not some "aminovio" or "amigovio" from Equador.

Confronting her will do no good. She may gloss over her "amigovio" and assure you that you are and always were Mr. Exclusive and everything is as before. That's a trap. Don't fall for it. Just walk away.
posted by StarForce5 at 12:16 PM on September 27, 2006

My rule is this: if you're convinced that she's absolutely amazing, then stick it out. (Hey it worked out for my wife and me, years back.) But if she's something short of that, then move on.

It sounds like she may have her qualities, but you two are already growing apart. Accept it, move on, and start living in opportunity rather than regret.
posted by diastematic at 12:52 PM on September 27, 2006

GilloD -

I'm with the 'move on' crowd, mainly because I'm lazy and have the luxury of giving easy advice. Sounds like your more-or-less-girlfriend is doing what she thought you guys agreed on. I say, take her interpretation of things at face value. If she really feels she can 'come back 100%' (in your sensible phrase), can you do the same? (Hint: you can't, from the sound of things.) If not, if you think there's even a chance that this is going to make trust and so forth too hard later because of your jealousy, get the hell out before you come to a bad place at the arrangement's end. If you can do that, you've got some freedom. Stop living like a monk. That never enriched any relationship in the history of mankind (except maybe with God, and let's not talk about that bullshit).

It's not going to work out with this girl as things are. She has no reason to stop living her life the way she wants in Ecuador, and something tells me a nice email from you isn't going to bring things into line with what you want (which is her not doing anything with other people, your attempts to look past this notwithstanding).

Stay in touch, love one another from afar, those things are fine. In December, have a go at things if you want. But stop looking forward to it - what you think is going to happen is almost certainly not going to happen.

Love is a funny thing but only fools and romantics think it's a 'mystery.' And if you're one of either of those things you're gonna get burned a bunch of times, buddy. Do the sensible thing, start hanging out with other people, have a good time, and chalk this one up as a failed fairy tale. You'll find most fairy tales are that way. That's just fine; there's room for other kinds of tales, even in love.
posted by waxbanks at 1:00 PM on September 27, 2006

It sounds like she thinks she has permission to do what she likes with whomever she likes, and is not mentioning him to you in graphic terms because really, who does that? That's just rude. If I were this girl, I would think you have a hell of a nerve to call this cheating.

You need to either be honest with her about how you feel about her seeing other people, in a non-confrontational way because after all, you didn't make your preferences clear before, or else you have to find somebody else.

I do question how good friends your friends are if they share her secrets with you. Who are they telling your secrets to?
posted by joannemerriam at 1:03 PM on September 27, 2006

It sounds like your relationship is not off to a good start. Please don't take offense, but the arrangement you made with her is stupid. Stuff like that never works out well. A casual hook-up here or there isn't a good foundation for a relationship. Maybe put the relationship aside till she is back, and see if you still feel the same way about her. Consider everything up till now a false start, and start fresh when she is back from her trip.
posted by chunking express at 1:19 PM on September 27, 2006

Talk to her
posted by thirteenkiller at 1:25 PM on September 27, 2006

You're not her boyfriend, she's not your girlfriend. Flag it and move on.
posted by kindall at 1:33 PM on September 27, 2006 [1 favorite]

Yes, be an adult and talk to her. When the two of you can hear each other's voice, all will become clear very quickly and your decision more obvious.

You don't need to burn a bridge to set yourself free before you really hurt yourself over this. You may not realize how you are limiting yourself in social situations while this question still haunts you. Answer the question. Move on.

(be smarter than me)
posted by bafflegab at 1:40 PM on September 27, 2006

Man, a lot of people here are reading the initial agreement differently than I did (and from the sound of it, the way the OP did, too.)

"We had a state of the union chat and decided, again, to stick it out. There was a general agreement there that if one of us got drunk and made out with somebody or took someone home, whatever."

To me, this reads as 'we decided we like each other a lot, and want to be with each other, though we recognize that lust and alcohol may get the better of us once or twice.' There's a heck of a lot of grey area there, but if that's what the agreement was, then I think the girl is 'cheating.' I think the wording the OP used implies an emotional commitment between the two, and it sounds to me as if this girl has violated the spirit of your agreement. And I get the sense that the OP feels that way too.

I'm an idiot in all things relationship related, and thus don't really have any concrete advice as to how you should proceed, other than to say 'I don't think your agreement was as ridiculous as some here do, nor do I think you gave your SO carte blanche to do whatever she wants.'
posted by HighTechUnderpants at 2:16 PM on September 27, 2006

grumblebee's got it.
posted by edgeways at 2:17 PM on September 27, 2006

This sounds like a long-term fling. You met in March, she left for a month in June, she left again in July, she's there til December. She doesn't sound very serious about this relationship, and she certainly hasn't "buckled down" as you have. People avoid long term relationships for a reason, especially if they've been through one before.

You're a good catch. You should have no trouble finding an attractive fish in your ocean (that's not a flight risk).

Get out while you have time so you can show her up in December ;)
posted by mynameismandab at 2:28 PM on September 27, 2006

It sounds like you are a person who tries to make a relationship work no matter what (girlfriend is crazy? Ok I'll try harder. Girlfriend dating another guy? Ok, I'll try harder.). But in this case there are a lot of circumstances against it working out.

You met and were together for a couple of months, right before you graduated. Then it's been long distance since then. When she comes back, will you be in the same city, or will she be back at school and you will still be in a different city?

It's natural that she would find herself drawn to people she is seeing everyday -- especially when travelling, this happens a lot. It's not a condemnation of you at all, or a judgment on whether she *would* prefer you, if you were in the same place as her. It's just that circumstances are against the two of you here. You can't do anything about that, in this case, and it's not your fault. Just trying harder won't fix it. These things happen -- people who would be good partners often can't make it work because they need to live in different places, and that just makes life too hard.

I think others have given good advice above. A frank talk is in order: "I feel really badly that you're seeing another guy. Unless you are willing to stop, and not to seriously date anyone else, I think we should break things off for now. Of course I still adore you and want to keep in close contact, and maybe when you come back we can see how things work, but for now I just don't want to have any illusions."

Also: Finding friends and making a life after college is one of the hardest times in life, and even more so in a big city like NYC. But this is what you have to do -- get involved in activities (maybe through Craigslist? Or make a point of always sitting in a neighborhood coffeehouse between 5 and 6 pm, or join a frisbee or rec league basketball team, or go to small-time art openings, or trivia night at the bar, or whatever. Be a little more outgoing than you would be naturally. It takes a while, but you will become a known face and start to make new post-college friends), start building your new life, and decrease the amount of time you spend thinking about your old life.

When she comes back, if she's in the same city, then she might be able to be part of your new life. (Maybe think about it this way: if she were starting over in a big city while you were away travelling, what would she be doing to establish new connections?)
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:32 PM on September 27, 2006

Grumblebee and LobsterMitten are spot-on -- excellent, thoughtful advice that can serve you well not just in figuring out where to go in this relationship, but in relationships down the road.
posted by scody at 2:43 PM on September 27, 2006

Sounds like this girl is under your skin. My advice? The "confrontation" is not a conversation you can really have on the phone or over email. So your choices are: 1. Wait till she comes home and see how that works OR 2. Visit her and have a good time, and if you still feel the way you describe, lay it on the line and see if she is okay with changing the game plan and committing to mutual monogamy until December.

My take on it is:
1. You've already expressed a fair amount of anquish over this. Can you last it out with good feeling until she gets back and stil be open to a relationship?

2. IF (and this is a big if) you think you would really like to be this girl, then the best thing you can do is to have a talk with her, after a fun time, in person. The "confrontation" which is really just a "I'd like to change the rules of the game" talk can't successfully happen over email or the phone. So go visit in October.

3. The last thing to consider is whether if you walk away you can do so and get closure. If you can and that's what you want to do, great. If not, I would strongly consider option number 2 and go see her, because even if she doesn't want to change the status of things, it gives you more of an opportunity to get something resembling closure.
posted by zia at 3:09 PM on September 27, 2006

Response by poster: You guys all seem to be hitting the nail on the head here, especially GrumbleBee and and LobsterMitten. I've already decided that I need to talk to her, although what I'll say exactly is up for grabs. I don't even know what I want to hear. But I do know that I need to say: Hey, even though we say it was cool, I guess it really upsets me. And I care about you like crazy and I fell in love with you because you were your own person, I'm not out to box you up. I know this isn't really about me, per-se, it doesn't mean you love me any less, but I guess I'm just not as up to it as I thought. We'll see what it's like in December and I'll keep in touch, but.

Well. But what? I guess I'm back to not knowing what I really want to say or what I want to hear, but I think I just need to clear the air. It's the secrecy of the whole thing that's really bothering me, I suppose.
posted by GilloD at 3:16 PM on September 27, 2006

Response by poster: I think Zia has some good thoughts, too. A large part of my idea was to go see her in person and see how it was face-to-face. Is she just filling a need or is she moving on?

Can I subsist on good feeling? Probably not. There's a not a whole lot to go on and barring some kind of Hannukah miracle, well. I tend to get really torn up by things I didn't see coming.
posted by GilloD at 3:18 PM on September 27, 2006

Man...she's in Ecuador. Consider that, while your world is still basically the same, minus her, her world is completely different. If there is one effect that living in another country is almost universally guaranteed to have, it's opening your eyes up to just how many opportunities life offers you, and how limited your previous perspective was. Couples breaking up when one of them studies abroad is a cliche for a reason...because it's human nature. She is not an evil bitch who fucked you over. She got you to agree to a technicality that would allow her to explore the way she wanted, while still having you on the back burner when she returns. It happens all the time. I'm not saying that you should be skipping and singing, but the main problem here is that you did not have the situation properly in perspective when she left.
posted by bingo at 4:22 PM on September 27, 2006

Hey, even though we say it was cool, I guess it really upsets me. And I care about you like crazy and I fell in love with you because you were your own person, I'm not out to box you up. I know this isn't really about me, per-se, it doesn't mean you love me any less, but I guess I'm just not as up to it as I thought. We'll see what it's like in December and I'll keep in touch, but.

That comes across as a bit too desperate. Also, if you haven't told her you love her this isn't the time to start.

I don't think she's cheating anymore than I think you're in any way a bad guy. Unfortunately you just have different ideas on what the agreement meant and different expectations. She probably doesn't think you have a Relationship, either, given the limited time you've been together. I'd suggest letting things cool off a bit; no more phone calls and fewer emails, don't go visit. See what happens when she gets back in December. Definitely try to meet new people as you'll want friends in your city whether or not you are with her.
posted by 6550 at 4:32 PM on September 27, 2006

Flush. Its done.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:32 PM on September 27, 2006

There's a lot of well-meaning advice here that I don't think really comes as close to connecting as people might think.
A little of my experience:
I was dating a girl for about a year, then she went to Thailand. We agreed to keep seeing each other, and I even go and visit her over Christmas. Then, come April, I get a call from her. She's been sleeping with this other guy who she ran into in Thailand, and saw again in Vietnam. She's all tearful, and wants to break up with me. I go through a few paroxyms of "Maybe we could make it work..." and a month of being bitter.
Not totally analogous, but close.
There are two things you need to do, though the order is up to you. You need to talk to her and you need to stop seeing yourselfs as exclusively dating. The talk only works if you're willing to be honest and cool. You are hurt, you do think she's developing a relationship outside of what you thought the ground rules were. Don't blame her, don't get mad. It was a communication breakdown. But the essential part is that you're not really dating right now, at least not exclusively. There's a lot of talk about her trying to have her cake and eat it too, though I'd wager that's not really what's consciously going on. But a confrontation isn't likely to do much good, and shouting, etc. will only make things worse. You have to, on some level, treat this like a relationship downgrade, rather than a breakup.
I know, I know, right now you're feeling pretty alone (aside from us MeFites. Maybe Jonmc'll take you drinking). And I know that she's the one you've been looking to for emotional support. You're going to have to back that down, as the level of relationship won't sustain it without you feeling hurt. Don't be a bastard or anything, just don't worry about her so much. Think about you.
Second, you really do need to get out and start doing something. You're in a weird quasi-rebound. Start dating other people. You can tell 'em that you and your girlfriend are taking some time off, or that you're not looking to date someone exclusively. But start getting involved with something you like, like music or art or movies... This is NY. There will be something to do.
There is a natural tendency to grow apart during the span of long distance relationships, especially ones done abroad. This is her moment of freedom, where she can redefine her whole identity. She may, frankly, just not be mature enough to deal with a relationship right now.
But this is also your time to grow and redefine your identity. Be who you've always wanted to be. Without ties, you can decide how you'd like to present yourself, what you'd like to pursue, what you want to do. It may turn out that you find someone different that you'd prefer to be with. You can still be friends with the girl in Ecuador. You may even hook up with her when she gets back. There's no reason to burn any bridges or be immature about it— you want different things right now, and that's fine. It sucks for you at the moment, but that's why God made dive bars and booze. Go out with some of your coworkers or something. Ogle that intern.

From my experience, I can understand a lot of the things you're going through and recognize the pattern. On some level, I'm glad things turned out like they did with my ex, because I was able to move past it pretty easily (on some level, semesters abroad can be thought of as slow-motion breakups), and I ended up with a fantastic girl right afterwards. Maybe that makes me more sanguine about your chances.
But be honest and Godspeed.
posted by klangklangston at 5:15 PM on September 27, 2006

WHy is this complicated? It sounds to me like she's just doing what you both agreed was OK. Perhaps she's interpreting things rather broadly, but I'd quit worrying about it. Don't wait for her, and don't assume she wants to pick things back up with you where y'all left off, but if she does and you still do, then great!

Let the past be the past and don't take the future for granted.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 6:56 PM on September 27, 2006

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