My ex may have cheated on me, how do I get over her again?

It’s hit me harder than I might’ve expected and I’m not really sure how to manage these feelings.

Here’s The Thing is an advice column/newsletter where I mostly beg people to either stop dating someone or to ask their crush out. Or I talk about weird things that came to my mind that no one is paying me to write about. I can never decide if I should capitalize the “the” in Here’s The Thing or not; apologies on lack of consistency. 

You can submit your own question—or yell at me about how I’m wrong—by emailing me at 1followernodad@substack.com


A BIG CUTIE:

About a year ago, my long-term partner told me she wanted us to break up. This came largely out of the blue–our relationship had endured some serious rough patches (more on that coming) but we had been in what felt like a good place for a little while. The shock of that decision was deepened by the realities of trying to rebuild my life in the midst of the pandemic. But I got my shit back together, did some therapy, and generally tried to look to the future.

Like I said, our relationship hadn’t been perfect. Most notably, my ex-partner had an affair which really damaged my trust in her. She also didn’t tell me about it – I discovered it accidentally, and it took multiple confrontations to get to the truth about the extent of it. It was really bad. But she was adamant that it was over and that she wanted to make things work between us. I loved her, and so chose to take her at her word. We were both pretty young, in our first serious relationship, and mistakes happen. We went to counselling, and things gradually got better. (And then two years later, they got much worse and here we are.) 

We haven’t quite been as separated as I’d like, to be honest. She still contacts me for various reasons, mostly when she’s in need of emotional support. She also complains about her own lack of a sex life, and accused me of moving on too fast when I started dating casually several months after the split. This all grates on me; I don’t think she’s really reckoned with the pain she caused me or thought about the selfish nature of this quasi-relationship she wants to maintain. (She’s not unaware that it’s one-sided though, and gets upset about the fact that I don’t turn to her for validation or advice in the way that she continues to do with me.) But I know she is in pain too, and I feel bad about turning her away entirely after all we went through together.  

A month ago, however, I found out that she’s been in a long-distance relationship with a guy for some time. I took this as a positive sign that she was moving on. Then a mutual friend made a remark using this guy’s name and I realized that he was someone she met several months before we broke up. At that time, I had concerns about the way she interacted with him but I chalked it up to a kind of residual paranoia from having been duped before. 

The revelation that they’re in a relationship has really tipped me into a bit of a spiral. Not because I don’t want her to date anyone else – that would be weird and incredibly hypocritical – but because it raises the uncomfortable possibility that I was cheated on again which has resurfaced a lot of old feelings, resentments and anxieties that I thought I’d moved beyond.  

I’ve resisted the urge to do any weird detective shit. I haven't confronted her, gone back through her socials, or to looked up his. I also realize that: (a) there’s a chance there was no cheating involved, and that their friendship could’ve turned sexual/romantic at some point after we broke up, and (b) even if it did kick off while we were still together, she ended things with me in fairly short order – maybe not 100 percent ethical, but a lot better than she managed previously. On top of that, I also know that it doesn’t matter! We’re broken up. Getting to the bottom of this would be extremely unproductive and would probably generate a lot of ill-will and pain along the way. We still have some shared assets we're working through, still have mutual friends, etc. etc. There's no need to make things any harder than they already are by digging around in the past. 

And yet. 

I feel like a lot of the progress I have made over the past year has come undone. Or worse still, I’m back where I was three years ago, feeling depressed and stupid about having been fooled, doubting my judgment and instincts. It’s hit me harder than I might’ve expected and I’m not really sure how to manage these feelings except by either repressing them (bad) or giving in and making a federal case out of the whole thing (worse). How do I move on when I thought I had already moved on?


SOPHIA:

“We haven’t quite been as separated as I’d like, to be honest. She still contacts me for various reasons, mostly when she’s in need of emotional support. She also complains about her own lack of a sex life, and accused me of moving on too fast when I started dating casually several months after the split. This all grates on me.”

THAT GRATES ON YOU? I don’t even know you and I’m ready to drive a car through her living room!!! Toot toot!!!! YOU DO NOT GET TO BREAK UP WITH SOMEONE AND THEN STILL CONTACT THEM FOR EMOTIONAL SUPPORT! That’s like firing someone from their job and then asking them to still come into work on Monday morning for no pay. What the absolute fuck on earth. I feel I am perhaps…losing my mind…? Sorry to be a bit rude but if someone who HAD ELECTED NOT TO FUCK ME tried to complain about not getting laid enough, I would release 1,274 cockroaches in their house. I mean. I am really grasping at anything about this person that gives me any inclination for goodwill. The best thing I can say about this person is that she dated you, but she even bungled that in just about every single way possible.

Before we get into the bungling, let me just say that her actions are—whether you want to characterize them as such right now or not—cruel beyond measure. I mean just…cruel. There is no other word I can think of for how she is treating you. Does she know that she’s being so mean, so unfeeling, so harmful? I don’t know and frankly, it doesn’t matter one whit. She is doing the equivalent of slamming your hand in the car door every single morning and asking you to recover in time for her to do it again. Whether she knows that she’s doing it or not is rather unimportant! Her “innocence” in all this really is not my concern, her harm, however, is.

Beyond that, had she wanted some semblance of morality to hang on to, she wouldn’t have cheated. If she were concerned about being seen as a “good person” she would not have slept with another person and she most certainly would not have kept that fact from you through “multiple confrontations.” That is, uhhhhhh, to put it incredibly kindly: bad.

I want to be clear that under different circumstances some of her actions are not damning, nor are the evil. I don’t think cheating is good or kind for example, but I think it’s something that a couple can move forward from, and even get better from. I also don’t think that cheating is always about the person you cheated on; for some people—as difficult as this is for their partner to actually feel—cheating is just about them and what they lack in their own internal life. That doesn’t make it not harmful, but it can be helpful to understand if you’re the one who was cheated on. Additionally, reaching out to an ex, and even relying on said ex for emotional support even when you’re the one who left is not necessarily the mark of an evil person. All of us “use” people intentionally and unintentionally at times, it happens. We also all get used at times. Such is the way of being in the world.

THAT SAID!!!! THIS PERSON IS BAD, BAD, BAD, BAD, BAD. I know that my job is about how to help you cope with her being in your life and not to write a bitter diatribe against her, however, I feel I must point out that this person is a poison, a user, a shipwreck of a human. I truly believe with every single bone in my body that you need to extricate yourself from her life and her path as quickly as possible. You can be kind and cordial as you do it if that sort of thing is important to you. You can say something like, “Hey, being friends post-breakup isn’t really working for me right now. I’m so sorry, but I need space.” Which is an extremely undeserved politeness that is code for, “I am going to stop talking to you on every single platform as quickly as I can because you want bad things for me and you harm me actively! Thanks!”

I do not know and cannot tell you if she cheated again. If she did but left within a “fairly short order” that is still cheating and still wrong and still harmful and she’s a little **** for doing it. If she didn’t cheat, she’s still a little brat for relying on you for emotional support after breaking up with you. Regardless of anything, it’s rather inappropriate of her to be COMPLAINING TO HER EX ABOUT NOT GETTING ENOUGH DICK WHILE SHE IS DATING SOMEONE. I’m sure if that person knew what was going on, he’d be hurt as well. This is in no way about your instincts or judgement. If you keep bringing your lunch into work and putting it in the work fridge and someone keeps taking it, that is 100% on them. You should have a reasonable expectation that your lunch will not get stolen. The same way if you are in a monogamous relationship with a person, you should have the very reasonable expectation that they are not fucking someone else. That is NOT on you.

She is a tornado of pain, and my best suggestion is to get as far out of her path as you can. Get the mutual assets divided, update friends on why you might not always be available when she’s around (you don’t have to be unkind about her when you do this, even if she does deserve it), unfollow her on all social media and block her number the very second you feel ok with it.

I know that’s much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, easier said from my side of the computer than yours, however, it’s necessary. It will happen at some point or another that she will no longer be a part of your life. Your choices now all have to do with how soon that day comes. Personally, I’m rooting for tomorrow or Wednesday at the latest, but you do you.

As for how to move on after those steps of getting her out of your life—which is a requirement for moving on, let me be sooooo clear—well, you keep putting one foot in front of the other, give it a bunch of time and maybe a little bit of vodka or chocolate or rare pokemon cards or whatever and you keep plodding along in pain until the pain gets lighter and lighter. And then one day, maybe four months from now maybe four years from now you look back and go, “WAIT WHAT THE FUCK????! I LET SOMEONE TREAT ME LIKE THAT? WHAT?”

You don’t need to find out if she cheated again. She already has hurt you 19,234 other ways since the first time she cheated and she continues to do so. That is plenty.


You can submit your own question—or yell at me about how I’m wrong—by emailing me at 1followernodad@substack.com


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