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Heavy Meddle: How Do I Get Over Great Heartbreak?

Ever since learning of my boyfriend's transgression, I can't seem to wrest myself from the depths of despair. Help. (xvire1969/flickr)
Ever since learning of my boyfriend's transgression, I can't seem to wrest myself from the depths of despair. Help. (xvire1969/flickr)
This article is more than 6 years old.

Welcome Meddleheads, to the column where your crazy meets my crazy! Please send your questions to advice@wbur.org. Right now. Not only will you immediately feel much better, you’ll also get some advice.

Hugs,
Steve

Dear Steve,

I recently found out that my boyfriend of nearly two years has been having an emotional affair with a girl he "used to" have feelings for, throughout our entire relationship. She was a very close friend of his and they both had feelings for one another at one point in time. I was uncomfortable with their relationship as friends and he promised me over a year ago that he would never speak to her again, as she apparently didn't mean anything to him. I actually spoke with her when I found out and discovered that he confessed his feelings for her when we were together, that he frequently texted and called her, talking to her about our relationship, and had an active interest in her life and feelings. He has lied to me so many times I can't even begin to explain, however, I honestly never saw this coming. I genuinely didn't think he would ever cheat on me and I don't know how to move past this. When I would catch him lying to me, or texting other girls and hiding it, he would make me feel so guilty for not trusting him, but how could I? I mean clearly I had no reason to. I can't believe he was able to hide this from me for so long. I don't understand how anyone could do that to another person, and I feel like I don't even know him anymore. Our relationship is over and I have no hope for reconciliation, especially since he told me that had I not found out this wouldn't have ended.

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I feel so broken, though. I feel betrayed, angry, hurt, deceived and so many other emotions. I can't walk past certain places without crying, and I've started actually having nightmares about the situation. I feel as if I am losing my mind and I know I sound like a crazy person, I just don't know what to do. I know in time that I'll be OK, I know this is just a rough patch. It's just that I'm struggling to get through the day. I try to engage in activities to keep myself occupied but my mind won't stray from what happened. My previous boyfriend cheated on me physically and it took me over a year to be able to get over that so I can only imagine what I have ahead of me yet. I feel so pathetic for saying how I feel, and for even feeling this way in the first place, but I can't escape these emotions. Please offer me some advice to be able to start moving on, and to not feel so hurt all the time.

Thank you,
Broken

Dear Broken,

Believe it or not, I think you’re doing exactly what you need to do. You’re feeling the profound sorrow that accompanies a loss like this. I feel terrible for you. I do. But I also feel incredible admiration for you. What a remarkable amount of love you feel. How beautiful that is: to be so alive.

Let me explain it like this:

The other day, my wife picked our son up from school. He’s a dreamy kid who lives in his head a lot. But this year he’s finally made a good friend at school. Anyway, on the way home from school my wife starting talking about an upcoming play-date with this friend and my son burst into tears. “He doesn’t want to be my friend anymore!” he sobbed. “He won’t talk to me! He just walks away from me!”

My wife was very shaken up by all this, and when she told me about it and I imagined my little boy weeping because he felt so confused and rejected, I totally lost it, too.

I get that these situations are not exactly the same. But at the bottom of it all, my son was feeling what you are right now. And even though it makes me upset and worried about him, I’m also proud that he feels so much. Isn’t that what gives life meaning? Why the hell else are we on earth if not to try to love each other?

You’re a big-hearted person who’s going to take a while to recover from this blow. The alternative is to harden your heart, which would suck.

I feel terrible for you. I do. But I also feel incredible admiration for you. What a remarkable amount of love you feel. How beautiful that is: to be so alive.

Let me offer some alternative practical advice.

First things first: see a therapist. What you’re describing here — the persistent thoughts and the nightmares — is serious stuff. You’re carrying around a real burden right now and it’s too heavy for you alone. You need some help.

To put that another way: you deserve some help. And that’s what a therapist does: they listen, they support, they help you think about how you got to this point and what you need to do to move on. Your mental health is worth the investment of time and money.

One thing a therapist can also help with is figuring out whether there are patterns of thought or behavior that might be undermining your efforts to find a stable, loving relationship. I couldn’t help but notice, for instance, some odd passages in your letter. Such as:

He has lied to me so many times I can't even begin to explain, however, I honestly never saw this coming.

I don’t really get this. If this guy engaged in a pattern of deceit, how you come you “never saw this coming”? It doesn’t add up.

You also write this:

When I would catch him lying to me, or texting other girls and hiding it, he would make me feel so guilty for not trusting him, but how could I? I mean clearly I had no reason to. I can't believe he was able to hide this from me for so long.

Again: it doesn’t sound like he was hiding his deceit from you. You kept catching him, right? It sounds more like you were ignoring the obvious red flags, and staying with him at your own peril.

Based on the two relationships you’ve described, it’s clear that you have a history of placing your trust in men you know are deceitful. A good therapist will help you think about why that might be, and how you can break the cycle. Based on my own experiences, until you work through these issues, you’ll wind up playing out the same scenario over and over.

It’s hard to find love in this world. But the search shouldn’t be a form of self-punishment.

So go ahead and feel what you need to feel for now. Try to be patient, and forgiving. But don’t go it alone. Seek out some professional help in sorting through these intense emotions, and in thinking about how to find a man who is worthy of all the love you have to give.

Hang tough,
Steve

Okay folks, now it's your turn. Did I get it right, or muck it up? Let me know in the comments section. And please do send your own question along, the more detailed the better. Even if I don't have a helpful response, chances are someone in the comments section will. Send your dilemmas via email.

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