BRENT STOLLER

Writer. Advice giver. Peanut butter and chocolate enthusiast.

Advice for the Modern Man: My Girlfriend Cheated On Me

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Young couple with relationship difficulties

(Questions have been modified for space and clarity.)

I’ve been having trouble in my relationship (I guess you can call it that). My now-ex had sex with someone while we were exclusive but not officially together. It’s been hard for me to get over it, and we’ve had a lot of arguments since I found out. I don’t want to be in a relationship with her because I don’t want to be subconsciously mean to her anymore. What should I do, and how should I handle it?
–ConfusedAt23; Baltimore, MD

I can’t tell you whether you should stay with this girl or not. That decision is up to you, because you’re the only one who can make it.

But as I see it, you fall into one of three camps right now:

1) You want to break up.

2) You want to stay together.

3) You don’t know if you want to break up or stay together.

So what I can do is offer a single piece of advice, one that’s applicable no matter which camp you find yourself in:

Stop talking to this girl. Now.

Here’s why…

IF YOU WANT TO BREAK UP

Breakups rarely wrap up quickly or efficiently. Why? Because people continue talking to each other.

Which is strange, because you’d think the act of breaking up would imply that’s the last thing they’d want to do. It defeats the point of the separation.

I get it, though, and I’ve been guilty of it, despite this awareness. Logic stands no chance in the face of emotion.

Regardless of which side you’re on — the dumper or the dumped — your feelings are so raw and unresolved it seems the only way to find closure is to talk it out. Again and again. It’s as if you need repeated reminders about why the relationship didn’t work for reality to sink in.

This is your chance to avoid all that. By cutting off communication immediately, you jump to the end of the page, bypassing all the criticism and crying for the inevitable conclusion.

No, it’s not easy, and yes, you’ll sacrifice some backslide hook-ups. But there’s no reason to waste time on a relationship that’s already over.

IF YOU WANT TO STAY TOGETHER

I know, not talking to the person you’re dating sounds like the worst relationship advice possible. But bear with me.

While I’m a lot older than you (based on your screen name) and have been out of the dating scene, I’m not sure how two people can be exclusive yet not official. What’s the difference? I don’t see how there is one.

And despite listing them separately, I don’t sense you believe there’s a difference, either. You’re upset at this girl, and rightfully so.

You were exclusive, and she slept with someone else. That hurt you, and it continues to haunt you.

Now, understandably, that hurt is seeping into every interaction you have with her. The fact that you recognized this demonstrates a level of self-awareness, which should also help you see that talking to this girl right now is doing more harm than good. It’s complicating matters in the short-term, and it’s sabotaging your chance at a future together.

When a girlfriend (or boyfriend) screws up, the hardest thing to do isn’t giving them a second chance; it’s giving them a clean slate.

What you don’t want to do is get back with this girl, only to have her infidelity hanging over the relationship. That wouldn’t be fair to either of you.

By taking some time apart, even if just briefly, you’ll have the chance to get the anger and anguish out on your own without (subconsciously) taking it out on her.

IF YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO

Can you move on? Can you let go of what happened? Can you still trust this girl? Can you still love her?

As you sort out whether or not to pursue this relationship, these are a few of the questions looming. And they’re that much more difficult to answer without first assessing the wide-angle perspective.

When you’re communicating with this girl, your emotions sway back and forth, as fuel is constantly poured on the fire. You can’t see the big picture because you have no separation from the situation, no distance, making it impossible to grasp what you want and need.

“Take a step back” is an idiom for a reason. And while doing so feels, at best, counterintuitive, it’s the quickest, most efficient way to clear your mind and heart.

Think of it as hitting the pause button. Maybe it’s for a few days or a few weeks, I don’t know. The length of the embargo is an individual choice. All that matters is you give yourself enough time to process the pains of the past so they no longer complicate your present and future.

This article originally appeared on the Good Men Project.

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Photo Credit: ABHISHEK RAJ0404 Flickr via Compfight cc

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