Rappler’s Life and Style section runs an advice column by couple Jeremy Baer and clinical psychologist Dr Margarita Holmes.
Jeremy has a master’s degree in law from Oxford University. A banker of 37 years who worked in 3 continents, he has been training with Dr Holmes for the last 10 years as co-lecturer and, occasionally, as co-therapist, especially with clients whose financial concerns intrude into their daily lives.
Dear Dr Holmes and Mr Baer,
I’ve been with my girlfriend, now fiancée, for 8 years. I love her so much that I never even once checked out or had a crush on any other girl. I am very contented with our relationship. Although we have been in a long distance relationship for more than 3 years now, we are very happy.
However, something happened that I cannot really explain. There is this one girl that changed my stick-to-one principle in life. She is a foreigner. We were officemates before, you know just the casual hi-hello everyday thing. Nothing special. She left and eventually joined our team again after a year.
Something attracted me to her. We went out many times. I cheated on my fiancée. I always question myself, why I did those things. I know I love her so much, but why did I come to this point? I asked for time off in our relationship and also our marriage, because I cannot take what I am doing. I cannot tell her. I feel so bad.
On the other hand, I also don’t have plans of pursuing the foreign girl. I don’t see any future for us. Her mindset is stuck in an arranged marriage. Her parents will look for her and then that’s it. I admit, I am weak. But I know this is not lust. I don’t know what to do.
Thank you for your email.
Your story begins with a self-description emphasizing fidelity and contentment and ends in infidelity and disillusion, a disastrous journey resulting in two relationships doomed to failure.
You say that for most of your 8 years with your girlfriend (let’s call her Eve) you never even checked out or had a crush on another girl. The relationship was progressing so well that it weathered your separation and you got engaged. Yet you then met another girl (let’s call her Zoe) and all thoughts of fidelity to Eve suddenly became nothing but a distant memory. You have clearly given this abrupt change of behavior some thought and your unfortunate conclusion, both for you and for us, is that you can’t explain it.
There are a number of possibilities that immediately come to mind. Long distance relationships are notorious for putting a huge strain on those involved. We may have better communications now (video calls etc.) but loneliness and a desire for companionship are natural reactions which can have unintended consequences. Your friendship with Zoe met a basic human need and it was understandable, though sad, that in the circumstances you were not able to resist someone who was willing for you both to be friends with benefits.
Separation for long periods of time combined with meeting new people can also lead to a reappraisal of existing relationships. After all, not everyone meets, marries and lives happily ever after with their first partner. Many of us enjoy the illusion that we have met our ideal mate a number of times before actually finding that person and that may have happened to you here too.
Or perhaps you were simply never the monogamous type that you had thought and it just took a certain sort of girl, maybe with the additional ingredient of her foreignness, to bring this out in you.
All this is however mere speculation from afar when you, the best person to clarify the matter, are apparently unable to shed any light on these events yourself.
As to the future, Zoe is according to you a lost cause, poised as she is to embrace an arranged marriage. That leaves Eve, whose reaction to your postponement of your marriage you have chosen to exclude from your story.
If your love for her is as strong as you say, perhaps coming clean to her will not be as catastrophic as you imagine and the relationship can still prosper. If however Eve ends things with you, then you will have burned both your bridges, survived to live another day and the world is your oyster.
All the best,
Thank you very much for your letter. If our correspondence were to have taken several months with the 3 of us responding to whatever the other said, perhaps we could have tried to help you answer questions like: “I always question myself, why I did those things.” and “but why did I come to this point?”
However, because this is a one-letter-and-two-answer correspondence, I will concentrate on what I feel you are asking us with your last statement which is: Help me figure out what is best to do.
Actually, your letter reminds me so much of Dan’s Oct 2016 letter.
As I told Dan last October: “…it’s time to focus on what responsible people do after they’ve done similar things. They make amends… (Telling your gf will,) At the very least, might be an example of how we sometimes underestimate our wives’ (or gf’s) capacity to understand, support and even forgive us.”
What you had in common with Dan was not what you’d both done, but your conclusions that you could not tell the one woman you each professed to love.
And yet tell her you must, AB.
Or what sort of love would that really be? And what sort of marriage (should you both decide that this was still a good idea)?
However, you need to do much more than tell your girlfriend.
You also need to tell yourself a few things; starting with:
I’m not being honest when I say “I don’t see any future for us (the foreign girl).”
I actually do see a future with her. I actually would like to see if “her mindset is stuck in an arranged marriage” or if I can convince her to give us a chance. I actually want to see if I can help her find the courage to go against her parents’ wishes.
`If, in the past, you “never even once checked out or had a crush on any other girl… Something attracts me to her…I know I love her (gf) so much, but why did I come to this (cheat on gf with the foreign girl)?”
Why? Because, in your own words “this is not lust.” This is something much deeper, much truer than that…this (is the) one girl that changed my stick-to-one principle in life.”
Any relationship that enflamed and gave you enough courage to go beyond your comfort zone needs at least enough respect to take it as far as you can.
Granted: It is possible that taking it as far as you can means you can take it no further than you already have. Still, it has opened your eyes to the possibility that your relationship with your girlfriend may not be all that you need.
If, despite 8 years of being together and loving each other, you fell in love with someone else (and that is what it seems like, AB), then you owe it to yourself to take a long, hard look at your current relationship and see if it is really what you need to sustain you throughout your life. You owe this to yourself and to your girlfriend.
Good luck! As Linda Goodman once said: “Saturn gives stern test but immense rewards.” True love does the same things, AB, and I wish you fortitude and strength in your quest for it.
All the best,
Need advice from our Two Pronged duo? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with subject heading TWO PRONGED.Unfortunately the volume of correspondence precludes a personal response.
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