“He Confessed to Cheating After I Broke His Heart”

I’m a 24-year-old lady who’s new to relationship issues and need some advice. About a year and a half ago I met a guy who’s three years older than me. We started dating and fell in love with each other. Last April, though, I realized we were not a good match. We loved each other, but we have different lifestyles and eventually things wouldn’t work. So I MOA’d. But it turned out he was very hurt, said he loved me very much and wanted to be together. I felt bad for breaking his heart but kept my decision.

In the first week of September we ran into each other and went out for coffee. He seemed happy to see me again but a little bit… nostalgic. He told me he was very sad about our breakup but eventually got over it. Then he said he needed to tell me that during the time we were dating he cheated on me. Twice. I was shocked! One of those times was with a (not so close) friend of ours! Later, I confirmed that with her. He said it meant nothing and that the reason he didn’t tell me before was because he didn’t want to hurt me.

I really don’t understand why he cheated. He was never the frat boy kind of guy, he was always the good guy. He never showed any signs of dissatisfaction with our relationship. I wasn’t a controlling girlfriend. Every time he wanted to go out with his friends for drinks I encouraged him to have his time (he cheated with the girl we know one of those nights. The other time was with a stranger on a week I was away because of work).

I got mad. I wanted to yell at him. But at that point, what could I do? I had already MOA’d. So I haven’t talked to him since. He sent me emails apologizing and I deleted them. I think I just got lucky I didn’t get any STIs. But this whole situation got me wondering. Why would someone in a healthy loving relationship do that to the person he loves? I didn’t force him to be exclusive! Will it always be like this? I mean, will it always be impossible to be completely sure that the person you’re with, even if they love you to death, is not cheating on you?

I know there must be guys out there that don’t do this stuff, but I think I’ll never truly trust any guy again. At the same time I don’t want to be that girl, like many friends of mine, who never allows herself to get really attached so she won’t get hurt. How should I deal with this? — Scarred by Past

Your ex-boyfriend’s an asshole. Fortunately, not every man is an asshole like he is. How can you know this for sure? Well, you can trust me. Or, you can look around at all the men you’ve ever known — family members, friends, friend’s boyfriends, teachers, nice guys on the street who gave you directions, that man on the subway who offered his seat to you, co-workers, employers, etc., etc. Men are not limited solely to the men you’ve dated or the ones your friends have dated or even the ones you’ll potentially date. There are millions and millions of men out there and so, so many of them are wonderfully kind, compassionate, and trustworthy.

That doesn’t mean, however, that they don’t make mistakes — that they don’t screw up. We all screw up. But the good man — the kind of man you want in your life — won’t screw up in the way your ex did, and that’s the difference. And I’m not even talking about the cheating. That was a mistake, to be sure. But, you know what? I wouldn’t say that was his biggest mistake or the more telling action of his character. The coldest, most fucked up thing he did, was to tell you about the cheating after you broke up.

He told you for one reason and one reason only: to hurt you and to make you feel vulnerable. If he wanted to clear his conscious or be honest with you for the sake of your relationship, he would have confessed while you were still dating. But he didn’t. No, he only chose to confess after you broke his heart. He wanted you to feel exactly how you feel right now — like he somehow represents all guys out there and if someone who loved you could behave the way he did, then you’ll never find someone to love you who won’t behave that way. He wanted to ruin you for anyone else.

Don’t let him do that. Don’t give him any power. He’s a loser. You’re lucky to be free of him. You’re lucky because now you have the chance to meet the kind of guy you thought he was — the kind of guy who, I assure you, really does exist. They’re out there. You just have to keep an open heart and an open mind and not let your past experiences tarnish your view.

Remember: thought directs energy. You draw into your life the things you think are out there. So, start thinking about the kind of man you want to know. Imagine yourself with him; imagine the kind of relationship you dream of having. Push out thoughts about cheaters and liars and losers like your ex and focus your energy on the good guys of the world. It may not happen overnight — it may not even happen with the next person you date or the person after that or the person after that — but eventually, if you keep a positive outlook, you will draw the right guy to you. And when that happens, all the crap that came before will be a distant memory — one that will surely make you more appreciative of your good fortune when you finally come across it.

How will you “know” when you’ve met the real deal? Well, there isn’t a surefire sign. There never is in love. You just have to trust your heart, love and respect yourself enough to expect the same from a partner, and accept that the right guy may not come in the package you think he will.

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.


  1. CollegeCat says:


    If i were you I would respond to his apology emails and tell him thanks for telling you this. Tell him that you felt unsure if the break-up was the right thing to do and learning that he was a cheater freed you up to move on 100%. Now when a great guy comes along there will be no need to wonder about the one who got away. Then cut off communication. What he did to you was petty and mean and you need to let him know that whatever power he thinks he has over you ended as soon as you realized he wasn’t worthy of your love.

    1. I completely agree. Take the power back….and this is the PERFECT way to do it!

      1. Or you could go the completely opposite route and “confess” your “minor indiscretions.” Not the most mature approach, but he’ll wonder what truck hit him when he comes back to consciousness!

      2. Beckaleigh says:

        Could it be that this is exactly what the ex-boyfriend did? He was hurt so he came up with this cheating story as a way to hurt the LW?

      3. So very true!

      4. She verified the story with their mutual friend. So unless he got the friend to lie..

    2. PERFECT IDEA!!!!! Please do this!

      1. Terrible idea. You can be better than he is, or stoop to his level.

        He’s history, but you’ll live with yourself for the rest of yor life.

    3. Natasia Rose says:

      I think the LW did the right thing by simply deleting the emails. It seems like the mature thing to do and it will help put an end to the gameplaying this guy wants to engage in.

  2. You thought you were dating decent, “good guy” but you actually weren’t. You were dating a man devoid of any decency who hid that side of himself from you. Wendy is right – the only reason he had for telling you he cheated on you was to undermine you. What a miserable excuse for a man. Don’t give him another thought. His behaviour is a reflection of his lack of character and not related to you in any way.
    As for how to avoid the likes of him in the future – I think you might be more intuitive than you give yourself credit for since you got rid of him in the first place and didn’t take him back. And you sound like a smart girl – just as you know that you shouldn’t be judged by someone else’s actions; you can’t judge any new guy coming into your life by your ex’s actions.
    That his emails forever find the junk folder is perfect. That any future run in be greeted with a “get away from me” can only be for the best.

    1. i think this is such a good point- LW, you left him for a reason, and now you know for SURE that was a good decision!

  3. Honey, he told you when he did because he didn’t like the fact that you did MOA and you were over him. He wasn’t as over you as he made himself out to be, therefore he had to hurt you so you’d emotionally revisit the break-up and agonize over things like you’re doing now.

    TL;dr: He’s an emotionally-draining asshole and you’re better off without him.

    He’s a weak pathetic tool. A tool of his own penis. Let him and his monkeywrench figure out how to live with each other while you continue to live a good life without either of them.

    1. Loved “a tool of his own penis”, how many men fit that description??

      1. *sigh* Only the rotten ones in the bunch. Luckily, there are still a whole lot of good ones in the barrel! We just have to toss out the bad ones on occasion.

      2. Totally true. I think I´ve got one of the good ones, and he was only my 2nd BF, thankfully (now husband). I just loved the description.

  4. I’m with Wendy. Don’t give him the power to “ruin” you for anyone else. Don’t give up on love and don’t let this relationship taint the next one.

    I found out after a breakup that my ex (most likely) cheated on me. I was like…. Oh well. He was already out of my life, and that was just confirmation that I had made the right decision. Your gut told you to MOA, you followed it, and it turned out you were even MORE right in your decision than you knew! Continue listening to your internal compass because it looks like it did a good job guiding you in this particular case.

  5. YouGoGirl says:

    You did not know he was cheating while you were together, but you ended the relationship because you knew something was not right. Your intuition was right. It is difficult to spot a jerk early in a dating relationship, but your intuition will serve you well.

    I know you are very upset right now and understandably so, but give yourself some time to recover before dating again. Enjoy your family, friends and hobbies. When you feel ready to date again, take the relationship slowly so you can get to know each other. Good luck.

  6. Jess of CityGirlsWorld.com says:

    I just wanted to chime in to give you a theory as to “why” he cheated. And my theory, based on everything you’ve said, is that he is simply a WEAK person. A cowardly person who DID love you but in a highly insecure, self-focused way. Because he was uncertain of YOUR commitment, he decided to go out and see if he could hit up other women to stroke his ego. A more evolved person handles this in a much healthier way (like, maybe… having a conversation).

    And his choosing to tell you about ALSO smacks of ego. So for me 1 + 1 = 2. He may have been a “nice” guy but he was weak. And I think its the weakness that you’ll want to avoid in the future, nothing else.

  7. AliceInDairyland says:

    LW I totally understand what you are feeling, although it comes from a slightly different perspective. My dad, someone who I really loved/love greatly, cheated on my Mom when I was 14. I have struggled for a long time wondering why such a great guy who had a great relationship with my Mom would have cheated. Granted it wasn’t perfect, but no relationship is. Since then I have always been unrealistically suspicious of men I let into my life and I am vulnerable with. Yet like you, I don’t want to be crazy jealous or not let myself get close to people.

    When I started dating my boyfriend and we decided to be exclusive I had a talk with him. I started out by saying I would castrate him if he cheated on me (joking…. I am a veterinary student, so neutering is my thing….) but then also said that I honestly will not be a jealous human being and I will trust him if he promised to communicate with me if he ever felt something was lacking. I told him I had been hurt before (not in details) and that I want to be an open person but I had to get that off my chest. That was a good way of telling that person that “Hey, I’m going to trust you. Don’t eff it up.” And it let me feel comfortable trusting him and so now 1 year in I feel that same level of trust.

    Do I know why some guys are assholes? No. Can I promise you that it won’t happen again? No. But showing some vulnerability upfront might make you feel better and remind that new guy of the consequences of stupid actions.

  8. Your intuition served you well with your ex – you broke up with him. Trust your intuition with other guys in the future. If you feel right with them, great. If it doesn’t feel right, trust your gut and move on – you don’t have to know what the reason is (that’s why it’s called ‘intuition’ and not ‘ESP’). I think that the past history with your ex should make you feel more secure, not less – because your instincts led you in the right direction, and will continue to do so in the future. Also, don’t worry about not trusting guys – it’s quite alright to not trust 99 out of 100 guys – it’s the 1 out of 100 that you know you can trust completely (again – your gut served you well in the past and will serve you well again) that is the only one that counts in the end.

    1. I totally agree that trusting your gut is essential to finding the right guy. If you feel like a guy is acting shady or you can’t trust him for some reason, you are probably right (unless you have serious issues and need therapy).

  9. Look LW,it’s easy to assume that all men are cheaters after having one bad experience.But that’s because that bad experience is what you know.There are plenty of great guys out there.The man you dated isn’t who you thought he was.These things happen.

    I wouldn’t suggest getting out there and dating immediately if you’re still upset.Date when you feel ready but don’t be suspicious of someone unless they give you a reason to be.

  10. bittergaymark says:

    Wait, one thing in this letter left me feeling very much confused. If you didn’t “force him to be exclusive” then why are you surprised that he wasn’t? Or am I misreading the letter somehow… You guys were only dating, and if you weren’t exclusive — then how was it cheating anyway if you were open to one another seeing other people? Or do you just mean that being exclusive was his idea? Please clarify.

    1. I saw that too but I took it to mean that maybe they had discussed both discussed and agreed to exclusivity.As opposed one of them “pressuring” the other one into it.

      1. bittergaymark says:

        That thought crossed my mind, but gee it sure would be nice if the people who wrote in here for advice would strive to be more clear in their letters. Lately, the letters are often vague, yet rambling, and hard to follow all the while saying precious little of interest. People, you are writing in here to get advice — so take the time to actually do your best to plead your case, please!

      2. sounds like it was just one of those passing comments people make when they’re upset. like “i didn’t make you be exclusive,why didn’t you just remain single if you were going to sleep with other people”?!

        but i agree,many of the writers are vague.like “he treats me well in so many other ways…but he tells me i’m unattractive on a regular basis”.(i think that was an actual letter a few weeks ago)>

    2. Yeh I think she was saying that he chose the relationship. Like if he wanted to sleep around, why didn’t he stay single? Answer: because he’s a jerk.

  11. here is my opinion:

    you cant ever know 100% if a guy is cheating on you unless you spend every waking second with him, check his phone constantly, check his paychecks to make sure his hours match the hours he said he was at work, ect…

    you just have to trust. you have to look for the good, and hold onto that, instead of assuming the bad, and letting that ruin things.

    just a couple weeks ago, i had my first “what if he is cheating?” thought about my boyfriend. we have been together for 2.5 years. the reason was because we havent been having sex (lady issues, ugh) lately, and so when he told me he was going out for drinks with some people from work, that was my first thought. and you know what i did? i chose to forget about it. i chose to disregard it, and to think about something more positive about him. I have only have one instance of this happening, but handling it that way helped, I think, and if it happens again (hopefully not) that is the way that i will go at it again.

    if i ever find out that he is cheating? well then, atleast i know the truth and it will be dealt with then. but until that day, i choose to trust and believe in him, and in us.

  12. Wow, that’s some existential sh** right there. How can you avoid both being hurt and being jaded and cynical? Well, the answer my friend is blowing in the wind. I think the real answer is to change your mindset. A heart that hurts is a heart that beats. A heart that trusts is a heart that matters. Don’t over-extrapolate from your limited experience. Even once you have a huge amount of experience.

  13. I want to applaud the LW for behavior mentioned in the letter, specifically that she made choices not to be controlling (control is a myth, BTW) and did encourage her ex to go out without her. I can imagine that this might be hard to carry forward into her next serious relationship, and I would like to stress that staying in a vein of not trying to control, limit, or direct your sweetie is still a good idea. Don’t let one weak partner’s actions (cheating while out on the town w/o you) change who you are at the fundamental level. If you are a fundamentally trusting person with good intuition (meaning you’re a smart cookie with your head on straight) you can still trust that.

    More importantly, it’s hard to have a healthy relationship without trust. If what you want in the future is one of those, you will have to learn to trust someone new, which is a leap of faith backed up by lots of good evidence. If you want to trust someone, focus on the evidence that shows them as trustworthy rather than focusing on the feelings you might have that they aren’t. With enough evidence in the positive column, those doubtful voices will fade until you are able to ignore them. The other upswing of focusing on the positive is that you get to be “attentive and apprectiave” rather than “anxious and vigilant.” It’s all in the intention!

    If you wonder about whether or not this approach works, it did for me. 18 years into a wonderful relationship, a guy I’d never met called one night (when my hubby was out of town on a family business trip) to accuse my beloved of cheating on me with his wife. I had no proof one way or the other, but based on some political issues swirling around the family I decided to give hubby the benefit of the doubt (I said I would in our wedding vows). It was hard to stay true to my faith that hubby was innocent, but focusing on the right places convinced me in a relatively short time that all was still well in the relationship we’d built. Sure, occasionally I still hear that little voice in the back of my head say, “How can you REALLY be sure?” but now I can silence it without any fear that I’ll one day feel like a fool.

  14. Cut off contact with the guy and the female acquaintance he cheated with. Realize that there are some decent guys out there and reformed assholes. Actually, one of my good friends is an ex frat boy who used to be obnoxious with most women (not me, but this obnoxiousness made it hard to be his friend) back in the day. He is so ashamed of the way he used to treat women and has pretty much made a 180. Ironically, women seem to be less interested in him now that he is not an asshole but what can he do. My point is, there are more good people than you think. Your ex was weak and pitiful, the good guy type who uses his superficial “goodness” to mask the ranging, insecure jerk underneath. Also, this will be a mass generalization and I may get thumbed down but you may want to try and date a guy who is 30. I’ve found that guys kind of go, wow, I’m not in my twenties any more and some of my friends are having kids, and tend to be more committed towards a serious relationship. They are less likely to have repeated bar nights with the guys where the whole point is picking up women and are more likely to be catching up/hanging out.

  15. My freshman year of college I dated a guy who then left to study abroad. We basically said before he left that we weren’t dating but that we would be waiting for each other after the quarter was over. There were some things said about being exclusive but not dating, but that was weird and never really decided on. While he was there, I saw my high school sweetheart while at home for the weekend and some things happened between us. I don’t really know if it was technically cheating, but I didn’t want the other guy to find out. As the quarter progressed, the college guy started getting super jealous of his ex dating other guys and decided he wanted her back. So he told me he was going to get back with her and things were done with us. And I did the super immature thing and told him about my escapade with my ex.
    Looking back, it was a really dumb thing to do. He actually didn’t care at all, since he was getting me out of his life. Basically, I said it because I was hurt and I wanted him to hurt like me, so I said what I thought would do that. Looking back, I wish I had kept it to myself and had been the bigger person.
    Your ex told you because he wanted to hurt you like you hurt him. Don’t give him that satisfaction. When the guy I did that too had no reaction but to say well great maybe you guys can work things out too, that actually bugged me alot more than if he had lashed out at me, because it showed me I didn’t hurt him at all. Don’t let this guy get the satisfaction of hurting you.
    Not all guys are like him, and you will find a good one. And hopefully one day he will mature and realize what he did was stupid, just like I did.

  16. LW, Cut off all contact – delete his phones numbers, emails, Facebook, etc. Don’t respond to him if he tries to talk to you. If you run into him again on the street, WALK AWAY, and I can’t stress that enough. If you want to take the power back – walk away without saying a word or even looking at him – is how you do it. Ignore him – completely!! He has nothing to do with your life, so don’t let him in!

    He caught you by surprise when he told you he cheated, and that’s what he was going for. He wanted you to feel hurt and upset, and not because that’s how he felt when you broke up with him. He was upset because YOU were the one who had power over your decisions, not HIM – he even tried to get you back, and you said no. He is an asshole douche-wad of the highest denominator, and you should be thanking your lucky stars you got rid of him that easily.

    If you want to move on, stop feeling upset over it, cos you know what? Shit happens. And shit happens to very good, very nice people. So you need to stop wondering why he’s such an ass and why he’d treat you that way, cos you know what? Who cares?! You’re not dating him anymore! And what he did is not your fault, and it’s not a reflection on you as a girlfriend – he’s just an douche and would do it to any girl he was with – once a cheater, always a cheater. So stop worrying about it, and start believing in yourself and your passions – things that matter to you. And trust that people are good and not ever guy is going to fuck you over.

    If I were you, I’d take matters into my own hands for finding a guy – don’t sit around and wonder why Ass-For-Brains has ass for brains – go find a guy who doesn’t. Yes, you will get hurt, and rejected, but EVERYONE goes through it, and you just have to let it go and be who you are and know that someone special will love you for it.

  17. Dude, what the fuck?

    Not all “frat boys” are cheating assholes, as you seem to be implying here.

      1. Thank god somebody said it. I still feel bad for her, but a little less so when I read that. I got a vibe from her that she judges people based on what they seem like on the outside (“frat guy”, “normal nice guy”, “nerd”, etc.) So many women think the low-key normal guy will be nicer to her. Stop judging people on those kinds of things.

    1. 6napkinburger says:

      I don’t think she meant “frat boy” as in “males who belong(ed) to a fraternity”; I think she meant the stereotypical guy who uses women, drinks too much, is crass, etc. (think one of the main characters, i forget his name, in “I am Charlotte Simmons.”) Of course its a generalization and there are other, more accurate ways to describe the type of person she is referring to, and of course not all people who appear to be a type of person ARE that type of person, and not all people who are a “type of person” do everything that all other people who meet that description do… but, there is a little validity to the expectations you have of “types of people” and she was expressing that he didn’t seem “the type.” Not that all guys who were in frats are scum.

      1. 6napkinburger says:

        I also meant, you can know someone very very well and from the knowledge you get from knowing them, believe they fall into “a type” — it isn’t necessarily a snap-judgment, or a superficial judgment. (e.g. He looks like a nerd so he’s smart, rather than, he was a comp. sci major who graduated sum cum laude, he started a successful website which he programs himself, he self-identifies as a “nerd” and his self-declared favorite shirt says “nerds rule” in binary… I think of him as fitting the type as a “cool nerd.”)

      2. I also condone stereotyping.

      3. 6napkinburger says:

        I can understand that, but I also believe in heuristics.

      4. 6napkinburger says:

        And moreover, that’s actually the whole point.

        She didn’t think he was the “type of person” to cheat but he did. Now she doesn’t know what to do, because if even the people who you don’t think are the “type of person” who would cheat cheat, and the people who you WOULD think are the type of person to cheat cheat, then EVERYONE cheats and you’re screwed!

        And that’s the flaw– even people who you won’t think cheat do cheat, and some of the people who you think would cheat don’t. That’s the whole point — stereotypes don’t work in this context (and many others), and that’s what makes the whole dating game so hard. That’s why it requires “trust” — if we could go entirely based on statistics, heuristics and stereotypes, we wouldn’t need trust. But we can’t, so we do.

        I realized I was about to get derailed with the fact that I think heuristics can be useful for decision-making in the proper context and get into a stereotypes are good/bad/accurate/inaccurate spiral and that I think “labels” isn’t always a dirty word and that ones which are accurate can be useful and supportive and helpful, and not only lead to unfair prejudgment. But I caught myself, yay me.

        Its just about looking to a person’s past conduct to predict their future conduct. It isn’t always accurate (which is why it isn’t allowed as evidence in court), but its bascially all we have in real life. She looked to his past and his general persona and found him to be dissimilar with the type of people known to cheat. And she was wrong, so now she feels she’ll always be wrong.

        So now she can update her heuristics to know that guys like her ex do sometimes cheat and she needs to believe that she won’t always be wrong, and that she will learn to trust others not to hurt her the same way. Which blows. But its all we have.

      5. I think what you are saying is that people acquire data through experience and make generalizations about groups of people all the time and that is because you need to to navigate people, social circles, work, unfamiliar places, etc….and it is ok as long as you are willing to not hold everyone to those absolutes until you get to know them. Stereotypes exist for a reason…let’s not pretend otherwise….but yes it is ridiculous to make sweeping generalizations for what is essentially a first impression. I agree.

  18. I think that anyone – anyone – has the capacity to cheat in a relationship if the variables align correctly, and and I think that most people have the ability to remain monogamous (in the right relationship). The key is to simply accept that that is the way life is. You can never be certain someone is not cheating without applying so much scrutiny that you’ll drive them to leave you.

    Instead of worrying that someone is cheating on you, instead be concerned that you are happy in your relationship. Trust someone to be good to you, not to be true to you. I agree, usually one implies the other, but not always. Seek relationships that make you happy.

    I don’t mean to just assume someone will cheat or that you shouldn’t do the basics of looking for red flags… I just mean that it’s pointless to let it take over your life to the point you’re always wondering and checking and suspicious.

    As Wendy and others have said, that was the intent of him telling you – to poison the well, as it were. That was the asshole thing he did, and worse than the cheating. Don’t let him.

    People who have been cheated on are like cancer survivors… it’s hard to avoid worrying about it recurring or to not see every little thing as a sign that it has. But you have to or else your life cannot be fulfilling. You can always be cheated on. You can always come down with cancer – and, in fact, if you live long enough, your odds of both approach 100%. But you cannot live your life worrying about that.

    Get even with him by being happy.

    1. This is great. Jealous people drive themselves nuts because they want to know for sure that a person will be faithful, and you can’t know for sure. I think the key to not obsessing over whether or not somebody will cheat you is accepting that it is impossible to know 100% that they never will. Because everybody is capable of cheating. You take the risk of getting hurt when you love a person, and that is part of life’s journey. All you can trust 100% is that YOU will be ok and live on even if they do cheat on you. That’s where you find your peace of mind.

      Somebody made a comment on here a week or so ago that I thought was so great that I saved it. I forget who said it, but it is so true:

      “You have to be able to let go and trust that if you fall that you’ll be fine anyway.”

      1. I look at it this way: if someone sees no signs/red flags that their SO is cheating on them,there’s no reason to drive themselves crazy worrying or searching for “evidence” of cheating.That’s no way to live.

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