A reader wonders what she should do when her boyfriend fell in love with someone else.
My boyfriend and I have been together for what would be 3 years next month. However, he told me a week ago he talked to another girl which I knew and we worked out now he found another girl at work that makes him happy. He says “I love you with my heart but my head wants her; she makes me happy.”
What do I do? How do I react?
I’m really sorry to hear you’re going through this awful situation.
Here’s what I would do if this happened to me.
First, I would say this to him:
“I’m so glad you have found someone that makes you happy. I hope you have an amazing time with her.”
Then I would sort out any loose ends like shared business or belongings as soon as I could, leave him in the dust and move on.
You see, there are BILLIONS of people in the world. One or two of them AT LEAST could probably make you deliriously happy and would never, ever dream of putting you through heartbreak like this.
If you simply let your boyfriend go now, he will be a painful blip on the radar screen of your past rather than the giant sinkhole he’ll become if you chase after him knowing what you know now.
Dating is about getting to know someone. This is an example of the kind of pain this person can dish out. It isn’t pretty.
Here’s a nightmare theater version of what your life could be like if you don’t detach from him, pick your gorgeous self up and move on right now.
Say you wait around and give in to his pathetic, whiny crying about how he “threw away the best thing he ever had”, “really, really loves you” and “will do anything to get you back” when he comes back after this novelty-based, shitty new relationship of his fails like the lead balloon it probably is.
He magically says everything you so deeply want to hear about how dumping you for someone else was the “biggest mistake of his life.” You know him well, so you believe the look of painful, frenzied desperation in his eyes.
At first, you tell him absolutely not and yell at him for what he did.
Undeterred, he keeps calling you– pledging his undying love and devotion. You’re hurt, afraid and skeptical, but still love him and slowly start to give him more and more of your time, bit by bit. He is on his best behavior.
In an effort to further make amends and erase his mistake, he proposes while promising you the sun, moon and stars. You have a gorgeous wedding and it seems like you can both put it all behind you.
You have a couple of kids. Things are okay for awhile. Not perfect, but okay. It has never been as good as the first 3 years but you’ve done the hard work to forgive.
In the back of your mind, you feel uneasy every time his phone beeps or he seems preoccupied with something else. Every so often, you ask him what’s up and he says, “nothing” every time.
You really, really want to believe him.
As the years pass, your sex life sags like my boobs at my 97th birthday party.
You get tired of him only acting romantic toward you once every 6 months, so you throw yourself into raising your kids, work, whatever you can use to distract yourself.
At some point, he stopped coming to bed at the same time as you— maybe he stays up late playing video games or watching porn, so you feel lonely as hell, pretty much every moment you’re awake.
If you have resources, maybe you get therapy. All the “constructive conversations” in the world don’t really solve the consistent lack of cherishing you feel from this person who was supposed to be your one and only.
When you confront him with your pain (using super healthy “I” statements you learned in therapy), he either denies the problem altogether or accuses you of being “too sensitive.”
The more he denies your loneliness, sadness and heartbreak, the angrier you become. And, the angrier you become, the less loving you feel and act.
Maybe he tries to do more around the house for a little while or takes you on a “date,” but the changes feel forced and don’t last very long.
He withdraws and you fight.
You fight and he withdraws.
The seething anger lurking just below the surface starts to seep out in increasingly scarier rages. One day you find yourself screaming at your kids on the front lawn like a madwoman because someone dared to leave their rain boots outside overnight.
You don’t know how to tame your anger so you try to talk it down but it never really goes away.
You can see how unhappy your husband is too and sometimes feel bad about who you have turned into— but you don’t know how to fix that either.
Maybe he goes to marriage counseling with you, but the pain runs deep and nothing really gets resolved. You have grown into different people.
To numb the pain of continual neglect and rejection, you turn to food and stress eat, building a wall of blubber— compounding your self esteem issues further.
Or maybe you go the other direction and throw yourself into one body improvement routine after another in a sad, misguided attempt to “get hotter so he’ll finally love you like you deserve.”
Either way, the sinking unhappiness as well as the lack of love and cherishing shows on your face and body.
Sooner or later, your gut tells you something really IS happening and you find out he’s had affairs.
Not ONE affair, but many affairs. You double down on counseling because now you have so much to lose. He feebly apologizes. You’re devastated but you rage at him. Things between you grow ever colder. You entertain the idea of cheating on him to even the score.
The women at work think he’s charm personified. He’s also complained a lot about how bitter you are (which isn’t technically an untruth…) so everyone acts weird when you call the office or go to the company picnic.
You tell yourself that “marriage is work” so you stay in a martyred attempt to “try to be a good partner” while angrily and bitterly doing the lion’s share of the cooking, cleaning and childcare.
Your husband tolerates the battleground environment at home while satisfying his own stuck-ness, disappointment and depression with extra-marital activities, substance abuse and porn. He escapes as much as he can without actually moving out.
One day, you start to really feel the crushing suffocation of the trap you’ve found yourselves in. The realization that “you don’t have to live like this” starts to dawn, but leaving feels so hard and scary.
Eventually something throws your mutual resentment into full-blown marriage crisis mode.
Maybe he chooses to “work late” one too many nights in a row and you rage at him.
Maybe he ignores your humiliating last-ditch pleas for simple acts of affection.
Maybe he finally offers you affection and you angrily reject him, remembering all the nights you went to bed alone.
Either way, you both feel pathetic, used and ever more trapped. But, even though the emotional heart of the marriage has gangrene, you both have serious obligations.
In the end, divorce is a financial decision as much as it is a romantic one.
Maybe one or both of you silently decide that “it isn’t so bad” and you should bide your time until the kids are finally 18.
You grit your teeth and tell yourself, “surely I can make it only 3 more years.”
It feels like a prison sentence.
Then you remember that time you asked that relationship expert what to do and could kick yourself for not running off into the sunset to create another life when you were bright-eyed, younger, prettier and still free.
That leaves you with a choice to make.
…If you’re smart, you’ll choose a crappy year of pain now over a wasted lifetime.
Along the way, when you miss who he used to be and the love you once shared, remember that this same boyfriend fell in love with someone else after your first 3 years together and treated your love and loyalty like trash.
The worst case scenario in any relationship isn’t getting dumped. It’s losing yourself by settling for something that is irreparably broken and letting it trap you— stealing your time, innocence and your life.