Warning. This is long.
It’s a long email and it’s a long response.
And let’s be honest–who likes reading sob-stories about strangers? It’s sorta like flipping through photo albums of people you don’t know.
But this one’s different.
It’s uncomfortable and messy. It strikes a chord. And it addresses two issues that pop up–in some shape or form–in every relationship: Exes and trust.
An anguished reader writes:
My fiancée and I have been engaged for about 6 months and our wedding is another 6 months away. I love the girl to death (as I suppose I should), but there’s a problem with her ex-fiancé.
They broke it off at least two years before I was ever in the picture, but she still keeps in regular contact with him. At first it didn’t bother me at all, but as time passed, it pissed me off more and more.
It doesn’t help that he’s an asshole and the one time I hung out with him in a social setting he kept trying to give me advice about her. Anyway, after that instance I told her how I felt. I refuse to demand that she cut off all contact with him, because that will come back to haunt me at some point.
After I told her how I felt, she volunteered to cut off all contact with him because “I mean more to her than he does.” That was about 3 months ago. Since that time, I’ve found out that she’s been talking to him three separate times. She hasn’t talked to him only three times, I’ve just found out she’s still talking to him three separate times. We’re talking multiple conversations/lunches/etc. in each instance. Every time I find out, it causes an argument and she promises to stop.
The last time I found out was yesterday and I’m ready to throw in the towel. I feel like I’m being stabbed in the back and I know she’s lying to me. To make matters worse, she lies about it even though she’s well aware she’s been caught.
I can’t for the life of me figure out what he gives her that I don’t (I’ve asked her outright and she says “nothing”). Like I said before, I love her with all of my heart, but when is enough enough?
I feel like if I don’t do something drastic this will keep going on and it will be worse in the end. I’m ready to walk out of the house we share and just be done with it. Am I just being crazy or do I have a legitimate concern? All my friends tell me to leave, but I honestly don’t want to. It seems like the only option I have to get my point across.
Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
Remember the beginning of Old School? Luke Wilson gets home early. He finds his girlfriend in a gang-bang. He’s distraught. She’s contrite. He begs her, “Be honest. Please… Tell me this is the first time this has happened.” A pause. She says, “Well… Do you want me to be honest… Or do you want me to tell you this is the first time?”
We feel a little like Luke Wilson’s girlfriend. We can either: 1) Be honest; or 2) Make you feel better. We can’t do both.
At Plunge Headquarters we’ve sliced this issue every possible way. We’ve explored the loopholes. We’ve hunted for circumstances that might excuse her behavior. And, sure, there are some possible nuances that could, theoretically, soften her deception. So let’s quickly consider those scenarios:
Imaginary Assumption 1: She’s done nothing–nothing–with Douchebag-Ex
It’s possible. It’s also irrelevant. The issue isn’t that she might have cheated; the issue is that she was crystal clear about your misgivings, she told you she would stop, and she didn’t. This is what we in the biz call a “lie.” Imagine if your roles were reversed and she busted you having lunch with your ex-girlfriend. Her bridesmaid-friends would rip off your testicles and feed them to the dogs.
Imaginary Assumption 2: She also feels nothing for Douchebag-Ex
Let’s assume that on top of Purity of the Flesh, she also has Purity of the Mind. Let’s assume that she doesn’t for one second regret breaking up with this guy (or did he dump her?), she chose you, she loves you, and she doesn’t feel squat for Douchebag-Ex. Maybe this dude has become the equivalent of the “Work Wife,” that platonic-buddy you chat with in your cubicle. Again, that’s as unimportant as it is unlikely. She knows how this behavior makes you feel–how it would make anyone feel–and she still persists, still she lies.
Imaginary Assumption 3: She’s rattled by your accusations, so she resorts to a white lie
If we are to consider her in the most sympathetic light imaginable, it’s possible, perhaps, that when you talked to her about this issue, you sounded accusatory and huffy and insecure. Since in her mind she knows she’s spotless as a lamb–again, let’s go with this–she reflexively tells you a white lie, not because she thinks she has anything to hide, but because she doesn’t want to hurt your feelings. Furthermore, we’ll need to assume:
Imaginary Assumption 4: Tiger Woods never met any of the mistresses; it’s all an elaborate and diabolical conspiracy hatched by Phil Mickelson
All this is possible. But enough hedging. Enough creative assumptions.
You need to walk away.
There’s no squirming away from this undeniable fact: she lied. And she didn’t just lie about something minor, she lied about the most fundamental, most sensitive, most polemic issue in your relationship.
Put simply, you can’t trust her. And you shouldn’t marry someone you can’t trust.
Yes, from her perspective, it’s hard to let go of people who were/are important to us. We miss them. And we long for that warm blanket of nostalgia–swapping inside jokes, bitching about your bosses, reminiscing about that weird sleepwalking college roommate.
Look. We’re not saying she’s a wretched person. You love her for a reason. At heart, she’s probably a good girl. But she’s not ready to get married. Part of marriage is making sacrifices. Even if these sacrifices don’t seem reasonable or convenient or fair, you make them. She didn’t.
If you absolutely refuse to leave this girl, you have two options: First, talk to her again. Back to our Imaginary Tiger Woods Assumptions, maaaaaybe she didn’t quite get the gravity of your concern, or maybe she was blinded by what she thought were baseless accusations, or maybe you really did sound like a jerk and so she panicked. Maybe you haven’t yet had a good, open, sympathetic conversation. If that’s the case–and be honest with yourself–you can give negotiations one last gasp. Frankly, though, this sounds unlikely.
See also: “I Slept With My Fiance’s Best Friend.”
Your second option: cancel the wedding. Even if you two are ultimately destined for each other, right now, given your distress and her deception, you’re not ready for cakes and tuxes. This could change. If you’re rock-solid certain that she’s the love of your life, slow things down, hit the reset button, and spend the next two years rebuilding a foundation of trust.
As for the mini-scandal of calling off a wedding? Better to piss off your family than piss away your life.
In your own words, enough is enough. Every man needs to draw certain lines. Respect those lines. Respect yourself.