Carolyn Hax is away. The following first appeared in 2004.
Dear Carolyn: I recently found out that my girlfriend of five years (long-distance for a year) slept with someone else. The day after, she called to break up and gave reasons but didn’t mention another guy.
I was confident she’d cheated but had no proof. Until ... I did something rotten. I checked her e-mail.
I know that’s horrible, but I had to know. And my worst fears were confirmed. I confronted her again, she denied it again. And again, and again.
Last weekend she came to visit and we had a wonderful time. Well, I checked her e-mail again and found out that yes, they messed around multiple times. I confronted her again and she admitted to it. I’m devastated, to say the least. How does one, if they decide to try again, get past this kind of betrayal?
Carolyn says: I guess all she can do is accept that you know snooping was wrong and be patient while you demonstrate to her that you can be trusted.
Right. Not the answer you wanted.
Did she cheat? Yes. Terrible. Were you supposed to enjoy getting dumped? No. It’s a hellish, powerless feeling.
But that doesn’t mean it was right to recapture your sense of control by interrogating and badgering and scrounging until you found the smoking bedsheets. And it’s tough to see what you gained. Before, you had a girlfriend who dumped you, making you an ex-boyfriend. Now, you have a reason your girlfriend dumped you, making you ... an ex-boyfriend! Congratulations.
If your argument is that you needed the “truth” to “move on,” then OK. Look how well you’ve moved on.
I’m not going to pretend your ex didn’t behave horribly. She did. The breakup call is supposed to precede the tryst with the other man (though by breaking up with you right away, she did make the best of a hurtful decision). And her denying and denying wasn’t morally crystalline, either; in fact, it’s arguably worse than the cheating, since there’s no caving-to-passion element. But these are just rhetorical rabbit holes you wouldn’t have fallen into, and betrayals you wouldn’t now have to fight your way past, had you merely taken her breakup for an answer.
Since it’s too late for that, take a cue from your ex, believe it or not, and start repairing the damage immediately. Stop ferreting through other people’s private business, stop keeping score, stop hanging on to a relationship that’s months past its sell-by date. It was over when your girlfriend broke up with you. Let it be over, please. Be willing to see that she — this — isn’t healthy for you.
Dear Carolyn: After a birth, is it OK to set family limits for visiting? We’re both from divorced families and we’re feeling overwhelmed with the prospect of entertaining four sets of parents as well as siblings. I guess we’re seeing our much-needed maternity/paternity leave slipping away without our getting to know each other as parents or knowing our new baby. Can we politely ask people to come on our chosen dates?
Carolyn says: Yes. You can also politely not budge. Congratulations, both on the new baby and the sane priorities.
E-mail Carolyn Hax at firstname.lastname@example.org, or chat with her at 11 a.m. Friday at washingtonpost.com.