Betrayed: Can I Get Over It?.
How do I move past this one terrible mistake and realize we can have a long future full of happiness?
My girlfriend of two years and I met when I was 19 and she was 17. I was just starting my final year of semi-pro hockey and she was going into her first year of college. We met towards the end of summer and immediately feel in love. I don’t usually say corny stuff but it really was love at first sight. I hadn’t dated before and never really had any interest in dating her either, but everything clicked so well I couldn’t pass it up.
Right before I left, she said she wanted to try to stay together even though we would be living across the country from each other for years to come. When we were apart we found long distance to be extremely trying and we fought and cried almost every night from stupid fights and also because we just missed each other. But when I came to visit, everything clicked again and we picked up right where we left off.
We decided we would continue to try to make it, even through all the difficult times. We made it work until I got back, and I learned that while we were apart she had gotten too drunk one night and did some terrible things that she never wanted to do. I was furious and stormed away, sure I‘d never see her again.
She ran after me and vowed it was a stupid, young mistake to never happen again, and I realized I wanted to try to make it work considering the circumstances. She’s everything to me and truly makes my life complete.
I know this doesn’t have to define us if I don’t let it, but I can’t seem to let go or stop thinking about it. How do I move past this and realize we can have a long future full of happiness?
Rosie and Sherry's Answer:
Thanks for writing. Long distance relationships are very difficult to maintain, especially when the couple is young and doesn't have a long term goal for their relationship.
Couples who are a little older than you also struggle with long distance, but they may have the economic wherewithal to see each other on a regular basis, and they may have a long term plan they can focus on, such as marriage or a time when one of them can relocate so they can date like a "regular couple". Even then, like a younger couple, they will struggle with missing each other, wanting to continue the momentum, and figuring out how to have a social life when the person they care about is far away.
It is possible for you and your girlfriend to get past the mistake she made. Your first step is accepting what has happened.
Intellectually, you know that people sometimes do stupid things, and that judgment and wisdom improve with age. But it will take time to get over the hurt and possibly the betrayal you feel. In order to do that, it will be helpful for you to acknowledge what those feelings are, instead of feeling guilty for having them and trying to suppress them.
Take some time one evening to write down all of your
feelings about what happened and examine them. For example, one feeling might be anger. Look at what aspect of what happened caused you to become angry, and who you're angry with. Your answer could be, "I'm angry at my girlfriend for getting drunk, I'm angry that she let herself use poor judgment, I'm angry at her friends for not watching out for her, I'm angry at our situation because we each need to have social lives, I'm angry at myself for the way I reacted and not giving myself time to process before I said anything, I'm angry at myself for not finding time for us to get together more often," etc.
This process of acknowledging and understanding your feelings can be very cathartic. Now that they're out there, you can address them on an intellectual level. Try writing your thoughts this time - about how you can understand what happened and its aftermath. Maybe you'll write something like, "I feel betrayed because I thought we were exclusive. But she's embarrassed and regretted it right away, and she wasn't trying to disregard what we have." You may get to, "It will take me time, but I can forgive and get past what happened."
Yes, it will take time you for both of you to process and get past this incident. But you also need to have a plan for moving forward if you are going to stay a couple. Think of short term and long term goals for yourselves. Short term may be staying a dating couple until you finish school, or beyond that. Long term may be living in the same city, or seeing if dating will lead to marriage. Then, think about what each of you needs in order to stay together for the short term.
For example, how often would you want to see each other, is that practical, and how can you make it work? Are nightly phone calls a good idea and should they be time-limited? (Maybe short daily phone calls and a Skype date each week would work better.) What social outlets do you each need when you’re not together, what are each of you comfortable with, can any of these activities or outlets trigger another episode of poor judgment? What do you each expect from yourselves and each other over the short term?
One thing you shouldn’t do is take for granted that whatever you decide upon will continue to work for the next few years. You'll both change and your relationship will be changing, too. Every couple of months, you should discuss how your set-up is working and whether you need to make any changes in your plan. You may decide that you’re willing to stick with it and look forward to an upcoming time you'll be together. Or, you may decide that this is too hard, and that as much as you care about each other you need to take a break and see where each other is in a year or two. Or you may realize that you are growing in different directions and it may be a good idea to break up. Any of these are possibilities.
These are just some ideas that can be helpful to you for getting past what's happened and for moving forward. We wish you the all the best.