Illustrated by Tania Lili.
Dear Miss Information,
I recently moved to a new city to be with my girlfriend, who’s just starting her career. She’s been at her job for a few months, and I’ve been here for one. I haven’t been working, and I’ve been insecure and unhappy about it since I got here. She has an older male coworker who she’s become very close with, and I’ve been suspicious that there was something more between them. I told her this on multiple occasions, and she insisted that it was nothing more than a friendly mentorship. I checked her phone when she was in the bathroom one morning, and found a very sexual conversation between them. Several, in fact, and many sweet nothings about missing him and how great it was to spend time with him. She had lied to me on more than one occasion about being at home when she was with him.
When I confronted her, she said the sexting had been going on for two weeks. They had phone sex once, but she told me she only talked to him, and didn’t touch herself. I asked her to be honest, and gave her the chance to put everything on the table. She says it was strictly sexting, and that she never wanted or intended anything more, though she made allusions to going further in her texts, saying things like “Prop me up on your desk,” and “I want to spend the night with you.” They acted as though they were a new couple (or at least shared in the fantasy that they were) and I’m devastated.
I’ve asked her over and over why, and she says he made her feel like she could make someone happy when she couldn’t do it for me. She insists that everything that happened was for his pleasure. She says he never made her feel sexy, and she never wanted to have sex with him. I’m 23 and she’s 21, and we were in the middle of making plans to move in together. I love her with all of my heart, and I believe she made a mistake. But, she’s under contract, and has to work with this man for the next year. She’s told me that she’s ready to set ground rules, cut all but the bare minimum of contact, and doesn’t want this to continue. But, I don’t know how to trust her. I don’t know how to let go of my sudden paranoia, and my pain. And, I can’t stop checking her phone.
Nothing has happened; his number and his Snapchat are blocked, and there are no texts. But how can I believe that she’s not just being more careful? How can I believe that she didn’t feel what she told him she was feeling, didn’t want what she said she wanted, and wouldn’t have let it go further? And, how can I be ok with her working in the same building, when I walked by him today and nearly had a panic attack? How can I believe that he’ll respect her boundaries?
How can I start to move on?
— Confused Canuck Cuckold
Dear Confused Canuck,
If you want to move on, for starters, you need to stop checking her phone. It’s not yours to check, and if you want to try to trust your girlfriend, you can’t keep snooping. You’re going to drive yourself absolutely crazy, and probably her, too.
It sounds like she cheated because something was missing from the relationship. Not all infidelity is a symptom like this, but it sounds like in this case, it was. She’s starting her life and her career, and you’re floundering and feeling unhappy about it. It’s not a coincidence that the lust object she gravitated toward is successful and established in his field. Get your shit together and start standing on you own two feet — start working toward your passion. Passion and confidence are sexy, and it’s hard when these are things your partner lacks. But, these are things you can find, and the best part is, once you have them, you’ll be less insecure, less threatened, more objective.
In the meantime, how can you believe she means everything she says? Well, if you think you can trust her, then you just have to trust her, dude. I know, it’s hard, and faith is a slippery thing. But, if Scientologists can hold true to their unshakeable faith that Xenu, the dictator of the Intergalactic Confederacy, brought his people to Earth and murdered them en masse, and if Stannis Baratheon can put his faith in a hot redhead and setting everything on fire to win the goodwill of the gods, then you can try to believe your cheating girlfriend won’t reoffend. Lest you think I’m equating believing she’ll be true to you forevermore with these admittedly fringe faith, well, you can think that, actually, because taking her at her word is hard.
Your girlfriend lied, and that kind of trust is hard to rebuild. If you’re committed to giving things another go, you’ll have to try to believe her, as hard as that may be, and learn to trust her again — and she’ll have to prove she’s not actually interested in letting this coworker bend her over his desk. (By the by, this is an HR shit-storm just waiting to happen.) If a few weeks or months go by and you’re still a paranoid mess, you might have to accept that not all relationships, especially between people as young as both of you, are elastic enough to bounce back from this kind of betrayal and end things. But, at least you can say you tried.
This post was authored by Sarah Jaffe.