An online friend and I were innocent email buds. One day, we start DMing which leads to texting/phone call. It gets sexual. Tells me he has a live in girlfriend but doesn’t ever say “maybe we shouldn’t go there.” It progresses to constantly talking, texting, gchatting. 2 weeks after we started he flew here for a weekend.
Knew he had a gf, he told me they had major issues ever since she moved in. I asked him to please break up with her and figure that out ASAP. He went home and 2 days later he told me he would regret leaving if he didn’t try to fix their relationship. But wanted to try with me too. The waffling about what he wanted continued for 4 months. We saw each other again, talked constantly. We’d both try to cut each other off at points, it NEVER stuck.
Throughout I would threaten to tell her, push him to leave. I regret all the manipulation. In the fall, he decided that he couldn’t handle it. He cut it off, came crawling back. I let him. He’d become my emotional crutch. I fell into deep depression, constantly beating myself up.
Finally he said I severely hurt him by threatening to tell her, he could never really forgive me, give me a real chance. I said I’m done, cut off contact. Though did demand he tell her. I wanted him to get left. He did tell her, they have stayed together so far.
So was left feeling insane and sad. I did some controlling things that I’m not proud of. Jerkbrain: I’m an awful person who not only hurt this man but someone else too. I acted absolutely unreasonable on more than one occasion with this situation.
How I can start to forgive myself? Some people may always think I’m seriously shitty and I have to get over that but having a really hard time being okay with everything. Especially because I really did care for him. We had some seriously intense emotional and physical chemistry and I really thought I loved him at one point. I know this pit of despair may eventually dissipate but I am so ashamed of myself and tired of feeling like I’m the bad one.
And her friends have openly cried for revenge against me and told me I should be scared. They have stayed together so I guess I can understand why I’m the target and not him but it’s really frustrating that that’s the tactic. Which is my other question, how do I reconcile my desire for justice against him? I am just so pissed that he’s essentially had no consequences.
Good news, there are a few people in this story who deserve the “bad one” title more than you.
#1 is Cheater McCheaterson, who can’t just fucking cheat but has to also drag you along on the entire rollercoaster of his dysfunctional relationship and its aftermath. He was the one with a girlfriend, and he was the one with a greater responsibility to her, either to pass on a relationship with you if that was their agreement and his choice, or to make a clean break with her. He was totally capable of telling you “You are awesome, but I have a girlfriend, so I don’t think we should chat so much.” He was totally capable of telling her, “I met someone and I want to explore that, even if it means we break up.” He chose neither of those things, because he wanted to have a girlfriend and a relationship with you and ride everything out for as long as possible. It’s not shocking that things got messy, and he doesn’t have to be bad or evil to get in over his head, but he did not help this situation. I don’t think your threatening to tell his girlfriend (or even actually telling her) would have made much of a difference in the end. It’s a weak position where the only strong play you really have is to get the hell out of there and leave them to each other.
#2, #3, #4 are anyone who tells you you should “be scared” because you fell in love with a dude who spun you a lot of confusing lies and empty promises.
The Darth Vader boyfriend or girlfriend isn’t necessarily evil or deliberately malicious. We’ve talked a lot here about warning signs, and those are certainly red flags for when you are getting involved with someone, but for me the characteristic that makes something a Darth Vader situation can only be seen afterward, when you see how much you strayed from yourself (your own best interests, your own ethics, your own standards for how you want to be treated) and how often you made excuses for the other person’s behaviors to preserve the relationship. My Darth Vader was not awesome in his behavior, and was quite manipulative, but what makes me look back with shame and horror was my own total desire to be manipulated and hear only what I wanted to hear and also behaviors that tended toward, frankly, stalking. Darth Vaders, however they work, create an altered headspace where we are not our best selves. And while we are always responsible for our actions, we have to find a way to forgive ourselves in order to get free of that headspace.
Right now, the only things that fix this are time, distance, and sitting with some uncomfortable truths until you gain something like perspective and can tell a story about this that doesn’t hurt.
Step 1: Cut off contact completely with this guy and everyone who knows him, including these friends of his girlfriend. Use whatever e-blocking tools you have to do, but do whatever you can to make sure you travel in completely separate worlds. You can’t worry about threats if you don’t know that threats are happening because everyone involved in this story is dead to you.
Most importantly: Don’t try to be friends.
You’re not friends, and you won’t be friends. The best part of you wants to find a way to preserve the good in all of this, and to make everything feel less wasted and wrong. Like, if you can be friends, it will all have been worth it. Something can be saved! Beware this instinct. Mostly what gets saved is his ability to believe that he’s not a bad guy, and his ability to reach out to you for emotional support and keep you engaged in his drama. What gets lost is your ability to put it behind you, by getting as angry as you need to get before you can heal. It keeps the little jolts of attention, and let’s face it, addiction going as the texts and messages come in or leave you bereft when they don’t come in.
Step 2: Repeat this until you believe it: Having great chemistry does not by itself make someone a good partner for you. People have to be kind, and considerate, and respect boundaries, and when it comes down to it, they have to choose you.
This isn’t a story about how you would be together if it wasn’t for this lady and her threatening friends, this is a story about a guy who liked you well enough but didn’t want to be with you. You were actually involved, even if you didn’t have some kind of official relationship status called “girlfriend” or “primary partner” or whatnot. It is a break-up, so mourn it like a break-up. Give yourself permission to feel sad, and bereft, and royally fucked over by fates.
Chemistry (love, lust, that instant recognition that here be your people, “intensity”) does mess with people, and people treat it like some inexorable force that temporarily abrogated all decision-making skills and swept them away. You aren’t the first person to be here, nor is he, nor was I when it was my turn to be in these shoes, but eventually the cloud clears and the question of “should we actually be together” comes up. Are you actually together? Would this wishy-washy guy who didn’t choose you in the end actually make a good partner? The answer to both of these is no. If you were supposed to be together, you would be together, and it would have gone easier than this.
It’s not the kindest or most comfortable thought, but it’s important to get yourself out of the headspace of “If only….!” and worry over the good times you had and try to stretch them to cover you now. Feeling: We were so great together! If only! Fact: But he didn’t choose me, and we are not together.
The first time you teach yourself to put the factual wet blanket on those feelings, it really hurts. Because you are basically taking The Golden Retriever of Love to the vet and “sending it to live on a nice farm where there are horses” or whatever your parents told you was the euphemism for “we killed the dog when you were at school.” Murdering hope fucking HURTS. But this guy has shown you again and again that he is not a good repository for those hopes, and having hope where he is concerned does not help you. Over time, if you can get in the habit of nixing the obsessive “But if only!” thoughts as soon as they come up, the fact of “But we’re not together” gets a friend, and that friend is “And I only want to be with people who really want to be with me, and who will come at me correct.“
Step 3: Letting go also means letting go of the desire for revenge. The desire for his life to fracture the way it feels your has is understandable, but it keeps you engaged with him. It doesn’t seem fair, but it is actually entirely, cruelly, beautifully fair: .His reward or punishment is exactly the same as everyone’s – he has to live in his own skin and find a way to move forward with his life.
Step 4: It’s not a good idea to tell his girlfriend what happened, no matter how much you may want her to know, but tell SOMEONE. Deal with this overall cloud of depression you’ve got going on by dealing with it as depression. Get counseling. Tell someone the whole story, the highs, the lows, the hopes, the feeling that something beautiful was completely twisted and wasted, the missing piece in your day that used to be filled by this drama and how nothing feels right afterwards. A therapist or counselor can sort through what happened and help you take ownership of only what is yours (what can be learned from and changed in the future) and let go of what belongs to other people (his responsibility toward his girlfriend). Speak, and get it out of your system. Be good to yourself.
Step 5: Let time do its work.
This is what a good outcome looks like. Not you back together, not him suffering, just someday, you will tell a story about this time that goes like this:
“I got involved with a very charismatic guy who had a girlfriend, and things got very messy both between us and for my own mental health. I’m not proud of the way that any of us behaved, but mostly I’m really glad that it’s over.“
And you won’t have to go into the details or chew them over, because it will be well and truly in the past.