Dear G, I cheated on my long term girlfriend and I’m feeling as guilty as shit. It’s been almost a week, and I literally can’t get the incident off my mind. The worst part is, the girl I cheated with is average at best, whereas my girl is a real beauty and we have a deep connection.
What should I do? Should I tell her I cheated? Can a relationship survive a secret like this? If I tell her, will it inevitably mean the end?
Help me out, man.
Jimmy Brokenheart MacConley
As part of my effort to push AoS forward in 2017 and beyond, I’m going to be taking e-mails and letters some readers have written me, and in some cases combining several letters into a caricature, and answering the questions with the best advice I can.
The topics will cover a broad range of subjects from relationships, to business, to moving abroad, to life in general. I’m also inviting you to submit guest posts, although I have to warn you that only the best will make the cut.
Anyway, here’s my answer to Jimmy Brokenheart:
Wow! Let’s start off by recognizing something you already know – you f*cked up badly, and it’s too late to reverse the clock. It’s positive that you didn’t try to make any lame excuses in the e-mail you wrote, because a real man owns his mistakes. It wasn’t the alcohol, it wasn’t the girl, it was you. The fact that you have shouldered that squarely is a huge positive, because it means you already understand that you’re in control of the decisions you make and their consequences.
But Jimmy, try to remember that absolutely EVERYONE messes up at some point. What you did is a big deal right now, but will it matter in 5, 10, or even 20 years? Probably not. Sure, if your relationship ends as a result this will have been a massive turning point in your life, but try to see the event, and the consequences, in perspective. You will have to look in the mirror and say Ýes, I cheated, but life is long and this is one mistake’. Try to keep it in perspective.
Now, the question you asked was should you tell her you cheated. That’s a tough one, and it really depends on your own moral compass. Are you a person who believes that the truth should come out at all costs on principle, or do you carefully consider the consequences of what might result before you tell it? That’s a question everyone has to answer for himself, and actually when you figure it out your dilemma will be solved because you will know what to do.
Jim, I’ve messed up in previous relationships, and a lot of people have, and I feel your pain. Sometimes we do something completely irrational and hurt somebody we love for no good reason, and that makes it even harder to accept. The only real question here is what are you gonna do going forward? Can you live with a lie, or will it slowly eat you from the inside out and change your whole personality? Will it be there in the back of your mind every time you two do something together and make memories – that little voice saying “If she knew, she wouldn’t be here”? If so, then you need to come clean now if you have any chance of saving things, because that will eat away like cancer at your relationship and you.
On the other hand, if you’re the type of guy who can carry a burden so as not to hurt somebody you care about, which many would argue is the right thing to do in this situation, then that’s an option. You messed up, so you should have to suffer for what you did, so the thinking goes, and it’s selfish to put that on her shoulders just so you feel some relief.
Both of these perspectives are true in their own right. It really just comes down to you, Jim, and how you feel about the whole thing. What would you want at this stage of your relationship, if she did that on you? It sounds like it didn’t mean anything and you really love your girl, so if she got a little carried away and slept with someone, would you want her to come clean, or would you want to carry on blissfully ignorant of the whole sordid event? If you can answer that truthfully, you will probably know what to do.
The other thing to consider, too, is that some relationships end up better as the result of something like this, after the fallout settles. If you do tell her you cheated, it’s going to take a hell of a commitment, a lot of love, and some serious work to fix things, but it can be done, has been done, and will be done again. Whether or not she will actually be willing to work it out if you confess to cheating is another thing. I don’t know her, so it’s impossible to say what her values are and how she will react.
I’m not going to tell you what to do, Jim. This is yours to own, and the only advice I can give you is proceed carefully. Either way, whatever you do, there will be consequences. Consider everything very carefully – could you have an STD you could pass to her, or did you play safe? Could she ever find out through other means if you didn’t tell her? Do you want to build a life with someone knowing they don’t know you 100%? Can you live with that wall between you? Is there something about this relationship that’s led you to this place where you did something out of character like this? These are all things you have to answer for yourself, and answering those questions will ultimately answer the question as to whether or not you should tell your girl you cheated.
I wish you luck Jimmy Brokenheart. This is a situation all too many men find themselves in at one point or another, thanks to the fact that nature gave us two brains and only enough blood to run one at a time.
Do the right thing, Jim, according to your own standards and beliefs.
I wish you luck.