|Written by Mark Rutherford LCSW on May 12 2011|
I'm writing you now because I've liked the advice you've given in the past. My girlfriend and I are breaking up after eight years together. I'm devastated. I found out she was having an emotional affair with a mutual friend of ours. I got suspicious when I noticed them spending more time than usual together. A few weeks ago I came home early from work and found them hanging out at our house. It was a little weird, but it was their guilty reaction that really opened my eyes. I come from a family of liars and trust has always been a big issue for me in relationships. I know this is bad, but when she fell asleep, I checked her phone and email account. I felt guilty doing it until I stumbled across hundreds of texts between them. We've been together for such a long time I guess some of the spontaneity has gone out of the relationship. She was finding all that with this new romance. The texts were flirty and then turned into expressions of love. I was shocked.
Of course I confronted her. She denied having any physical relationship with her. But she did confirm that she was not happy in our relationship and had, in fact, fallen in love with our friend. She told me she had tried to engage me in our relationship for years, but that I was 'emotionally unavailable.' I begged her to give me another chance. I set up an emergency therapy session to begin to address our issues. But it was too late. Last night she went to work and didn't come home on time. I drove over to our friends place and found her car in the parking lot. I knocked on the door and we had a scene in the parking lot. It was horrible and embarrassing and I left there as a single person after almost a decade of being in a relationship.
I'm not sure what to do next. My friends have all weighed in on my situation. They think I should get angry, get even, date right away, just go have sex, never talk to my ex again, still try to work on it with her. They all sound good in the moment, but then I get confused again. I'm so sad, but a part of me is relieved. If I'm honest, I've known something wasn't right for a long time. I felt like I was always waiting for the next shoe to drop. Now I can relax a bit even if I'm sad.
First let me say how sorry I am that you are going through this. It sounds like you are doing all you can do for the moment. Listen to all your friends. Take what they say into account. But, in the end, you have to make up your own mind about what is "right" for you. Everyone has an opinion, but truly, there are no "right" decisions -- just decisions that work for you. Aside from the snooping (don't beat yourself up about that), it sounds like you have been very honest in this relationship. Your ex can't say the same thing.
It sounds like she has been conflicted about problems the two of you have been having for quite a while. When people have unresolved issues in their life that they can't see a resolution to, they often use escapism to deal with their feelings. A secret affair is a classic escape mechanism.
Be kind to yourself. Know that you did everything you could have done to save this relationship. And, as you begin to heal, I hope you begin to own your part in the problems your relationship had. It takes two to tango. But you can use this as an opportunity to know yourself better. And, hopefully, communicate better with your next partner.
Sincerely, Mark Rutherford LCSW