Dear Gigi,

I failed a woman who treated me fairly. She trusted me fully, never questioned her trust in me and I cheated on her seven months into the relationship. Four months into our relationship, it turned long distance. Three months later, I cheated. I kept this to myself and hated myself for what I did. I never thought about the selfish consequences of my confession. The guilt had been eating me alive, but this girl treated me so well I thought I owed her the truth, and I deeply regretted having failed her. I thought I could leave our relationship and pick it up later in life if we ever got back together in a mutual spot or city.

I didn’t prepare for the confession, I didn’t think about the consequences, and my motives were to be honest with her. She is still willing to talk to me after I had the audacity to completely ruin her trust in me and our relationship. I don’t want to forgive myself.

I understand the past cannot be undone. I need to change as a person and learn from this mistake. What is your best advice on some things I could do to help both myself and the woman I have hurt?

-D

Hey D,

Thanks for writing in. Obviously this is a difficult thing for which to seek advice — so good for you coming out and asking for assistance. Cheating is never an easy subject to talk about. There is so much stigma attached to it that people wind up making themselves miserable rather than admitting the mistake.

Was the confession to your girlfriend motivated by selfish reasons? Yes, but I can understand why you did it. It absolutely had to be done. You cannot keep a betrayal like that under the surface. She needed to know. It was going to come out eventually.

I mean, let’s be real. You should have told her when it happened, but you can’t undo the past. We all make mistakes and have to move on from them — growing in the process. Everything we do, every choice we make, teaches us a bit about ourselves.

Here is the thing about cheating: it is not the reason a relationship is damaged, it is a symptom of a larger issue. You were clearly feeling uncomfortable with the distance and guilty about this disillusionment because this woman was, as you say, so good to you. When someone is being kind and loving, it isn’t always easy to confront them about relationship issues. After all, we think, what do we have to complain about?

Cheating is a form of acting out — of rebelling against our current situation. We do it for a variety of reasons, but at the heart of all of it is self-loathing. I can tell this is a very pervasive theme in your relationship and in your life. This is something that you need to address. You have to get to the root of the reasons why you did this in the first place, not how to fix the damage.

If you cheat on someone, you don’t love them enough to not betray them. This is my opinion. If cheating happens, the relationship is over — at least until you figure some shit out.

On that note, my first piece of advice would be to have a conversation in which you cut off communication entirely, in a respectful way. The two of you need some serious time apart. Texting and calling each other all the time creates a false sense of connectedness that neither one of you has the capacity for at this time.

You have to cut the cord – at least for a few months – maybe longer. There is nothing wrong with feeling guilty and not wanting to forgive yourself. These things take time. You don’t just bounce back from betrayal feeling perfectly fine. I mean, unless you’re a super shitty person.

The two of you need therapy – and you need to work through this. Separately. You need to figure out what you want out of life. If the future has the two of you in it, together – you’ll have to revisit this at a later time.

Right now, there is nothing you can do to fix this. Getting back together will only result in a miserable relationship full of distrust. You cannot heal without doing the work. If you want to be together, get out of each other’s lives so you can become the people you’re meant to be.

If you truly love this woman whom you feel you betrayed, let her go. Do work on yourselves and see what happens in the future. Trust me, this is the only way.

Wishing you the best of luck! Learn from this experience and become a better person.

XOXO

Gigi

Gigi Engle is a feminist writer, sex educator, and speaker. A book with St. Martins Press is forthcoming.

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