November 27, 2023 at 6:43 pm #425634
I have been reeling from the most heartbreaking experience I have ever lived through. I recently found out that my person, the man who I want to marry, the man I was supposed to be living with as of last week, has been compulsively cheating on me with three separate men. He didn’t tell me, I had a suspicion and went looking through his phone. I found all the incriminating evidence right there in his texts. He has been cheating on me since January.
We have been in contact and I have come to learn that he has struggled with self esteem issues severely for the last decade. He says that it was absolutely never about me and it was entirely related to his own feelings of inadequacy. This has also been substantiated by his mother, who I trust as well as respect. As soon as I found out, I called her and told her what I knew. She replied in the morning with a ‘this absolutely has nothing to do with you. We’re going to get to the bottom of it.’
My issue now is what I want the future of my relationship with this person. We have loved each other for three years. I came out to my parents at 21 for this man. I drastically changed my own life for the better so that I would be able to be happy with him, and he betrays me on the deepest level. My one boundary was monogamy, and while I understand that it was never about me, I still feel completely blindsided yet full of love for him.
I’m torn between saying goodbye to him forever and losing the deepest most successful relationship I’ve ever had, and leaving the door ajar for him in the future should he heal himself. He has told me he is now in intensive therapy and wants to completely wipe himself of his issues he’s been hiding from me and from himself for 10 years. I believe him, but I know that we cannot be together right now while I heal and while he heals. We both have internal and personal issues to work through before either of us are ready to be in such a serious relationship again. But part of me wonders; is it better to do that work together, or can we do it apart?
I’m torn in the middle about cutting him out entirely and moving on, and leaving a space for him while moving forward. I’ve told myself initially that I would completely cut myself free from him, but in the past week I have come to understand that we were soulmates. We both have expressed that we will never stop loving each other, even if we have to pick up where we left off in ten years.
I know some of this is perhaps far-fetched and hard to comprehend. I don’t like that I’m entertaining getting back with a cheater. But I do know that relationships can survive cheating. What do I do with all this love?November 27, 2023 at 7:33 pm #425643TommyParticipant
I wish I had words to lift the heart break and to bring sense to this situation. Unfortunately, my words would only be harsh. Since, I can only see time spent apart. Trust was broken and love was dashed. Feeling do not just change but conditions do. Sorry, it is time to move on and heal.November 28, 2023 at 4:46 am #425649RobertaParticipant
I am sorry that your first long term relationship has come apart. Most people use unskillful means to deal with issues and then those means become yet another issue that needs dealing with on top of the original problem. ie has social anxiety then uses alcohol as a relaxant to the extent that addiction eventually occurs.
Over the coming months it is to be expected that you see saw in your feelings, wants & needs and that is ok, you are going thru a bereavement for the relationship that you had and your dreams & expectations of a future.
Do you know whether your ex would be open to couples counselling?
Instead of therapy being an either or situation solo versus couples maybe the two of you could embark on both?
I have used buddhist teachings and meditation to help me act more skillfully and in line with my core values.
After 15 years I am happier, more compassionate & open ( yes there are still times where I fall momentary into old habits) but they are fewer & less intensive but I am able to reassure myself gently & kindly unlike the harsh inner critic of the old days.
Wishing you the best,
RobertaNovember 28, 2023 at 7:54 am #425653
Thank you, Roberta for your kind words. Me and my ex partner have had conversations about couples therapy and we have our first session this Thursday. We are both currently in individual therapy; he has a lot of work to do before I’m ready to commit to anything remotely close to what we had. I am healing in my own therapy as a singular person and so far it’s been quite enlightening. We both are currently referring to this period of separateness as a break from each other to come back into ourselves. We’re letting the future be the future and not assigning any goal posts for when we need to be better or be anything other than separate. So far it’s difficult but I think this is the path I want to take to heal myself first, so I can be a better judge for myself in the future.November 28, 2023 at 8:04 am #425654
You shared that you came out to your parents at 21 because of your love for this man, that you have loved him for three years, that you drastically changed your life for the better so that you could be happy with him, that monogamy is very important to you, that the plan as of last week was that the two of you were to live together, and get married sometime in the future.
And yet, for the last 10 months or so, he repeatedly cheated on you with 3 different men. He didn’t tell you. You found out by looking through his phone. His response: “He says that it was absolutely never about me and it was entirely related to his own feelings of inadequacy“.
His mother’s response: “this absolutely has nothing to do with you. We’re going to get to the bottom of it“.
The motivation behind these responses is to protect your ego/ sense of self worth, as in saying: he didn’t cheat on you because of any inadequacy on your part, Matt (not being handsome enough or smart enough, etc.), but because of inadequacy on his part.
This claim is supposed to make you feel better, as in you thinking: it is not my fault that he cheated on me, it’s not that there is something inadequate about me!
If you accept this claim that it had nothing to do with you, then you accept that in the future, if you resume the relationship with him and he cheats on you again.. then again, it will absolutely have nothing to do with you.
But what he did should have had something to do with you, it should have been a whole lot to do with you because the result of what he did has been the most heartbreaking experience you ever had in your life (“I have been reeling from the most heartbreaking experience I have ever lived through“).
When he cheated on you, he wasn’t thinking about how hurt you will be if and when you found out, and this, right here is the problem.
“he has struggled with self esteem issues severely for the last decade… his mother…. replied..’… We’re going to get to the bottom of it.’“- reads like it was a surprise to his mother that her son has been struggling with severe self-esteem issues for 10 years, and now that she found out, she wants to get to the bottom of it (and fix it..?)
How does a mother miss such a thing for a decade?
“He has told me he is now in intensive therapy and wants to completely wipe himself of his issues he’s been hiding from me and from himself for 10 years“- he hid severe self-esteem issues for 10 years, so he didn’t know : no thoughts of inadequacy ever crossing his mind? It was all a surprise?
There is no way that a person suffers from a low self-esteem and never a related thought crosses the mind.
No one completely wipes themselves from severe low self-esteem issues, at least, not quickly, no matter how intensive the therapy.
There are plenty of people who suffer from low self-esteem but they do not cheat because they don’t want to hurt the one they love. And this is the problem I mentioned earlier in this reply: his 10-month cheating was.. not about you getting hurt.
I just read your 2nd post, Matt, the one you submitted 10 minutes ago. Your attitude and plan to continue your individual therapy and become a better judge (of him/ what happened) in the future.
“What do I do with all this love?“- first and foremost, at this time, direct it to you!
anitaNovember 28, 2023 at 8:13 am #425655
* editing paragraph before last: Your attitude and plan to continue your individual therapy and become a better judge (of him/ of what happened) in the future- reads good to me.November 28, 2023 at 9:06 am #425659
Anita, Thank you for highlighting some key discussion points for me. To me this is such a complex situation and I’m trying to give all the words I can without being overbearing. To sum up his mother’s actions, I told her the moment I knew. I told his whole family so they would hold him accountable. They were extremely grateful I told them because he had been hiding it from them the entire time. In regards to his self esteem issues and additional struggles, I suspect his family was aware of these, but believed he turned a new leaf with me. According to them, he seemed different and even acted differently that he had in previous relationships, so there was no warning or discussion of his past behavior. This is why I say his mother no doubt knew he had issues, but thought they had been quelled.November 28, 2023 at 9:34 am #425660
You are welcome.
“To me this is such a complex situation“- interestingly, this is what I was thinking after submitting my post and the edit, and before reading your reply: I was thinking that his situation may not as complex as presented, a result of his self-esteem issues, but simply a result of his undisciplined sexual appetite.
Male mammals are not monogamous, it’s an instinctual thing. For many humans, it takes emotion regulation skills/ self-discipline to.. not cheat. If your ex is lacking emotion regulation skills, and if he has opportunities to cheat.. he may cheat regardless of his self-esteem status.
anitaNovember 28, 2023 at 1:47 pm #425669
You hit the nail on the head with the ’emotion regulation skill’ deficiency. I’ve watched him for three years pour alcohol on his problems and supplement his horrible sleep schedule with excessive eating and energy drinks. He’s said so himself these past few days that he believed for the longest time that if he kept pushing it deeper, it wouldn’t be able to escape. I told him ‘you’re going the wrong way. let it out.’ He truly believed all this time that if he kept it secret, it would go away. Typical coping strategy for someone living out of trauma and patterns that aren’t checked.November 28, 2023 at 5:33 pm #425676
I feel some empathy for him, as I read your recent post.. Still, he’s done you wrong and I feel more empathy for you for having been betrayed by the one you loved and trusted.. what a shame. I wish it didn’t happen.
When I had my first quality therapy, my therapist at the time focused on emotion regulation skills. He assigned me with homework at the end of each session (or he’d email me a homework assignment after a session). Homework included listening to one of Mark Williams’s Mindfulness audio meditation series, every day. These are available online free of charge. I wonder if you’d like to listen to any one of them, the “Befriending” meditation perhaps. Maybe it will help you with your heartbreak. Maybe it will help your ex.
You wrote that “he kept pushing it deeper“, it being trauma, you mean. And pushing it in, suppressing it fueled a state of elevated stress which he tried to lower with excessive eating and cheating, as… emotion regulation un-skills..?
anitaNovember 29, 2023 at 8:01 am #425688
This is exactly it. It’s what we’ve been talking about, me and him. I learned recently about a horrible relationship he had in college that essentially set him for the un-skills I bore the brunt of. This man in college was emotionally abusive to him and he thought the experience he was living was normal. It absolutely doesn’t excuse his behavior, but it gave me more context as to why this was something so deeply hidden. There was a lot of shame tied to it and he wanted to regain control by controlling what he could when he had a relapse. And that was cheating and chasing unattainable outlets that left him feeling worse. Tons of empathy for him, but my own feelings of betrayal and deceit come first.November 29, 2023 at 8:55 am #425689
Yes, your feelings of betrayal and deceit need to come first. In this relationship, in the last 10 months, he was your perpetrator and you were his victim. His history of having been a victim in a previous relationship does not give him a right to victimize you (just as the man in college did not have a right to victimize him).
You wrote yesterday and today: “He kept pushing it deeper… He truly believed all this time that if he kept it secret, it would go away… There was a lot of shame tied to it and he wanted to regain control by.. cheating“-
– I am trying to understand the connection between his shame (a result of him being emotionally abused in college), and regaining control by cheating on you:
Back in college, he felt distress and shame over being under someone else’s abusive power. He felt unbearably weak, unbearably powerless in the context of a monogamous relationship with that man, it being that the man was his one and only boyfriend (?)
Fast forward: at times, he felt unbearably controlled, weak and powerless with you (having inaccurately projected that man into you and re-experiencing what he felt back then), and to get rid of the shame involved in feeling too powerless in a monogamous relationship, he undid the monogamy.. sort of diluting the power he felt that you had over him by adding other men into the mix?