Admit it: we’re all just killing time until until that new Janelle Monáe album drops. Or Archer comes back. Or Avengers: Infinity War finally premieres. There’s a lot to look forward to at the moment, but for now let’s focus on the fact that it’s Tuesday — and that means there’s fresh ‘n dubious advice to dish out!
[Reminder: Got questions? Send them to [email protected]! It’s said there are no stupid questions, but we make no promises about our answers…]
This week we’ve got a serious and painful question. One that, honestly, we’re not necessarily qualified to answer. Or at least I, personally, am not qualified to answer. I’m generally not great with emotional honesty, but there was no way we could ignore this:
I’ve been a long time reader of your website and want to first of all say how amazing your writing is across the board. The advice I’m after is how to get past the feelings of betrayal, depression and general crappiness after being cheated on.
The basic story is I was dating this girl and thought we were both truly invested in the relationship - we had said that we love each other and had made future plans. I came into the relationship knowing that she had issues regarding self-harm and that she was a rape survivor and did my best to support her during the period when those issues arose. My main issue of getting over this is that the person she cheated on me with is her ex-boyfriend and rapist. I feel like I could cope if it was a random stranger or someone she worked with but the fact that she threw away what we had for a person that by her own admission she hates more than anyone else in the world.
I’ve always struggled with self-esteem issues and depression and this has truly hit me incredibly hard and I’m struggling to see the light at the end of the tunnel. So any advice would be much appreciated.
First off, thank you for reading and for trusting us with such a sensitive, personal situation. Relationship problems, betrayal, pain — these are things that most of us grapple with at some point in our lives. However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t suggest that in your specific case, you may want to seek help from a real professional of the paid, non-random internet stranger variety. It sounds like your depression and self-esteem issues exist regardless of the situation with your girlfriend, and are something you should probably address no matter what is happening with your relationship.
I can’t help you understand why your girlfriend did what she did. There’s a lot to unpack there, and it’s something she should probably seek professional help with as well, but at the end of the day, she’s just trying to process her own pain. And here’s the thing:
It’s not about you.
What she went through? Her trauma and how she’s reacting to it? It’s not about you, it’s about HER. It doesn’t mean that her actions aren’t causing you pain — obviously being cheated on is shitty no matter what the situation. But saying that it would somehow be easier to deal with if she’d done it with a stranger is missing the point. This isn’t about you being betrayed. This is about her making a mistake, sabotaging herself, and falling into a pattern of behavior that is troubling and unhealthy — but one that also isn’t that uncommon. Having a consensual sexual relationship with her rapist, especially an ex, could be a way to reclaim a bit of her agency. To retroactively consent and rewrite her narrative. It could be about closure. It could be about self-loathing, self-hatred, self-destruction. It could mean so many different things to her.
And none of them are about you.
Just like she’s not responsible for your underlying depression and self-esteem, you can’t take her actions personally either. There is so much more at stake here than the love you shared together, that you should really treat them separately. There’s your relationship together, and then there’s everything else. And the harsh truth is that, because of that “everything else,” it sounds like this relationship is one that neither of you are in a place to be in right now.
Ultimately though, you’re asking about how to get over your feelings of pain at her actions, and I think the best thing you can do is focus on you. Don’t tie your baggage to someone who has enough of her own. Instead, dig into it. Process it. Own it. Examine your own patterns of behavior that may have brought you to this point, and talk to a therapist or other professional to gain additional perspective.
Try to take some comfort in the fact that, while her actions may have hurt you and may make no sense to you, they are separate from you and your relationship. Find solace in the knowledge that what happened wasn’t about you at all, so there’s no need to beat yourself up over it. Mourn the loss of the relationship, sure — but don’t use this as fodder for your own depression. And as corny as it sounds, try and appreciate the fact that you did find love with someone. It may not have lasted, it may not have been forever, but it was real. It happened — and it can happen again. Maybe that can be your light at the end of the tunnel.
And in the meantime, look ahead to all the mistakes you get to make, now that you’re starting your own healing process. The dates you don’t want to actually be on. The awkward rebound sex. The pints of ice cream downed in a single sitting. The crying. Oh, the crying.
At least, that’s how I handled getting cheated on.
Anyway, I hope this can bring you some amount of comfort. It won’t be easy, and it may take a lot of time, but you’ll find your way through these feelings. Just don’t be afraid to ask people other than the Overlords for help when you need it.
Take care of yourself, reader.