Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

Shortcuts: “Should I Tell Him I Cheated a Long Time Ago?”

It’s time again for Shortcuts. For every question, I’ll give my advice in just a few sentences, because sometimes the answer to a person’s question is so obvious and the need to hear it so great, being as clear and frank as possible is simply the best way to go.

I’ve been dating my boyfriend for a year and a half now and I love him more than words can explain. He’s always talking about marrying me and starting a life together, but the thing is I cheated on him in the first couple of months we were dating. I was in a bad place and just didn’t really care about anything. I was out partying every weekend doing my thing. But I get really bad anxiety and it was eating me up inside so I told him that this guy and I just kissed (which wasn’t the whole truth). He was devastated. And now maybe seven months have gone by since I told him that and my anxiety is eating me up inside and I don’t know whether I should tell him the whole truth or not. Everyone says not to, but I just feel horrible keeping this from him. — Eaten By Anxiety

You’d only be telling him the whole truth to alleviate your guilt, and that’s unfair and totally selfish. Let it go, move on and don’t cheat on him again. As for your anxiety, I recommend taking up running or kite-flying or kick boxing or Zumba. Break a sweat and get in touch with your breath. If that doesn’t work, therapy.

I met this girl a year ago and we were planning to go out soon, but, all of a sudden, her ex got back in contact with her and they got back together. All I know about him is that they were in a long-term relationship and they broke up because he said he couldn’t imagine marrying her. She told me that she was very hurt by it and she even said she thought he might be the one. I am worried she is going to get hurt by him again. I tried telling her that, but she is too stubborn. I won’t lie — I am in love with her even if we haven’t gone out on a single date yet. I want to help her, but I am thinking I might just have to let her find out herself. So what do you think about this? — Too Late

I think it’s probably time for you to MOA and to find someone to go on a date with who is both emotionally and physically available.

Why does it seem like my ex I was with for three years has already moved on? He posts pictures of some other girl and seems so interested in her… and, yet, he hangs out with me all of the time and is still emotional with me and shows love and affection and talks about the past and is touchy! We will hang out until 5 AM just talking and tickling and play fighting (all of which he initiates) even though he has to wake up for work at 6. Why does he spend all hours of the night with me comforting me, making plans for the future with me, being touchy and bringing up things from our past? He is the one who left me and it’s only been six weeks, but he already seems interested in this other girl. What’s his deal? Has he moved on? Rebounded? Confused? He’ll even gently tickle my back and play with my hair and rub my neck. I mean is he just used to doing this stuff and that’s why he does it?! HELP! What should I do? — Tickled By My Ex

Stop giving your love away for free! He broke up with you not because he’s not interested in you or doesn’t care about you anymore; he broke up with you so he could have his cake and eat it too. He wanted to continue hanging out with you and being intimate with you, but also have the freedom to pursue other girls. And you’re letting him get away with it. So, stop. Get some self-respect and tell him that, if he wants to be with you, he has to be with just you. And if he can’t do that, then that’s his loss.


You can follow me on Facebook here and sign up for my weekly newsletter here.

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

155 comments… add one
  • Christy November 15, 2013, 9:15 am

    Seriously, LW1, therapy is the best for anxiety. And plus, if you’re fortunate enough to have good health insurance, it can actually be pretty inexpensive. I only pay a $25 copay when I visit my therapist, and I have no annual limit to my visits.

    And I understand wanting to tell him. I felt like I’d done something to betray my gf’s trust and I HAD to tell her. I ended up telling her the full story about two weeks after the fact. (Everything was fine because it was such a minor thing I was blowing up in my head, and she didn’t consider it a violation of trust.) So I get you with NEEDING to tell him.

    But yo. You LIED about it. Like, that to me is the biggest reason you can’t tell him. You lied when you told him. I don’t know that he’ll be able to get over that.

    Can you get over the fact that you lied to him? Or do you tell him? Or do you just break up with him? Anxiety-brain would tell me (always tells me, really) to just break up and not have the conversation. Honest-brain would tell me to get over myself.

    Telling him the truth is just selfish here, Wendy’s right.

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    • zombeyonce November 15, 2013, 12:57 pm

      I agreed that she shouldn’t tell him until I read the last line: “Everyone says not to, but I just feel horrible keeping this from him.”

      This makes me think that she’s talked it over with a lot of people, which in turn sounds like this “secret” isn’t going to be a secret forever. If lots of people know, someone’s going to mention something to him eventually and if he was devastated about a kiss, he’s going to be ever worse about what she actually did and then didn’t admit to the first time around.

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  • Morgan November 15, 2013, 9:25 am

    LW1: This is always the question I hate, because what I think is probably objectively the correct thing to do is not what I would want done to me if I were the person cheated on. I mean, I think the best answer for cheating is to tell your partner right away so that they can decide for themselves whether or not to move on or work through it. When it happened a while ago and your relationship is now in a different stage than it was when the cheating occurred (i.e. from exclusive but still early to serious and planning a future) though, I think what wendy said is what makes the most sense to me. And yet I can’t help thinking that if it were me, I’d be so angry my power to make that decision for myself was taken away. Your boyfriend chose to forgive you based on what he thinks happened. Maybe he would have made that decision regardless, maybe not. But it sucks that he didn’t get to make it for himself. I don’t know…

    Sorry that was the least helpful advice in the universe, but this is one of those issues where my head says what Wendy says, but my gut reaction is I would want to know. I hate the idea of being lied to to protect my feelings. I’m a big girl, let me decide how to feel, ya know?

    LW2: Um, so basically she’s an unrequited crush? MOA.

    LW3: It seems like he’s moved on because he has no interest in being in a committed relationship with you. Right now, he’s still getting the perks of you being his girlfriend until he locks down a new girlfriend. I don’t even necessarily think this makes him a bad guy; you were in his life a long time, and its hard to lose that constant presence of someone who was probably your closest friend, or one of them, as well as your SO. But the only way for either of you to move on is to cut off that contact.

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    • Fabelle November 15, 2013, 9:30 am

      In regard to #1—yeah, usually I’m very “don’t tell, it’s selfish” but something about this situation is cringe-y to me. She told him PART of it, so I almost just want her to suck it up & tell the rest?

      I did something similar with my ex—cheated on him, he found pictures, & I confessed to only what could be seen in the pictures (making out). He was so upset already just over that, I couldn’t be like, “yeah, & I slept with him multiple, multiple times also”. It really did eat me up inside, so I feel for this girl & almost want to tell her to just break up with him.

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    • theattack November 15, 2013, 9:34 am

      I agree. He was hurt over the kiss, so I imagine he would be very hurt over finding out there was more. To me that’s all the more reason to be honest about it, not to hide it from him. I don’t understand the argument behind protecting someone from their feelings when those feelings are completely legitimate things they should absolutely have a chance to work through. IMO, a cheater isn’t in a place to make this kind of decision for someone else, because it’s inevitably coming from a selfish place.

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    • Morgan November 15, 2013, 9:41 am

      Also, in light of the conversation last week (?) about interracial dating and attraction, and its side conversation about Idris Elba, I’m just gonna leave this here:

      I recommend scrolling down to the gif in the comments 🙂

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      • Fabelle November 15, 2013, 9:44 am

        hahaha “parts of my body have twitched that have never twitched before”— for realz. And I like how the first two comments are from a straight dude & a lesbian.

      • Morgan November 15, 2013, 9:51 am

        The appeal of Idris is universal (And I loved “But sweet jesus nobody is THAT straight”)

      • the_optimist November 15, 2013, 10:57 am

        Gotta agree… that boy IS sex on a stick.

  • Fabelle November 15, 2013, 9:26 am

    LW1: yeah, if this was a short-lived, I-was-in-a-bad-place-at-the-time thing, I wouldn’t have told at all? But you told half the story—or less than that—which is sort of awkward. It’s damaging the relationship, & not even the whole truth. So I get why you’re anxious over it now—& I agree with Wendy. Therapy. You may not even be ready for a relationship, honestly, but therapy can help you figure that out.

    LW2: Move on. The girl is back with her ex— that’s what she wants. Doing what one wants is not automatically “stubborn”. Back off, let it go. Sorry.

    LW3: This a “people treat them how you let them” thing, as Wendy basically said. Stop hanging out with him, & you’ll stop being so confused over the whole thing.

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  • bagge72 November 15, 2013, 9:28 am

    LW1: WWS

    LW2: Give it up man, she loves this guy not you, stop making stuff up about this guy so she dumps him, because even if she does she isn’t going to go running to you, especially after you bad mouthed him and her decision making. LET IT GO and stop being friends with her, because it is just going to keep you from dating other women.

    LW3: You guys are broken up, act like it and move on, stop hanging out with each other, because you are holding onto some sort of hope that you will get back together, and he loves it, because like Wendy said, he gets girlfriend benefits from you while being able to search for a girl he actually wants to be in a relationship with. 6 weeks is way to soon to be hanging out with this guy like you do, stand up for yourself, and tell him you need space, beacuse he isn’t coming back to you so let it go.

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    • rainbow November 15, 2013, 10:31 am

      “stop making stuff up about this guy so she dumps him, because even if she does she isn’t going to go running to you, especially after you bad mouthed him and her decision making”

      beautifully put.

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  • TECH November 15, 2013, 9:33 am

    I don’t think admitting that you cheated is selfish or soley to alleviate your guilt. I think it’s important if a man is talking about marrying you, to have all the cards on the table, so he can make an informed decision about it.
    When it comes to instances in my life when the truth was revealed, it was very painful, but ultimately, right. I can’t say I’ve ever regretted instances of honesty — whether it was my own, or someone coming clean to me.

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    • theattack November 15, 2013, 9:36 am

      Most definitely. Honesty is always the best. Always.

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      • Lily in NYC November 15, 2013, 9:57 am

        You are stating your opinion as a fact. Personally, I wouldn’t want to know.

      • theattack November 15, 2013, 9:59 am

        Umm, sorry you’re offended by my sentence structure?

      • Lily in NYC November 15, 2013, 10:38 am

        I’m not offended by anything you wrote. But you wrote it as if it were a truism/fact and that there’s no room for argument. I don’t agree that the truth is always better.

      • katie November 15, 2013, 10:48 am

        psh come on there is ALWAYS room for arguement- hello, welcome to DW.

      • theattack November 15, 2013, 10:53 am

        A statement like mine above is obviously an opinion. I don’t even know what to tell you if you take issue with that. That’s just how human conversation works. If I say that the biggest asshole move in the world is to cut someone off in traffic, that is very clearly not a fact.

      • Lily in NYC November 15, 2013, 4:49 pm

        I didn’t mean to start an argument. But to me, writing: “Honesty is always the best policy. Always” is not someone stating an opinion. I apologize if I misunderstood but I really don’t want to get into a back and forth about this.

      • starpattern November 15, 2013, 11:32 am

        I mean, this is a comment thread on an advice column, not a scientific peer review. I thought everyone just assumed it’s understood that we are all expressing our opinions, not irrefutable facts.

      • othy November 15, 2013, 12:22 pm

        Damn, I was hoping this was a scientific peer reviewed site. Welp, now to erase all of my references to this on my CV/resume.

      • meadowphoenix November 15, 2013, 3:50 pm

        I get what you’re saying Lily. I don’t know why the people replying to you are acting like “Honesty is the best policy” doesn’t have a specific context as a truism rather than an opinion, and that it wasn’t weird that you commented on that context, but I hear you.

      • Lily in NYC November 15, 2013, 4:52 pm

        Thanks, I’m glad someone understands the point I didn’t seem to make very well.

      • lets_be_honest November 15, 2013, 10:05 am

        She wasn’t stating that everyone would want to know or not want to know. She was saying honesty is the best policy, which I assume 99% of people would agree with.

      • Lily in NYC November 15, 2013, 10:42 am

        That’s exactly what I disagree with. I understood the intent of the comment.

      • lets_be_honest November 15, 2013, 10:45 am

        Idk, Lily. Do we all have to start typing “imo” after every comment? I always read comments with that understanding. If I wrote cheese is the best food, obviously I don’t think or mean everyone must agree.

      • honeybeenicki November 15, 2013, 11:23 am

        But cheese IS the best food. Ever.

      • katie November 15, 2013, 11:34 am

        yea, anyway who wants to argue that is NOT a fact …. well i dont want to be friends with you.

    • katie November 15, 2013, 9:42 am

      exactly! i dont think that i could ever say in my life “i would have just rather not known”. i might say “i would have rather this never happened”, sure- but i would always want to know.

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      • Fabelle November 15, 2013, 10:00 am

        In my opinion it’s sort of good to ask, in the beginning of the relationship— hey, would you want to know if I cheated? People don’t like to do this because they think it’s bad vibes to even ~mention~ cheating, but I think it’s good to establish how each of you prefer to proceed if an incident occurs? My ex always used to be like, “I don’t want to know, just break up with me” (hence sort of why I didn’t let him in on any extra info in my situation above, although we didn’t break up either).

      • lets_be_honest November 15, 2013, 10:08 am

        I totally understand your point, but wouldn’t it be a little weird to ask your new bf how/if he’d like you to tell him if you cheat on him? I’d give the side eye to someone I was dating who asked me that.

      • theattack November 15, 2013, 10:12 am

        Same here. That’s another thing DW is good for. You can just start it off by saying “I read this really interesting debate online today….” I’ve brought up so many potentially awkward conversations that way. haha

      • GatorGirl November 15, 2013, 12:45 pm

        OMG we’ve had about 600 conversations about DW. Haha. Best pre-matial counseling ever. Read DW daily and talk about each letter with your partner. GGuy rolls his eyes everytime I go “So on DW today…” haha.

      • Christy November 15, 2013, 12:52 pm

        Gf has decided that my DW stories are her background podcast for when she’s cooking. She knows who most of you are, too. And incidentally, GG, she’s anti-chairs at weddings. (She remembers you the best because of your chairs stance.)

      • theattack November 15, 2013, 12:55 pm

        So does he actually know it’s called DearWendy? I would be way too freaked to actually name it, even though he’s probably seen it in my computer history. How do you know he doesn’t come on here?

      • lets_be_honest November 15, 2013, 12:57 pm

        panic attack ensues…

        jk. I’m not dumb enough to DW at home! HAHA

      • theattack November 15, 2013, 12:59 pm

        haha, You must have lots of self-control to be able to take a break from DW. I used to use the InPrivate browsing when I came here, but I stopped for some reason.

      • lets_be_honest November 15, 2013, 1:01 pm

        I use in private at work, and Ill read DW at home on my phone, but its too hard to comment on my phone, so I’ll just skim when I’m bored. Honestly, I’m glad I don’t dw at home. I try to not really use the computer when I’m home, more time to focus on the people there. Its so easy to get sucked into DWing all day.

      • GatorGirl November 15, 2013, 1:03 pm

        Yeah, I say Dear Wendy. He can come on here, I don’t say anything I wouldn’t say to his face.

        He thinks my “obsession” is silly though, so I don’t think he ever will come on here.

      • Miel November 15, 2013, 12:59 pm

        I’m doing this so much ! Although, I always keep the website name a secret because I’m too afraid my boyfriend would google it, arrive here, and look at all the comments until he identifies me, and then I would have no privacy anymore.

      • katie November 15, 2013, 10:12 am

        maybe it would be weird in a really randomly asked way, but jake and i have definitely talked about it, and it wasnt a weird, side eye-inducing conversation.

      • lets_be_honest November 15, 2013, 10:16 am

        Yea, that’s true. You’re both right.

      • rawkmys0cks November 15, 2013, 12:33 pm

        Yeah we’ve talked about it too in a purely hypothetical sense and it’s just good to know. He wants to know absolutely anything, and I don’t want to know if it was a one-off situation, but do want to know if it was a long standing affair. He said he will probably tell me either way and I’m like well, okay dude lol.

      • ktfran November 15, 2013, 10:18 am

        I LOLd at your side eye comment. Funny!

      • bethany November 15, 2013, 10:17 am

        A long time ago I told my husband that he could cheat on me all he wanted, but he just needed to tell me first. I think he thought I was nuts. But the way I look at it is, he can do whatever he wants, I’d rather him not lie to me about it.

      • lets_be_honest November 15, 2013, 10:24 am

        Haha, I told mine to just call me right before it happens to tell me…’one moment soon-to-be sex partner, I just have to call my gf real quick to let her know I’m about to cheat on her. Its fine. She asked me to.’

      • Fabelle November 15, 2013, 10:38 am

        I did the same thing, haha—like, “listen, if you’re ever about to cheat on me, just tell me, okay?” And that resulted in Fabello responding with, “Oh sure, I’ll just be with some girl like—‘Oh! Hold on, wait, wait, just gotta call my girlfriend… yeah, Fabelle? I’m with this girl, I think we’re about to hook up—oh. Nevermind, she ran away.'”

      • muchachaenlaventana November 15, 2013, 11:02 am

        ha I did that with my first ex, I was like if there is ever a point where you think you are going to cheat on me, I’d rather you just break up with me and let me know. Well it worked in that he broke-up with me, but lied about the reasons (another girl, he supposedly never hooked up with while we were together) even though I had tons of photographic evidence, of the two of them together and her sorority sisters commenting with kissy faces and winks (WHILE WE were still a couple) (F U Facebook) ha. So glad college is over and done with. But yeah I definitely would prefer being told or broken-up with than lied to. Lying is my #1 dealbreaker (at this point).

      • Fabelle November 15, 2013, 11:16 am

        Oh god, that’s awfulllll (the FB comments, just, ick)

      • muchachaenlaventana November 15, 2013, 11:40 am

        yeah it was TERRIBLE, people can be really cruel sometimes.

      • katie November 15, 2013, 10:50 am

        also, i wanted to add that i think its always good to talk about this kind of stuff in general anyway. like, doesnt everyone know what their partner’s opinions on cheating are anyway? that should always be a discussion!

      • jlyfsh November 15, 2013, 10:59 am

        yeah I think we’ve seen through past letters on cheating that there is a clear divide in those who want to know and those who wouldn’t want to. so to me the most important thing is knowing what your SO would want.

        to me something that happened in the first few months we were dating when we may or may not have been monogamous, i would not want to know. but, i’m sure there are others who would want to know. so know your partner! 🙂

      • katie November 15, 2013, 11:03 am

        yes! and then depending on what your SO wants, i could *then* see telling as selfish. if your SO specifically said not to tell under x, y, z/all circumstances and you do anyway- then i can get on board with it being selfish.

    • rainbow November 15, 2013, 10:36 am

      Yes, I think if I found out about the whole thing too late my biggest problem with it all would be not that he cheated on me but that he let me marry a cheater without letting me make an informed decision.

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    • lemongrass November 15, 2013, 10:53 am

      This. I don’t understand how a cheater keeping it a secret is supposed to be not selfish. You are not only cheating but taking away your partner’s ability to make an informed decision about who they are spending their life with.

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      • theattack November 15, 2013, 11:00 am

        Yes. Obviously there’s a benefit for the cheater to both options here: alleviating guilt but being honest and potentially losing their love, or keeping themselves out of trouble and having to live with the guilt. To me it seems more selfish to not tell because they have more to gain that way than they do alleviating their guilty feelings.

    • rieux November 15, 2013, 11:24 am

      This so much! Honesty is often painful and shitty, but you almost always gain something by it… you know the other person better, and you know where you stand and what you’re doing.

      I also told my boyfriend when we were talking about Dan Savage that I disagreed with him on that question of “do you tell.” I was like, “Perfect honesty is more important to me than perfect fidelity.” He agreed. So now we both know where we stand, but fingers crossed it’ll never be an issue.

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      • katie November 15, 2013, 11:33 am

        ohhhhh “Perfect honesty is more important to me than perfect fidelity.” — I LOVE IT. put that on a coffee mug or something!!

      • rieux November 15, 2013, 11:38 am

        haha awesome idea! bonus, people who come visit for coffee will be like “uhhhhh… awkward… why do you guys have this?”

      • theattack November 15, 2013, 11:42 am

        That is a great way to say it. I’m completely on your page. Just curious, how far would you take that? Like would you want to know about gray areas too (like Fabelle’s example of grinding at a club, or maybe going to a strip club if that’s permitted in your relationship, etc)? I feel conflicted about where to draw the line at times myself, because I want to know everything, but I also don’t want to have to worry about something stupid.

      • rieux November 15, 2013, 12:05 pm

        Funny you should ask, because right after that (like literally a WEEK after this conversation I just quoted) I found pics of myself black-out drunk and being wayyyy handsy/flirty at an office party. And I thought oh shit, I have to be perfectly honest now, and I was like “Uhhhh, I have something to tell you…” But after the story he said he didn’t care and didn’t get upset about things like that. After that conversation I realized that I missed being my laid-back younger self who saw flirting as just a fun expression of sexuality, not a sign of the apocalypse. And that’s where we have both landed (or, er, well, I’m working on it).

        As for the strip clubs… ugh, gross. I’d rather know, but I’d rather he didn’t go. Haha 🙂 And same with flirting — like, I don’t necessarily want to know the gory details, because it would be too weird. I’d just expect him to kind of elide the parts that were weird, and I respect his right to do that and enjoy the flirting/dancing as long as it’s innocent & he wasn’t emotionally or physically cheating. People’s comfort levels with hearing about that stuff probably varies, and like you mine isn’t exactly the highest!

    • GatorGirl November 15, 2013, 12:04 pm

      I completely agree with you.

      LW, you should own up to it. Hiding what actually happened and continuing in this relationship isn’t allowing your BF to make an informed decision about his relationship. He’s still dating you under false pretenses, and that would make me feel like shit.

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  • Boosker November 15, 2013, 9:38 am

    LW #1–You feel guilty because you did something you shouldn’t have. But at some point, guilt becomes counterproductive. Use that guilt as a reminder of the kind of girlfriend you don’t want to be and leave it at that.

    LW #2–The only reason you’re so interested in saving this girl from a second round mistake is because you want to be the guy. Don’t pretend that you have some sort of altruistic agenda to keep her from getting hurt. You want to date her, and now she’s unavailable. Whether or not this rekindling of a relationship works out should not concern you. She made her choice and you aren’t it.

    LW #3–Oh my goodness, this is exactly why I subscribe to and promote the “clean break policy.” If you’re broken up, you’re not calling each other, texting all day, staying up all night chatting and play fighting. You both seem unwilling to break your routine even though he was very willing to break the relationship. Quit wading through grey areas and cut him off. Otherwise when he makes it official with this new girl, you’re going to be blind sided and crushed rather than too busy pursuing your own new love interests to notice what your ex is up to. I even recommend hiding him on Facebook for at least six months.

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  • katie November 15, 2013, 9:40 am

    LW1- i dont believe in keeping cheating from your partner, ever, i dont think. and to be perfectly honest, you have really kind of fucked this up even more by then lying about what happened when you were trying to be honest.

    i know ill be the only one, but you should tell him, and tell him the truth this time. its not selfish, its honesty. he should know what goes on in the relationship he is a part of.

    LW2 and 3- WWS and WEES.

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    • lets_be_honest November 15, 2013, 9:43 am

      I agree. Its a weird one, because yes, it is selfish to tell to make yourself feel better, but its also shady/lying.
      But its also selfish not to tell. I feel like saying don’t tell bc its selfish is also saying ‘and you know if you tell, he might leave you, and you don’t want that to happen.’

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      • katie November 15, 2013, 9:54 am

        yea, i really agree. i think its much more selfish to say nothing just to keep the status quo of your relationship the way it is.

      • muchachaenlaventana November 15, 2013, 11:07 am

        I don’t know, if its a one-off incident, happened early on, and you know you aren’t going to cheat again then I think its more selfish to tell. It sucks she already lied about it when confronted, but unless she is a chronic cheater, or carrying on an affair, the knowledge is just goign to destroy her partner and ruin the relationship. When my ex and I just started dating, he was extremely committed to me, and thought I was to him (we hadn’t discussed it explicitly but it was sort of understood) anyways, I ended up hooking up with a guy I had dated right before meeting my ex, about one or two months into my ex and I dating. I felt (and still do feel) really guilty about it, but it meant nothing and it reinforced my feelings for him x100. If I told him about it, he would have been really devastated or if I told him now, I think he would be equally as hurt. Its a little different because we weren’t “official” whatever that means, but we were to him.

      • katie November 15, 2013, 11:14 am

        but this- ” the knowledge is just goign to destroy her partner and ruin the relationship” – doesnt that mean that if you keep that knowledge to yourself, because you obviously like your partner and want to continue the relationship- isnt that like the definition of being selfish?

      • muchachaenlaventana November 15, 2013, 11:28 am

        Yeah…but sometimes you have to be selfish in relationships, and I think that the guilt of living with that mistake is sort of the punishment people deal with who have done the cheating. I don’t know I just think if you love someone, made a terrible mistake, but otherwise were happy and they were happy with you and loved you and you know you won’t do it again, telling is just a way to relieve your guilt and make your partner who is none the wiser regardless, miserable. I had someone have an emotional affair on me and it devastated me and ruined our relationship, I am glad I found out because it proved that he was a dishonest coward, but if it had just been a one night make out/hookup at a bar that was deeply regretted and wasn’t ever repeated in the 3 year course of our relationship-no I would not want to know. Mainly because that one isolated incident has no bearing our on relationship and would only cause me complete misery, I would lose my trust in my partner, doubt myself, and what so he could feel better and get something off his chest,that he knows doesn’t have any impact on our actual relationship or feelings for one another? Just my feelings on it, and definitely influenced by the knowledge that I am not someone who could ever get over any cheating incident. I think some people could look at this and say “okay it was 2 years ago, never happened again, I am glad they were honest, we can work through this” but I could never have this approach to it so in this cheating circumstance would just really never want to know.

    • theattack November 15, 2013, 9:45 am

      You are definitely not the only one. I kind of can’t believe how common this advice is. Building your entire future on a lie, knowing that the person might not have wanted to be with you at all if he had known the truth? That’s so deceitful and wrong. The pain that he will feel after learning it is nothing in the long term compared to this level of dishonesty.

      To me it’s okay to fudge the truth about little things from early on in the relationship like when you’re maybe not exclusive yet. It’s not okay to straight up lie about what happened when you were exclusive and let him think he knows the truth and is forgiving you for everything that happened. That honestly makes me feel nauseous to think about.

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    • SasLinna November 15, 2013, 10:02 am

      I may get flamed for this, but I do think that “always tell” is a bit too simplistic and idealistic. I can agree in this case, where they’re just about to make a major commitment but haven’t done so yet, but not in general. There are situations where it would be unkind to tell a partner you’ve cheated. I’m thinking one-time occurrence, atypical behavior (not inclined to repeat cheat), and the presence of an already difficult situation. Like, say, they are young parents, both are totally exhausted already, and one of them cheats one time after drinking too much. Or the partner is having other major issues in his life and would be very burdened by hearing about the cheating. Because, even if it was a one time thing that they would forgive, a lot of people WILL
      have very significant emotional reaction upon hearing. For me personally, if I had a lot of other things going on already, and it was a one-time thing, I wouldn’t want to know.

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      • lets_be_honest November 15, 2013, 10:07 am

        its also unkind to cheat, so there’s that 🙂

      • SasLinna November 15, 2013, 10:11 am

        yes, it is! but sometimes people make bad choices, and what’s done is done.

      • katie November 15, 2013, 10:16 am

        i would want to know that my partner cheated in all those situations.

        i just literally cant think of a time where i would not want to know. i dont think “always tell” is too simplistic for me.

      • SasLinna November 15, 2013, 10:23 am

        It may not be too simplistic for you. I was trying to argue in more general terms.

      • lemongrass November 15, 2013, 11:25 am

        Is pain always a bad thing? Can we not grow, change and learn from it? Ignorance may be bliss but that doesn’t necessarily make it a good thing.

      • GatorGirl November 15, 2013, 12:07 pm

        Drinking isn’t an excuse for cheating. And cheating on a partner who has “other major issues” going on…well that just makes you an asshole.

        This comment pissed me off so much I don’t even know what to say.

      • lets_be_honest November 15, 2013, 12:14 pm

        I never can decide how I feel about that. I’ve done some really thoughtless things while drinking that I just wouldn’t do while sober.

      • lemongrass November 15, 2013, 12:17 pm

        I think that excusing behaviour because do being drunk is a very slippery slope. Rape- I was drunk! Rob Ford- I was in a drunken stupor!

      • lemongrass November 15, 2013, 12:17 pm

        Do= of. *hides wine glass*

      • lets_be_honest November 15, 2013, 12:24 pm

        Yikes, very, very good point.

      • SasLinna November 15, 2013, 12:58 pm

        To be clear, I’m not excusing cheating while drunk. I’m not excusing cheating at all. I was merely commenting on whether the cheater should always tell. This, IMO, depends on the circumstances, and being drunk is one circumstance. It’s important insofar as it can explain cheating that would otherwise not have happened (not justify it, just explain it).

      • Fabelle November 15, 2013, 12:22 pm

        Yeah, to add personal opinion onto my “some people see it as less black & white” comment— I’m not sure, either. It doesn’t EXCUSE it, but it makes it more… understandable? Like, if my boyfriend told me he cheated on me in the middle of the day while totally sober, I’d be like “Wha???” But if it was after a late night drinking & flirting, I’d be like, “Eh, I see how that happens.”

      • lets_be_honest November 15, 2013, 12:24 pm

        Yes, that’s how I was looking at it too.

      • theattack November 15, 2013, 12:27 pm

        That sort of makes sense to me, but I would only feel that way very sparingly. I wouldn’t be understanding of the cheating at all, but I would be slightly less hurt than I would be if it was sober and very deliberate. He still made the choice to drink to excess in a vulnerable situation though.

      • GatorGirl November 15, 2013, 12:32 pm

        So when GGuy’s cheating incident happened he’d been drinking, a fair amount, as had the girl. It definitely didn’t soften the blow that he had broken my trust and a prearranged agreement we had. In my opinion, the line is VERY clear, and drinking doesn’t soften/blurr it or excuse cross it.

      • lets_be_honest November 15, 2013, 12:48 pm

        You wouldn’t have been even slightly more hurt had he been sober? Don’t get me wrong, I’d still be way hurt, but I *think* it’d hurt more if he had literally no excuse, even if it was a weak one.

      • GatorGirl November 15, 2013, 1:06 pm

        No, because I don’t see drinking as an excuse.

      • muchachaenlaventana November 15, 2013, 12:39 pm

        Same- I don’t see it as an excuse but drinking or being under the influence have caused me to do and say a lot of things I wouldn’t sober. Its about having empathy I think. My relationship would have ended by now if I hand’t been forgiven for something I did while completely shit-faced out of my mind blackout drunk in the beginning of it, that I NEVER in 30000 years would have done sober. Yeah it was still shitty of me, but it was a mistake and he got that and not indicative of my overall character. Honestly I think people kind of see life as this black and white scenario when in reality (at least mine) it is about 10,000 shades of gray.

      • Fabelle November 15, 2013, 12:41 pm

        Yes to it being an empathy thing! Or at least, that’s how I see it as well— my partner being drunk & cheating doesn’t make it hurt less, necessarily, but it adds a layer where I’d be like, “I get it” (which is empathizing)

      • Fabelle November 15, 2013, 12:17 pm

        Some people see it as less black & white, though.

        edited: oops, this is in response to GG^

      • GatorGirl November 15, 2013, 12:24 pm

        Which is perfectly fine if that’s your prearranged agreement- but then maybe it’s not cheating? IMO, it’s a really slipper slope to say being drunk is an excuse for anything. “Sorry I smoked crack- I was drunk.” “Oh I didn’t mean to wreck, I was drunk, whoops!” “Oh I was just drunk, so I didn’t know it was rape.”

        Not saying it’s bad to have different quanitfiers in your personal relationships, just that using “being drunk” as an excuse to break a pre-agreed upon relationship rule…it’s total bullshit to me.

      • bcamber November 15, 2013, 12:50 pm

        I guess the difference is using it as an excuse, and including the fact that you were drunk to provide context, especially if the action was something totally out of character.

    • bethany November 15, 2013, 10:20 am

      I think it’s one thing to keep cheating from a guy you’re dating, but it’s another to keep it from someone you’re thinking about committing your life to.
      I cheated on college boyfriends, and never told them, but it wasn’t like these guys were planning their life around me, ya know? Like it didn’t really matter if they knew or not. But if it’s someone you’re planning on committing to for the long haul, I think they need to know about it.

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    • Jessi November 15, 2013, 12:34 pm

      For me, the biggest issue with cheating has never been the physical act, but the lying that happens afterwards. That said, I can see where there would be instances where protecting the other person (especially if, and only if, you’ve moved on, have changed the behaviors that would lead to cheating, and are as certain as one can be that it wouldn’t happen again).

      THAT SAID. The big issue with cheating/hiding it, is that you’re never the only person who knows that it happened. For starters, the other person knows, because they were involved with you. Secondly, it’s highly unlikely that someone who would cheat would also just never tell anyone that it happened – it always ends up finding its way around, whether or not you told someone (the other person involved did, or someone has a photo, or whatever). If I were to find out about cheating, I’d rather hear it from my partner in full than find out through a second or third party. That’s just me, but that’s why I tend to stick with the “full disclosure” rule. If I found out years later, I’d be much more upset at the lying/hiding it for so long than at the cheating itself.

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      • starpattern November 15, 2013, 4:22 pm

        Yes, that’s the catch! Unless you found someone on Craigslist while you were in a foreign country and never told anyone your real name so they can’t find you on Facebook, it’s possible it could come back on you (and like you said, it often does – people love to stir the pot in these situations). And that would be the worst.

  • SasLinna November 15, 2013, 9:47 am

    LW1: Telling about a cheating incident much later is always fraught, IMO. I think a good guiding question might be whether you think your bf would have reason to end the relationship over this. Would he have reason to end it over the cheating incident itself, or over you having kept it from him until now? If these incidents were sort of minor, in an entirely different relationship stage, and if you’ve truly changed since then, then in my opinion he wouldn’t have reason to leave you. Similarly, it could be argued that your not having told him wouldn’t be reason to break up with you for the exact same reasons. In contrast, if the cheating incident either reveals something problematic about your relationship, or if (contrary to what you’ve said here) you have a general propensity to cheat, then it would be information your bf should get.

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    • theattack November 15, 2013, 9:58 am

      “If these incidents were sort of minor, in an entirely different relationship stage, and if you’ve truly changed since then, then in my opinion he wouldn’t have reason to leave you.”

      My problem with this logic is that when she failed to tell him, they were in that same stage of the relationship, and she was untrustworthy AND lying about it. Their current relationship stage is built on both of those offenses, not just the incident itself. She already has a record of not being honest with him. He just doesn’t know it yet.

      When she did finally admit to something, it was a partial truth, so she’s still lying in this new stage of the relationship too. The dishonesty is not over. She’s still actively deceiving him, so it’s not just like the dishonesty is all in the past too. All of the deception is very relevant to the present time.

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      • SasLinna November 15, 2013, 10:07 am

        I agree with your last paragraph, as well with Fabelle touched upon above: Since she’s already given him half of the story, she might now as well tell the whole story. And it’s true that telling half-truths is deceitful.
        As for the relationship being built on those offenses, I don’t necessarily agree. Even if he’d have ended the relationship in an early stage if she’d fessed up then, in the meantime the relationship might have developed so much that he wouldn’t leave her over it NOW. Obviously, not telling him has changed the trajectory of their relationship, but that doesn’t mean that the whole relationship was a fraud, IMO.

      • SasLinna November 15, 2013, 10:20 am

        I’ll add that I believe that if someone has cheated, they should really make the effort of trying to understand why it happened and how they can prevent it in the future.

      • TECH November 15, 2013, 11:43 am

        “All of the deception is very relevant to the present time.”
        Someone might have already mentioned this, but std’s are an issue, too. I need to know if someone is not being monogamous so I can take care of my own health. Condoms are not fool proof. And many diseases are asymptomatic.

  • Lily in NYC November 15, 2013, 9:54 am

    #2 – chances are that your love interest got worried you were way too into her and used her ex as an excuse. I’ll admit to doing the same thing numerous times when I was younger because I was too chicken to be honest. Speaking of being honest – you aren’t worried she’s going to get hurt again; you just don’t want her dating someone that isn’t you. Her being stubborn makes me think you are pestering her – you need to get it through your head that for whatever reason, she does not want to be with you. Sorry to be harsh.
    #3 – he is doing these things with you because you are allowing it. Stop reading so much into what is simply your ex being selfish and take Wendy’s great advice to heart.

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  • honeybeenicki November 15, 2013, 10:07 am

    LW1: I’m always lost on this. On one side, I don’t think you should hurt someone just to alleviate your own guilt. On the other side, I don’t know that it’s fair to keep moving through a relationship without telling someone something like that. As far as me, I’d definitely want to know. But I know some people don’t want to know. So here’s what I’d do – do you want to tell him just to make yourself feel better? Or do you want to tell him because you think he’d want to know/should know? If it’s the first, move on. If it’s the second, tell him and deal with the consequences. IMO, the lying about it is the worst part. Not cool.

    LW2: Find someone else to date. It’s not in the cards right now. If you can’t be friends with her without all of this other junk coming up, you might need to distance yourself for awhile.

    LW3: You’re broken up, so stop acting like you’re not. Right now he’s having his cake and eating it too and that obviously doesn’t work for you. It’s hard to lose someone who has been a huge part of your life, but right now you need time and distance. No saying you can’t be friends, but you can’t do it right now. Give yourself time to get over him (hint: if the idea of him being with someone else gets you upset, you’re probably not over him yet).

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  • rainbow November 15, 2013, 10:08 am

    LW2, it’s not that she’s too stubborn, it’ that you’re out of place. You haven’t even kissed this woman, it’s not your place to “rescue” her from this imaginary hurt you say she’s in for if she goes back to him.
    Being in love with people before even kissing them and putting that romantic energy into protecting them from perceived threats (specially ones that are more threats to your romantic plans than to her safety/happiness) makes you sound very young at best and headed for Good Guy (TM) territory at worst. Be careful, you don’t want to end up believing she doesn’t want you because she only likes jerks, there’s a very short ride from that kind of bitterness to no-woman-ever-touches-me-because-they’re-all-whores-land, and it’s very lonely and ugly there.
    Please consider the possibility that this man is not a jerk but a good man who loved her very much but wasn’t ready, took his time to grow up and now came back for her. And the possibility that his return is just an excuse for her to let you down gently. Because you’ve known her for a year, you’re in love with her, and you were “planning to go out soon”. If she were interested you would have gone out already. It will have a better impact on your story with her and your growth as a person in general.

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    • lets_be_honest November 15, 2013, 10:11 am

      I chuckled at ‘we’ve been planning to go out soon’ after knowing each other a year. Very weird.

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    • KKZ November 15, 2013, 11:21 am

      Yeah I saw “Good Guy(TM)” written all over his answer too.

      And falling in love super-easy and super-early in a relationship is near the top of the list of “Signs of Unhealthy Boundaries” that my therapist gave me last week. (Boundaries are a BIG theme in my therapy.) Between that early love and this urgent need to intervene in his crush’s affair, I’d say Dude needs a better understanding of boundaries, because he is definitely overstepping and overinvesting.

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      • lemongrass November 15, 2013, 11:31 am

        Boundaries are so so important in life. With strangers, spouses, children, friends, parents. Everyone. Figure out how to set and maintain healthy boundaries and you have yourself a good life.

      • KKZ November 15, 2013, 12:04 pm

        You said it. A lesson I’m learning the hard way. I’m discovering that I do have boundaries and know what they are, I’m just not very good at enforcing them. Rather than a giant neon NO TRESPASSING sign, I have a tiny post-it note stuck to the fence saying “I’d really rather you didn’t cross this line.” And when someone does anyway, I’ll often engage with them on what they came to say rather than saying “Get the hell back over my fence before I punch you” – I violate my own boundaries all the time. Often under the guise of “just this once, it’s no big deal.”

        Work in progress.

      • lemongrass November 15, 2013, 12:10 pm

        Life is a work in progress. You’ll get there.

  • painted_lady November 15, 2013, 10:43 am

    LW1: Breaking your boyfriend’s heart to manage your anxiety is a terrible strategy. Please don’t be that selfish. Either use the methods suggested to manage it, or break up with him and THEN learn to manage it.

    LW2: Dude, if you can love somebody you haven’t even gone out on a date yet, your in-love-ness has absolutely nothing to do with her and everything to do with who you’d like her to be and your desire to be in love. Even if she were totally available, which she isn’t and has made pretty clear, no one wants to be the cardboard cutout “insert girlfriend here” object of desire (and I do mean object).

    LW3: When someone sends you mixed messages about who they are, and the message that makes them look better/kinder/more honest gets them something they want (physical contact – it’s nearly universally enjoyed with a mutual attraction) and the message that makes them look like an asshole takes that thing away, believe that they’re an asshole. No one ever fakes worse than they are so that they can get something they don’t want.

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  • Lyra November 15, 2013, 11:00 am

    LW 2, please have some respect for yourself! This woman is not available and isn’t the person you want to be with. Not to mention you aren’t in “love” with her, you’re in love/lust with the idea of being with her. It’s not the same thing. She’s going to keep on going back to her ex and there’s nothing you can do about it. Move on and find someone who is available for you.

    LW 3, You need space and distance from your ex. He’s still getting the attention he wants from you without the attachment. MOA.

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  • theattack November 15, 2013, 11:04 am

    Question for everyone who would rather not know if their partner cheated:

    If they told you anyway, would you be angry that they told you?

    I’ve just assumed that you wouldn’t be angry about their honesty, but you might be angry about the cheating. That’s why I would always err on telling if you don’t know what your partner would want, because someone who would want to know would be livid about the lack of information in addition to being angry about the cheating. Assuming I’m correct, the risk seems lower to tell than to not tell. So would you be mad about being told too, or just about the cheating?

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    • lets_be_honest November 15, 2013, 11:06 am

      I feel like the anger about cheating trumps everything else. I just can’t imagine finding out you were cheated on and even thinking about being mad they told you. For example, if your house burns down, you are probably only focusing on that, not on the fact your garden was burned too.

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      • theattack November 15, 2013, 11:18 am

        That’s what I thought too. And also, this may be because of a personal bias, but I always think of honesty as the standard, and not wanting to know as the exception, so it would be hard to get mad about a partner going along with what’s more standard socially.

    • jlyfsh November 15, 2013, 11:11 am

      If my husband told me that when we first started dating he cheated on me, after I had told him I would never want to know . I would definitely be pissed that he told me. More pissed about that than the cheating. With the cheating we may or may not have discussed that at that point we were exclusive (when the cheating happened), etc. But, if we had a specific conversation where I said I don’t want to know and he went against my wishes. I would not be ok with that. We had that conversation for a reason, it wasn’t up to you to decide to change the status quo based on what you thought I would want.

      That being said I would want to know about current things going wrong in our relationship. But, if it came across as alleviating his guilt over something that happened years ago, I would be mad.

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      • theattack November 15, 2013, 11:19 am

        Interesting. That makes sense if you’ve already told him that you definitely don’t want to know.

    • SasLinna November 15, 2013, 11:11 am

      Interesting. I think I can’t 100% answer the question as you asked it, because I wouldn’t tell my partner that I would NEVER want to know. That’s not how I would frame it. I would say that there can be circumstances where I’d rather not know, and describe them roughly, but I would leave some of it to my partner’s judgement (since, obviously, I could never think of all possible constellations). So I guess I would only be mad about him telling me (in addition to the cheating) if I felt he obviously made the wrong call in telling me, and that he could have known that.

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      • theattack November 15, 2013, 11:20 am

        So there’s a big gray area for you because there’s no way for him to know for certain if he should tell or not? That makes the most sense to me I think.

      • SasLinna November 15, 2013, 11:23 am

        Yeah, there’s a gray area for me. And I accept that, since if I wanted black and white, I should tell him to ALWAYS confess, whatever the circumstances. I don’t want that, since I don’t think it would be in my own best interest, so I live with a bit of a gray area.

      • muchachaenlaventana November 15, 2013, 12:23 pm

        yeah this is how I am. I wouldn’t rather not know in EVERY situation, just the one that the LW described, and honestly in that situation if it was eventually revealed, I would be more angry/unforgiving of the dishonesty and the lie (when directly confronted) rather than the cheating.

    • Fabelle November 15, 2013, 11:12 am

      I don’t knowwww, because—I am someone who would want to be told—but this one time, my boyfriend told me about how a girl grinded on him while he was out with friends, & I was kinda mad he told me? Like, why even tell me that? It’s something I don’t care about in the abstract, but being told made me kinda get mad (just because he framed in confession-style). Like, I have grinded on guys & we’re okay with that, but because it’s not a normal situation for him (he doesn’t go out, really) I guess he felt the need to tell me?

      I know that’s different from cheating, but since I dunno if you’ll get any “I don’t want to know, & yes, I would be mad” responses, just wanted to throw in a bit of that perspective.

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      • Fabelle November 15, 2013, 11:13 am

        And also, the problem was less that he told me—but more how he framed it? If he was just casually like, “And oh yeah, this happened” I don’t think I would’ve reacted jealously. Which maybe is weird.

        (And I told him all this— & it did lead to a cheating discussion, where I basically was like, “SO if a girl ever, I dunno, sucks your dick, you can just be like, ‘And then she sucked my dick, & we drove to the gas station, & I picked up some snacks, & dropped her off. What’s for dinner?’ & I’d probably be like, “Oh cool, I dunno, what do you wanna eat?'”

      • theattack November 15, 2013, 11:25 am

        hahaha, Do you really think you would react that smoothly?

        Your story is definitely an easier perspective to understand since it’s not as extreme. P gets mad at me when I say things like that, which has taken some getting used to. And then there are some people who would think of grinding on someone as cheating in itself, and they might demand to know things like that too. I guess it all applies to more than just what’s commonly thought of as cheating.

      • TECH November 15, 2013, 11:28 am

        Yeah, I think grinding on someone while dancing, for instance, is very different from a physical act like that. I can’t imagine responding casually when you’re in a committed, long term relationship to news like that.

      • Fabelle November 15, 2013, 11:30 am

        Oh definitely, I wouldn’t ~actually~ react so smoothly if I was told something like that (this is to TA, also)! I was just kind of being ridiculous at him while attempting to explain why he shouldn’t frame things the way he did, if they’re just little things like that. haha

        edited to add: & that whole thing was after the discussion (like, after he understood my initial point, I felt fine saying ridic things)

    • KKZ November 15, 2013, 11:33 am

      I’m in an interesting spot on this one. I would probably want to know if Bear cheated on me, but I wouldn’t be mad?

      Specifically, I don’t really care if he physically one-time cheats on me, and may have even jokingly encouraged him to do so on more than one occasion. If he were carrying on an actual affair with someone, a whole second relationship, then yeah I would have a problem with that (but I’m not even sure it would be a dealbreaker, just time for a very serious talk). But like, if he were out on the West Coast for one of his contracts and had a spontaneous hook-up with someone during the week, or even sought one out, that’s pretty meh to me. I’d prefer to know, but more out of rabid curiosity than “OMG I’m so hurt.”

      I guess I’m kinda quasi-poly in a way, in that I don’t have rigid expectations of monogamy and would be open to an open-ish relationship (if he were having an affair with someone, I would at least explore the possibility that it could become a consensual poly arrangement). But that’s not something Bear wants at all. Even when we talk/joke about it hypothetically, he always recoils and says “I could never do that to you.” Which is funny because I don’t think of it as something done *to me.* He has a carte blanche that he refuses to use. And I know I don’t have carte blanche from him at all on this note, and have no active poly desires of my own, so it’s all sort of moot for us.

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      • SasLinna November 15, 2013, 11:42 am

        I feel somewhat similar. While I do have an expectation of monogamy, it’s not THAT important to me in the big scheme of things. Although, maybe if my bf actually did cheat, I’d feel differently? I guess what I’m saying is that I’m not exactly worrying about the possibility of rare instances of cheating.

      • katie November 15, 2013, 11:57 am

        yea, i feel similarly, but it must must must be discussed first. i do have an expectation of monogamy unless we decide to change that. and i would be open to changing it.

    • GatorGirl November 15, 2013, 12:13 pm

      I can not for the life of me figure out why you (general) would not want to know if your partner was unfaithful. Assuming there was a conversation and agreement about monogamy, and then your partner broke it…like why wouldn’t you want to know that they aren’t upholding their end of the bargin? Why make the agreement at all?

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      • TECH November 15, 2013, 12:18 pm

        I think that’s a really valuable point. If you have an agreement to be monogamous, and someone broke that agreement, it is incumbent on that person to inform the other. Because why have the agreement at all? Cheating is bad. Cheating and lying about is worse. This one of the few times when most of disagree with Wendy

      • theattack November 15, 2013, 12:22 pm

        haha, I’m with you on that, but clearly a lot of people would rather not know. To me saying that you don’t want to know almost comes across as permission.

        I wrote about it in the forums when it happened, but when we were dating, P once did something that was technically allowed but was definitely a gray area, and I found out about it through the grapevine instead of from him. I trust him, so I knew he didn’t cross any major lines, but it felt SO shitty to find out about it from someone else. My rule since then is that I want him to tell me about anything that would be uncomfortable or suspicious to learn from someone else. The nature of an action seems to change if you’re trying to hide it.

      • jlyfsh November 15, 2013, 12:40 pm

        well everybody is different. you assumed there was a conversation about monogamy at the point that the cheating happened and i was assuming it hadn’t. i also have a kind of time limit in my brain. if it happened when we were first dating then i really would not want to know years down the road. it would do nothing for me but piss me off. current things are different. but things from years past i wouldn’t want to know.

      • Christy November 15, 2013, 12:41 pm

        I can understand not wanting to know something. I told gf pretty early on in our relationship that I didn’t want to know if she’d ever had an abortion. (I didn’t know how I’d react, I was raised really conservatively on this issue in particular, I was general-case pro-choice but specific-case who-knows-how-i’d-feel, it was a few years ago by now, I think I’d feel differently now.)

        She said if it was something that was so potentially a big deal for me, she wanted me to know, because she wanted me to make an informed decision. She told me (that she’d never had an abortion) and it was the end of that discussion.

        I don’t know where I’d fall on cheating. I honestly feel like if either of us cheated (not stepped out with permission) then our relationship would be so broken by that point that it wouldn’t matter, anyway. Because we talk about EVERYTHING, and we’ve talked about stepping out, and while we are monogamous, the future is open for some potential version of non-monogamy. So if we’re at a point where (1) we aren’t talking to each other about our sexual needs, or (2) we aren’t fulfilling our emotional needs, that’s really bad, regardless.

      • SasLinna November 15, 2013, 12:49 pm

        In short, if it was a one-time thing and he wouldn’t do it again, and it wasn’t due to a problem in our relationship, then it would be better for me not to know. If I knew I would spend a lot of emotional energy working through it, even if it was completely forgivable to me.
        Different story if he was continuously unfaithful.

    • mylaray November 15, 2013, 12:22 pm

      I would always want to know, but if he had told me a long time after the cheating happened, I feel like it’s way past the window of being honest. So if a long time had passed, I could see myself being angry at being told that, but I would still always want to know.

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      • theattack November 15, 2013, 12:28 pm

        But would you be angry at the fact that he told you, or because he waited so long to tell?

      • mylaray November 15, 2013, 12:36 pm

        I would be angry at both. Because it would bring up a lot of things, and I would question why he was being honest now (to alleviate guilt? Because I deserve to know?), but like I said I would still rather know than be in the dark. And if it was a situation where he told me right away, I wouldn’t be mad at being told because I think honesty is the best policy, and in that case, the honesty (and intentions) are more believable, if that makes sense.

      • SasLinna November 15, 2013, 12:51 pm

        I once found out a bf had cheated several months after it happened and it really messed with my mind. I would try to imagine when, where etc. he was cheating, but it had been too long ago, so I couldn’t remember the details enough to be sure. And he wouldn’t give me the information. It was pretty awful. Anyway, he was an ex as soon as I found out.

    • Jessi November 15, 2013, 12:39 pm

      I found out someone had cheated on me once through a third party. I was far, far less upset about the cheating (the relationship had some issues up to that point) than I was about the lying.

      I also found out at one point (from a different partner) that they’d made out with someone else while with me (they told me the next time we saw each other). I was happy that they were straightforward, and genuinely thanked them about that. I was somewhat upset about the cheating, but not too much, quite frankly. Another not-meant-to-be relationship, but my reaction was actually more based on the gratitude about the honesty, since I’d been so overtly lied to in the past.

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  • Ele4phant November 15, 2013, 12:07 pm

    LW2 almost made me angry. Which is a little unfair, because I am sure he geniunely believes his concern is coming a selfless place, but it’s not. And he’s being rejected, which always sucks. But LW you are failing to see two things:

    1. Whether or not her ex boyfriend wanted her back, she wasn’t really into you to begin with. It may feel like you were next in line to be her boyfriend and he just swooped in and cut in front, but that’s not how it works. You were around for a *year*. She knows you like her. If she wanted to be with you, she would be with you. Full stop. Sure, if the ex hadn’t come back in the picture, she probably would have thrown you a bone and gone out with you. She may have even started a relationship with you. But if she did, it would have been because she was bored and lonely and you just so happened to be there. Which might sound great to you aching heart now, but trust me, it is a special hell to be with someone who is less into the relationship with you. She was not, and never would be, as into you as you are into her. Sorry that really sucks, but it is what it is.

    2. Secondly she is not being stubborn, and it is not your place to protect her or steer her to the right choice (as you see it). She’s a grownup who gets to make her own choices, and her choice is to get back together with her ex. Stop trying to infantilize her and convince her to do what you think is best (and is it even objectively – or is it what would be in *your* best interest?). I feel friends get one shot to tell their friends their opinions when it comes to who they choose to date, and then if our friends don’t decide not to heed our advice, we shut the f up about it. An adult canals whatever choice they want, and deal with whatever consequences may result. We get one opportunity to voice out opinions, then we have to let out friends live their lives (this of course excludes abusive situations, then you need to do whatever the hell you can to help get them out).

    So LW, you need to let go, you need to find someone who likes you as much as you like them.

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  • Bittergaymark November 15, 2013, 12:16 pm

    LW1) “I don’t wanna hear. I don’t wanna know. Please don’t say you’re sorry.”

    LW2) “This is not a love song. Bye bye, baby. I keep on waiting. Anticipating. But I can’t wait forever.”

    LW3) “There’s no greater power than the power of goodbye. Learnnnnn. Tooooo. Sayyyyy. Goodbyyyyye.”

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    • rachel November 15, 2013, 12:23 pm

      I assume these are all Madonna? I think you should do this every Friday.

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      • Bittergaymark November 15, 2013, 12:32 pm

        Well, that WAS sure quick! Yep….

        SORRY. (Confessions On A Dancefloor)
        BYE BYE BABY (Erotica)
        THE POWER OF GOODBYE (Ray Of Light)

      • Jessi November 15, 2013, 12:46 pm

        1) Express yourself. So you can respect yourself, hey hey.
        2) And I don’t know who you are.
 And this thing has gone too far. Is this love? 
I think not? I want out.
        3) You took my love for granted. Why oh why?/ The show is over, say good-bye.

        She’s really got a song for every occasion!

      • Bittergaymark November 15, 2013, 12:52 pm

        She really does.

        I have a pet theory that the reason these younger generations are so DUMB is they grew up listening to dolts like Spears and Fergie. Ugh.

        PS — Wow on Number 2! Obscure AND unreleased officially! Nice! Impressive. I love that whole batch of scrapped songs…

      • lets_be_honest November 15, 2013, 12:54 pm

        Lw2 – baby give me one more time.

      • mandalee November 15, 2013, 12:41 pm

        Yes, Madonna lyric short-answer Fridays! I can get behind this. Sigh, I love her.

  • Something Random November 15, 2013, 12:21 pm

    LW1- Yikes! I have mixed feelings on this. Personally, I would want to know. I wouldn’t want to be broken up with no understanding about what happened. And for me a kiss and a full-fledged fuck are far enough apart that I might re-consider starting a life with you. I’d want the choice. The half-way confession really throws a wrench in things. You chose to devastate your partner, but not enough that he would end things with you. It seems really selfish. Its like you wanted him to process a betrayal and move on without empowering himself with enough details to make a fully informed decision. This all went down last year which is recent enough for me to be relevant. What did your partner think when you told him? While he was hurt, did he seems glad that he knew the truth? This is hard one.

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  • bcamber November 15, 2013, 12:52 pm

    If my boyfriend cheated on me in the beginning of our relationship but has not since, and is unlikely to do so again, I would definitely NOT want to know.

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  • sobriquet November 15, 2013, 1:57 pm

    Eek, LW1, I think you’ve dug yourself into a bit of a hole. You should have gotten it all out there at once or just left it alone. I mean, were you even official yet, or just dating? I ask because I had a similar experience in my last relationship. We dated for 3 months before establishing exclusivity. During the 1st month, I only saw him once a week. During the 2nd month, he didn’t want to be my date to my brother’s wedding. It was very, very casual at first. During this time, I made out with another guy. BFD. Had I done this AFTER the 3 month mark when things got more serious and there was an obvious shift in our relationship, then I would consider that cheating. But it happened before- and it sounds like you were probably in the same frame of mind when you “cheated” on your boyfriend- so STOP feeling so guilty.

    (Fun note: after my ex and I broke up, he hacked into my journal (that I kept in a Word document) and read back 3 years to learn that I’d made out with someone else. He then went on a crazy rampage and accused me of cheating on him. That was a fun time!)

    So my advice is to get over it, go to therapy, decide whether you were even official and serious enough back then to feel such grief about it. If you still want to tell him, then first apologize for lying and let him know why you lied and let him know why you cheated. I feel like that’s the most important element in situations like these- knowing why something happened.

    But seriously, you already confessed to a cheating incident, you already know why you did it, you weren’t very serious with your boyfriend at the time and you don’t plan on cheating again. I would just get over it and move on.

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  • meadowphoenix November 15, 2013, 4:41 pm

    I can’t imagine not wanting to know when you can get herpes so easily.

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    • SasLinna November 16, 2013, 5:03 am

      How would hearing about it years later protect you from herpes?

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      • Lindsay November 16, 2013, 11:13 am

        LW1: I agree with Wendy. Sometimes I also wonder about people like this and whether they are just trying to sabotage their relationship, so they convince themselves that they HAVE to tell the person.

        LW2: No, you’re not actually concerned about her, you’re concerned about you. And even if you aren’t, it’s not genuine caring, it’s the faux caring you get when you get all warm and mushy inside and think you’re in love with someone you barely know. If you convinced them to break up, I’d place bets on her getting back together with him while seeing you.

        LW3: Who cares WHY he’s doing it? The point is that he doesn’t want to date you. If he did, he would be.

  • rush June 15, 2017, 8:58 am

    For #1
    There is never a future when someone cheats. Yes, you can get through life together and have lots people attend your 50th and say to the widow or widower that ‘what a life you had’
    Somewhere your soulmate is trying to grieve his marriage but knows that he is truly not heartbroken over his spouse of 50 years death because he never felt that he couldn’t live without her.
    Sad the majority of married people did not marry their soulmate and that’s why so many people waste their lives watching sports and tv because their lives are dull because their life long compaion is NOT their BFF.
    And if you don’t marry your BFF, the person you could never risk losing, never dream of hurting by cheating any more than slapping your infant child. You just don’t cheat on your soulmate. It can’t happen. Just like you can’t hurt anyone your TRULY love.
    Keep dating and one day you will meet someone and suddenly you will know what I am talking about.
    Me, 12 relationships leading to 27 y marraige (she cheated, took 5 years to leave)
    Met my soulmate and we have made love at least once a day (min 1 hour) every single day we have been together.
    We don’t watch TV ever, get home from work and the evening disappears. We are 55 and 50.

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