What Not To Do in Relationships

lonely woman thinking on a couch
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Dear Evan,

I have been married for four years (I married at 21) and I have been unhappy for quite some time. I had an affair early in our marriage due to my husband being emotionally unavailable and I felt I needed to fill the void he had left. Recently, we have been having more problems than usual as I find myself searching for my own identity; after a few years I feel as though I lost who I was as an individual, instead of as a part of a couple.

When we started to spend time with a new social group, my husband and I were having a great time. A few months ago, one of the more popular men in this group and I became very close friends. After spending a lot of time together (both in private and in public) I began to realize that my feelings were beginning to go down another path and upon telling him this, he very pointedly said that he would not have an affair with me, because he respects my marriage and my husband. So I thought, okay, not a big deal.

Kids who get married before the age of 25 have a 75% divorce rate.

He was recently selected for a new job (his “dream job”), about 1000 miles away from where I live. When he found out he was leaving in a few weeks, we began to spend more and more time together and I found myself in love with him. I separated from my husband with intentions of divorce a week before he left. When he told me he loved me and wanted to be with me, and that we would find a way to make it work, we ended up spending a night together. He was very sweet and said amazing things to me that no one ever had. But…

Within three days, he started to disappear. Now he’s at his new job and explains that the job he took requires the first two years to be spent training in various locations around the US (he apparently didn’t know this when he applied). He’s become very distant, doesn’t answer (or return) my calls, and now I’m incredibly confused.

Was I just a hookup because he was leaving? Would a guy exploit a friendship like that?

Thanks,
Annie

I debated as to whether to run this letter, since I really didn’t have much advice for you, but then I figured that it was such a good snapshot of what not to do in relationships, I’d be remiss if I didn’t share it with the world.

What not to do in relationships:

1. Get married at 21. I’m not sure why you got married at 21. I suspect it had to do with chemistry, sex, being in love, and that sneaking suspicion that you were an adult and were ready for the next step with your boyfriend. Either way, kids who get married before the age of 25 have a 75% divorce rate. Caveat emptor.

2. Marry an emotionally unavailable man. It’s not like your husband became an entirely different person after you married him. You deliberately chose to hitch your train to an insensitive man in your early 20’s before you’d had experience with lots of other adults.

3. Have an affair early in your marriage to fill the void of your emotionally unavailable man. I feel for you, but the answer is marriage counseling or divorce, not cheating.

4. Justify the affair as if this is healthy standard practice. On the bright side, your matter of fact tone indicates that you don’t feel the least guilty about this first transgression. Which means that you have, at best, a loose sense of ethics and morality, and would be drawn to similar men.

5. Become close friends with a popular guy from your social group. First of all, popularity exists after high school? Second of all, it’s basic Marriage 101 stuff: Thou Shalt Not Develop Close Friends of the Opposite Sex Lest The Temptation Be Too Great. If you’re an emotionally deprived wife, searching for connection, you’re pretty much begging for an affair when you do this.

6. Confess to your popular close friend that you’re falling for him. You could have pulled away and said nothing, but you chose to bring this to the surface. Why? Because you wanted to have another affair. Can you see how you’re coming across, Annie?

Thou Shalt Not Develop Close Friends of the Opposite Sex Lest The Temptation Be Too Great.

7. Fall in love with another man in the weeks before he moves. Another opportunity for you to pull away cleanly without your husband knowing, but you dove in, headfirst, and convinced yourself you “loved” this guy.

8. Get separated from your husband to be with a man who is going 1000 miles away. As much as I’m beating up on you, it’s in the realm of possibility that you can fall in love with another man while you’re with your husband. But to consciously fall in love with a man who has one foot, two arms and five packed bags out the door? Kind of poor short-term thinking, no?

9. Become surprised that the man who said he was disappearing has actually disappeared. The fact that he was sweet to you, slept with you, and said nice things before he left is sort of predictable. It’s hard to sleep with someone when you’re mean to her, and it would be surprising if his final words to you were that he never planned on seeing you again. He was in the moment. You were in the clouds.

10. Ask a question like this: Was I just a hookup because he was leaving? Would a guy exploit a friendship like that? Huh? You make every mistake in the book, cheat on your husband repeatedly, seduce a guy with an out-of-town job who said he respected your marriage, and then complain that the guy “exploited” your friendship?

You’ve gotta be fucking kidding me, Annie.

Look in the mirror. Get into therapy. And start taking responsibility for your behaviors.

I feel bad that you’ve made so many mistakes, but you’re not going to remedy them by continuing on this childish, selfish and immoral path.

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Comments:

  1. 21
    Sunflower

    Live and learn! Hopefully….

  2. 22
    Locutus

    Emotional cheating is irrelevant here because, as Emerald pointed out, the OP had an affair early in the marriage, so she had sex with someone else almost right from the start- actual cheating. This latest guy is the second person she has cheated with and no she never stated they separated first at all. The OP is now 25, so please stop saying she is a young 21 year old that messed up!! She still feels the SAME way and will likely never have any remorse and will probably continue in her same ways from the way she speaks. Geez, in a previous post some were ready to hang a guy who cheated once, admitted he was wrong, and went through crazy punishment from his GF and they were not even married!!!!! This girl is 10 times worse because she was married and speaks of this stuff almost as if she’s proud of it!!!!! And now we have people saying to go easy on her?? Hypocrites!!!!!!!

    1. 22.1
      Clare

      Jeez Locutus, emotional much?

      You are actually standing there saying that someone can never change from who they were at 25? Even Evan is continuously saying that one is not the same person at 25 as you are at 30, not the same person at 30 as you are at 35, and so on. What about you? Are YOU the same person as you were at 25? No, please don’t answer that.

      You say she “will likely never have any remorse” and she “speaks of this stuff almost as if she’s proud of it” and of course she “will probably continue in her same ways”. Are you a mindreader now? An expert in human behaviour? Do you have information on this girl that we don’t? No?? Then this is a response based on your own projections and feelings.

      No one is saying this girl didn’t do anything wrong. Just like no one is saying the guy in the previous thread didn’t do anything wrong.

      Your emotional and harsh response does speak volumes about your own prejudices though, which have already been shining through from your other comments.

      1. 22.1.1
        Locutus

        Clare,
        You couldn’t be more inaccurate with your assessment of my previous post. My point is that people rarely change and if they do change they don’t change by much. When Evan says someone is not the same person at 30 versus 25, he is saying that at 30 their wants and desires change and they also have gained much more experience in life. He is not saying that people change the way they are. If a person is a very self centered person who could care less about hurting others that is pretty much the way they will be for their entire life. These poor qualities are a combination of a persons psychology and what values were instilled upon them at a young age. I bet you could probably ask the OP how she can do what she did to her husband and not feel any remorse about it and I bet she probably wouldn’t comprehend why she should feel any remorse. It’s just like women who sleep with a married man and think there is nothing wrong at all with it when in fact they are disrespecting the wife of the man and marriage itself. It’s classless, disrespectful, and dishonorable. I would never sleep with a known married woman because that is classless and dispicable in my book, but some guys would do it and think nothing of it. I don’t want to be associated with classless and disrespectful people. Do you understand what I am trying to say here?
        I am IN NO WAY speaking out of emotion. I am speaking realistically and out of experience. I make my assessments of this girl based on the fact that people rarely change and also the fact that she has not changed ONE BIT at 25 from the way she was at 21. That is a FACT not a projection. Yes, she is almost proud of her ways because she shows no signs at all of feeling sorry for what she did or has any apology to her husband, so I’m pretty damn accurate when I say she has no remorse. I didn’t say anything harsh- I spoke reality. You must like things sugar coated and probably call people harsh when you don’t like the reality they speak. That is your issue.
        So, could this girl change? Sure she could, but the odds are most certainly stacked highly against it. If I were a betting man I certainly wouldn’t bet any money on it!!!!

        1. Clare

          Again Locutus, there is a whole lot in your post which you actually have no way of knowing. You don’t know that she feels no remorse. All we have to go on is this letter.

          And she is still only 25. That is really a baby in the grand scheme of personal growth. Almost everyone I know has grown and matured and learnt at least some of the error of their ways since they were 25.

      2. 22.1.2
        Locutus

        Clare,
        You have to be absolutely kidding me??? Of course I’m going by her letter…and in her letter there is not one bit of remorse- actually the opposite, she asks selfish questions with no regard for her husbands feelings. She doesn’t even identify that she should even have any remorse or feel sorry about anything. I’ve seen these types of people million times (many were friends of friends both male and female) and let me tell you- they DON’T CHANGE!!!!!! She doesn’t give half a damn about anyone but herself!! At 25 years old I surely damn knew what it meant to be selfish and what it was to mistreat others. My God, my 15 year old niece could easily identify with that, nevermind sticking up for a 25 year old!!! I’m baffled how you can go out of your way to come up with excuses to defend this girl. She is a pretty horrible person!! I’m all about helping people out when they admit their mistakes and they truly feel sorry for what they have done, but this girl is light years away from doing that.

        1. Clare

          Yes Locutus. I apologise. I bow to your all-knowing wisdom.

      3. 22.1.3
        Locutus

        It’s not all-knowing wisdom, Clare. It’s written right in her letter……

        1. NK

          @Locutus – I’ve seen these types of people million times (many were friends of friends both male and female) and let me tell you- they DON’T CHANGE!!!!!!
          DISAGREE. The belief that people don’t change in terms of values, emotional make up, maturity etc.. is quite limiting in my opinion. From a personal perspective here is my story (I am basing my opinion mostly on my own experience, your reply portrays projection form your part and It would be mature of you to admit that projection is influencing you, just like I am admitting my story as projection on some level as well).  
          As someone who has studied ways to live an authentic life and take responsibility of my own actions and (try my best!) not to take on other peoples emotional baggage as a reflection of my self I have learnt to become objective about my own actions and have worked hard (5 years of therapy) to move into this mindset. If I can do it, anyone can. My story:
          I am from a poor broken family. I had to exist in a explosive relationship between a depressed/disordered mother who parentified me and a violent father who turned out to be a low level sex offender. I went into foster for two years and was my father was given full custody. The relationship with my mother suffered and my father wasn’t always emotionally available. At 16 I became sexually active and was deliberately looking for casual relationships, until I meet my ex. He was a decent, caring and more emotionally stable than me. We were together for 4.5 years. He was quite traditional and we most certainly headed for marriage. Throughout this relationship I felt not good enough, I felt like I couldn’t express my true identity, I had low self esteem and eventually I started to push him away, by distance and emotionally. I tired to break up but he convinced me to stay. Then towards the end of uni I cheated by making out only with a male mate, didn’t tell him and decided to stick with it. After a short while I started talking to a peer at uni and we had a common musical interest. I decided to go to a party with him and we slept together. I instantly knew I couldn’t go on and told my boyfriend the next day. I was a COWARD. I knew I had to end this relationship but I didn’t have the nerve as he was ‘perfect’. Why would I get rid of such a good guy? He was heartbroken and after a few weeks begged me to try again. I said no. I felt he deserved better than me. Despite still loving him. I started a doomed relationship with the guy I cheated with. He turned out to be emotionally abusive and even hit me twice. I went back and forth with him for 18 months. I turned real crazy when I was with him, I was a pain in the ass for my friends who begged me to leave him alone. I picked up other guys for attention to either move on with or just to sleep with. In fact I used a lot of good guys during this period and I also meet a few more jerks. I was not able to just grieve the loss of my previous ex AND   take the time to look at myself and feel the feelings and be UNCOMFORTABLE.   I took myself to therapy. I should of went to therapy way earlier, but I digress. the relationship with my parents was terrible at this point, I almost homeless, without support and had next to no finances, despite working, I wasn’t earning enough to hold my own. I was a mess. I couldn’t focus on my self or look after myself.  
          It took about a year to get myself out of the struggle and found a well paid, stable job (this was 2008 the recession) where confidence in myself wasn’t high, neither was the economy. I said good bye to the abusive BF and continued therapy and worked. I was promisicous and slept around looking for comfort in either a promising relationship or sex. I felt empty, but I was growing and thing did start to get better emotionally. I became more comfortable with myself and I faced some huge demons with my parents. My dating experiences varied between flings, casual hook ups, fun, character building and were sometimes painful. I had two abortions in one year (one using contraception, one without). I constantly wrote personal development plans, I read online sources of info and purchased books. I visited and purchased baggage reclaim, Evan Marc Katzs book, ‘They F*ck you up’ amongst others. I explored meditation, exercise, volunteering, I poured myself into my career. I struggled with my guilt about cheating on my ex, my own emotional unavailability, what I needed, my boundaries (or lack of!), my promiscuity and my selfishness. I went over these values and flaws over and over. I fell into a deep dark depression at one point. I suffered a couple of career lows. I tried to kill myself.  
          And now in 2013. At the age of 28 I have a pretty good idea of who I am and MOST IMPORTANTLY who I want to be. I am sure that I will continue to change, but one thing that wont change is my commitment to looking at myself and working on myself.  
          I know I was a lost girl who couldn’t bare to face her true feelings and was fiercely independent. I know I will never cheat on my partner. I know when to recognise issues before they become detrimental. I have learnt how to communicate my needs and how to meet my spouses. I am no by means perfect of course. But I have most DEFINITELY changed. I had a few good tough love chats throughout these last 5 years and they really hit home. I am now in a 6 month LTR, still earlyish but healthy and loving. I am moving towards other developments and I know what I need and want.  
          So Annie/OP. Take a long hard look at yourself. By the sounds of it you are emotionally unavailable. You probably wouldn’t married a EAM if you were not. Go to therapy, find a hobby that is all about you for personal space and feel those feelings. All of them. The guilt, the shame (I hate shame but I digress it is likely you’ll feel that), the loneliness, the uncomfortableness that you cant put your finger on – or whatever it may be….because thats part of growing up you’ll move on and become a better person if you commit to your own development.
          Don’t get stuck in thinking you cant change. Because you can.   

      4. 22.1.4
        JannaG

        People CAN choose to be a different person when they are 30, 35, etc., but they have to make that choice. The once a cheater, always a cheater thing doesn’t have to be true. However, it is common enough to have become a saying. Many people just don’t choose to be a different person in that regard.

  3. 23
    Erika

    Can’t believe what I just read, xD
    You’ve gotta be fucking kidding us, Annie.

  4. 24
    Tim

    Women say they cheat because they need a shoulder to cry upon…not for sex.

    Why is it that, more often than not, the shoulder in question belongs to a man much more physically attractive than the husband?

    1. 24.1
      Julia

      Well Tim, I’ve never been married nor have I cheated so I can’t really answer your question. It seems like you have some extreme biases not really based on anything though. We have no idea what the people look like in this letter so you are just making assumptions.

  5. 25
    JoeK

    To those questioning/looking for clarity on her history – she has now cheated TWICE:

    “I had an affair early in our marriage due to my husband being emotionally unavailable and I felt I needed to fill the void he had left. Recently, we have been having more problems than usual as I find myself searching for my own identity…”

    She had an affair early in the relationship. And now she’s talking about “today” when she says “recently we’ve been having more problems…”.

    She then goes on to describe meeting with another man, *while still married*:
    “…I began to realize that my feelings were beginning to go down another path and upon telling him this, he very pointedly said that he would not have an affair with me, because he respects my marriage and my husband. So I thought, okay, not a big deal.”

    While still married, she sought out this other man, and propositioned him – why else would he say “he would not have an affair with me”.

    Ok, she separated before they “technically” did the did, but she proffered it before then. Guilty as charged.

    Hope they finalize the divorce quick – she’s no catch, which is what her affair-mate realized: if she’s willing to cheat WITH you, she’ll be willing to cheat ON you.

    As others have said – her questions are pointless. She needs to get divorced and work on herself.

    (Dangit Evan, what happened to the formatting options? I can no longer use italics/bold etc. Or is it just me?)

  6. 26
    Mickey

    And, to no one’s surprise, she’ll be wondering why she can’t find a decent guy.

  7. 27
    IPIA

    in this case. too early to trust a man. you really don’t know who the man is. and because you adore someone else beside your husband, you separated from your husband. i think for marriage we need a mature think and try to give a question for your self.. is marriage good for you or only for status….

  8. 28
    Amy Zimmerman

    WOOHOO!!! Tell it like it is!   Such a relief and a breath of fresh air.   Thank you Evan!   Sweet Jesus.

  9. 29
    ScottH

    The answer for Annie might be to either get divorced or get counseling but if there are kids involved, or other circumstances, those options might not be viable nor the only options.   What if divorce isn’t an option (for many reasons) and the spouse isn’t willing to work on the issues?   Then what?   This situation is real for many many people (and I was one of them) and our needs don’t just go away because our spouse isn’t interested.   Marriage and relationships (and people) are far too complicated to paint with a simple brush.

  10. 30
    India

    If you have been unhappy for so long, just get divorced. Stop wasting your time.

  11. 31
    KT

    Dear Evan,

    It sounds so horrible, but I have been in this boat.

    And VERY thankfully, I am ridiculously embarrassed about ALL of it, and doing everything I can to be an amazing person, date, lover, girlfriend…

    It’s been several years now.

    I’ve been  very happily online dating for over a year, and currently following as much of your advice as I possibly can (I think we established above that I’m not perfect). I’m pretty confidant in saying that I always have a great date. And more and often than not, many more dates  that follow 🙂

    Thank You, for your amazingly real, expertise!

     

  12. 32
    Me

    She obviously sounds very mixed up.

  13. 33
    Laurie

    Awesome post!

  14. 34
    Di

    Grt article. Once a cheater always a cheater. Narcissist behavior and little accountability for it as well. Her husband is better off.

  15. 35
    JannaG

    Wow Evan! You actually gave her good helpful advice, albeit quite tough advice. I’m impressed that you didn’t just blameshift everything onto her spouse like many advice columnists, coaches and therapists do.   They really aren’t helping the person who had the affair(s) when they refuse to address real issues in the cheater in favor of blameshifting.

  16. 36
    Betrayed Husband!

    Hello everyone (and, the X)

     

    I… am…   very, very very grateful, and impressed, Thank God!   but impressed that, no blameshifting was done and spoken of, or on here!

     

    《Quoting…   Janna G

     

    “You actually gave her good helpful advice, albeit quite tough advice. I’m impressed that you didn’t just blameshift everything onto her spouse like many advice columnists, coaches and therapists do. They really aren’t helping the person who had the affair(s) when they refuse to address real issues in the cheater in favor of blameshifting.”》

     

    “God bless you Janna G, and Evan, as well, for not blame shifting everything unto me.   Clearly, we were both at fault: but one of us, had to take charge, basically being the mature one…. especially, dealing with a breakup.   #BreakupsSuck

     

    1.   Blame Shifting –   blame shifting sucks, they really aren’t helping both, the spouse’s….   who, are in, or was part of a LT relationship… and this, mind you, this   wife of mine in this affair…   well plain and simple, it lasted, for more then 4 years!   Mainly the last four years of our 10-year relationship !   “that sucks!   Gotta go pick up my daughter, so I’ll be posting more, much later to night.

  17. 37
    Katherineâ¤RickNotAllan

    @ NK

    So five years of therapy.   No offense but, to me you’re an attention seeker.

    It’s crazy that, you started cheating at a young age. Okay, I don’t get it.   You met a guy, you both had a music interest (so you chose to cheat), you slept with him and then now you had to confess, because you felt guilty?   You had a perfect guy, and ended it. So you called yourself a coward? No, more like self centered, lost, selfish and irresponsible, if you ask me. Do you know a very self centered person who could care less about hurting others, is pretty much the way they will be (maybe), for their entire life. I’m sorry, in no way… that in fact, i’m speaking out from my emotions. I am speaking realistically and out of my life experiences, of being the one hurt.

    {You felt that he deserved better}

    Then are you saying, or telling me, that this was a one-sided “love” relationship?   It doesn’t seem like you cared about this guy, the way he cared about you.

    {Despite still loving him. I started a doomed relationship with the guy I cheated with. He turned out to be emotionally abusive and even hit me twice. I went back and forth with him for 18 months. I turned real crazy when I was with him, I was a pain in the ass for my friends who begged me to leave him alone}

    No you didn’t love him!   You see, I don’t get it! Do women clearly don’t like nice guys? This is a prime example (your quote above), but yet look who gets hurt?   The nice guy… and then, the female gets hurt by the asshole!   Go figure, and you picked up all the guys for attention – yes, attention seeker!   I clearly pointed that out (on my first paragraph) from the beginning, no offense.

    {I was not able to just grieve the loss of my previous ex AND take the time to look at myself and feel the feelings and be UNCOMFORTABLE}

    Embarrassing to admit, I to… had to learn the hard way but this is the first thing I did, during a dark time of my life and I had nobody to help me.   A breakup, especially a long-term relationship, to me… it’s like mourning a loss of a love one that was once very close to one’s heart.

    We all know there’s 5 stages of grief, but I added an extra, and #6 is very important to me, in which I will explained:

    (1) Denial: “This can’t be happening to me.”

    (2) Anger: “Why is this happening? Who is to blame?”

    (3) Bargaining: “Make this not happen, and in return I will ____.”

    (4) Depression: “I’m too sad to do anything.”

    (5) Acceptance: “I’m at peace with what happened.”

    (6) Always keep your morals intact, and appreciate them.

    #6 – “Don’t go out and sleep with every, Tom   Dick, and Harry.   Especially fucken rebound relationships, or friends with benefits. What is that going to teach you about yourself?   That’s only showing how much you didn’t respect your last relationship (with the ex, plus yourself body), and that you like to fuck everybody in the world – and this goes for male or female. If your significant other does the opposite, so fucken what! Give yourself time and you will eventually find yourself, learn about yourself, care about yourself, and I promise you, you will love yourself… and then, you can love others! Matter of fact, I’m still going through my healing process. It’s not easy, it’s a challenge! Just like any challenge. once you complete it… your self-esteem will go straight up… your confidence level will skyrocket… and you’re going to be one… happy… camper!

    {I felt empty, but I was growing and thing did start to get better emotionally}

    This is what “one” feels so “empty” sometimes (you want to fill that empty void), and believe it or not people get this, “dumb ass” feeling – yeah, while in a relationship, and that’s why it’s so easy for you to dump the other person without realizing the value of that relationship.   Think about it, Instead of filling it with something stupid or hurtful… fill it with something logic, and more understanding. It’s a tough challenge, I’m not going to lie.   I promise you, it’ll clear up… any… demons… that you have, because I had them too, but i’m happy to say… not anymore!

    I’m so so so sorry, you had to go through those abortions, my ex went through the same experience, and I was right there with her, holding her hand and keeping her company. It’s something I had to learn to cope with (and… live… with) for a the rest of my life. I have regrets… I’m not going to lie.

    {I struggled with my guilt about cheating on my ex and I went over these values and flaws over and over}

    Okay, I’m going to give you some tough love right now, because now you have to see it through someone else’s eyes, so pretend I’m your ex, and don’t take this the wrong way, I’m just going to be straight out!

    So you’re struggling with the guilt dealing with your ex? So currently, or back then, what did you do about it? Did you try talking to him about it?   A person with a heart, would have done that first.   Since you have guilt, did you apologize to him about it? If not, why the fuck not!   Clearly, you knew how much he cared about you (that’s just taking advantage of someone’s heart),… so why didn’t you go fucken confess to him!

    But you can go back to the abusive ex-boyfriend, that didn’t give a shit about you, and put his hands on you…   but you can’t go back to the nice guy? Now that is, if you didn’t do this… go confess.

    Look, if you haven’t done this, it’s going to stay with you for the rest of your life… believe me.   I went through the same fucken thing!

    But glad for those….   “those DEFINITELY changes of yours” 😄

    Good job! Good job!   Now remember, we all still have some work, some fixing and changes to get done within ourselves… We learn something everyday!   I know I do still… lol

     

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