Advice

Miss Information: I love my new girlfriend, but I can’t stop thinking about my cheating ex.

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Dear Miss Information,

Over the summer, my ex-girlfriend of nearly three years left me for someone else. We were in a more-or-less long-distance relationship and the guy was a friend of hers who had always pursued her. I was devastated. It came as huge surprise and nothing has ever hurt me more than the way she was dishonest towards me and the pain of discovering her infidelity. I caught her when I saw messages in her phone one day that were very obvious evidence of cheating.

It took a while to get over the biggest heartbreak, but after hooking up with other girls for a while I finally met someone new that I really truly care for. She is wonderful, beautiful, friendly and amazing in so many ways that my ex never was. There’s a real genuine connection and it feels amazing. However, I still can’t get the pain of my break-up out of my mind. I find myself thinking about it nearly every day, and it still feels horrible.

Is there any way to know that this will pass soon? I can see myself falling in love with my new girlfriend, but I find it hard to truly let go of the previous trauma. Any help would be appreciated, even if it’s just a personal anecdote! — Post-Traumatic

Dear Post-Traumatic,

I’m not feeling well, Post-Traumatic. My sinuses feel like the inside of an antique store, all musty and cluttered. It’s nothing particularly interesting, just your average winter cold. It is, however, making me excessively lazy and willing to accept whatever’s on the TV in front of me. Finding the remote takes too much energy, even if that means sitting through Celebrity Fit Club. Did you know that Kevin Federline is thirty-three percent body fat and weighs 232 pounds? Now you do. What I’m trying to say, in this very long paragraph of lead-up, is that I’m going to take you up on your anecdote offer, if that’s still cool. Telling stories is about all my DayQuil-ed brain can handle right now. Hopefully there will be something in the following paragraphs that you can put to decent use.

So…I moved to from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to a small town in South Carolina in the middle of junior high. Not the most opportune time for a school switch. After a few months of floating around, I was finally able to insert my pasty Yankee ass into a friend group. There were four of us. We did everything together: lunch, sleepovers, hanging out before and after school. Until we didn’t. I never even got the delicious teen-angst satisfaction of a proper dismissal. My phasing out was much more gradual. "Oh, you heard about Tori’s sleepover? Sorry, Erin. Her mom said she could only have a certain number of people." Yeah, right. That’s why she invited Jenny, whom she met two weeks ago in homeroom.

I tried everything, from being excessively nice to faux indifferent. I approached each of them one-on-one, trying to see if somebody (anybody) would tell me the real deal. Did I do something to piss them off? Did they find out my ESPRIT jeans were from the outlet store and therefore not as cool? Nothing worked. I was completely alone and miserable. I spent the summer before freshman year helping my mom with housework to the point where she (very nicely) told me to get a life.

The next year I channeled my depression into Nine Inch Nails t-shirts and started hanging with the alterna-crowd. They proved to be a much better fit, personality-wise, and in many ways this turned out to be a blessing. I could finally be me instead of slathering myself in self-tanner, feigning interest in The Eagles, and tolerating racist innuendo. It still fucked me up, though. My self-esteem took a huge nose dive and stayed that way for close to a decade afterwards.

I still think about those girls. Like you, I have a wonderful significant other as well as a host of amazing friends. I don’t like that I think about them so often, but I also don’t know how to stop. I’ve talked to shrinks about it. Done letter writing exercises. Read books. A couple of them have friended me on the Facetwitter and now I find myself pulling up their profiles and hunting for clues. Would the divorced one with two young kids be willing to spill the beans? Divorce changes people, or so says the Lifetime Movie. Maybe she’ll be able to identify with my search for answers? That, or she’ll laugh and call me a loser.

I don’t know the right course of action. Do you, readers? Is it worth it to write these girls and politely ask what gives or should I just forget about closure and unfriend them on Facebook? Should I be ultra-Zen and write them a letter informing them of the forgiveness they didn’t ask for, or is something like that doing more harm than good? Tell me what you’d do, and if there’s a clear consensus one way or the other, I’ll do it. Aaaannnnnd write about it. Here, or in my blog that I don’t update enough so be on the lookout.

As for you, Post-Traumatic, I hope that reading this lets you know you’re not alone. Traumas are so incredibly hard to let go of, even if they’re just petty girl stuff from middle school. The healing process is different for each person, but remember not to judge yourself for feeling hurt, and make minimizing the hurt, rather than completely eradicating it, the end goal. Find a way of dealing with the leftover hurt that works for you. Some people see shrinks, others take up hiking, still others find solace in slutty hookups and booze. None of these are bad, in moderation. Neither is your new relationship, provided you’re not using this woman as a crutch. There’s a big difference between "I love you" and "I’m sad and lonely and I kind of like you, so you’ll do." Keep asking yourself those difficult questions. They’re worth the effort.

Guys, any more advice for Post-Traumatic? How did you recover from someone cheating on you?