Sunday, December 12, 2010

Dismaying Story #133: What If He Didn’t Actually Break Up?

Dear Andrew,

I've been involved with this man (let's say his name is Brannigan) since May 2010. It's been wonderful. We connect on every level and our interests match. For once I have really allowed myself to love someone fully. Our relationship has been going on long-distance. Our mutual goal was to get to a place where we could finally be together. Last night, I was emailed a testimonial from another social networking site that displayed another woman with the username brannigan'sgirlfriend. She posts her excited news that since September, she's been LIVING with him (and she says his full name) and that they are madly in love and he's the best guy in the world. The problem is, he hasn't actually broken up with me. The last time we spoke he told me that he loved me and wished we could be together for the holidays. What am I supposed to do about that? Do I confess that I already know? Do I wait for him to fess up? They are living together, newly, and I've visited him so I know for a fact they weren't before. I'm still reeling emotionally but I just feel like a sap. His whole family and friends have known, clearly, and no one thought to tell me?

Signed, Confused and Angry but Mostly Hurt

Dear Mostly Hurt,

First, I assume this is not a case of mistaken identity or confusion, otherwise we have nothing to talk about. So let’s go forward with the understanding that the “Brannigan” in the testimonial is the same guy with whom you have been having a long distance relationship. In other words, he is well and truly caught.

As I read your email, my eye keeps going back to your question: “What am I supposed to do about that?”

I bet many readers are already shaking their heads, as in: How could it be a mystery what to do next? He’s lying and cheating, so walk away without so much as a glance back over your shoulder.

But here’s the thing – you already know about that option. That kind of advice is no surprise to you. So why are you still wondering what to do?

I believe I can sum up the reason in one word: Hope.

For some time now you’ve been hoping he is the one. You’ve tied your emotional sails fully to the wind blowing from his direction, hoping to whisk off into the happy future, arm in arm with your soul mate, the one you have been hoping to find for so long, the one who is finally, finally here!

Your emotional investment has been tremendous. He has occupied most of your waking thoughts. You have spent much of your time yearning for that next phone call, that next Skype session when you will receive yet another affirmation that you are worthy, that your future is set, that all is well.

And then in a matter of a few seconds you are faced with the exact opposite of that entire experience. He is betraying everything about your dream by living with another woman.

At that moment of realization you are faced with a choice. You can give up on that strongly-held hope ... or you can hang on just a little while longer, refusing to give up on those delicious feelings altogether, hoping against hope that there may yet be some path forward to the promised future.

After all, hasn’t he said that he loves you? Hasn’t he shown affection by his actions? Didn’t he say he wants to be with you? Aren’t there plenty of reasons to hope that he might end up with you instead of her?

Sadly, no, there are no such reasons for hope.

He has made his intentions clear by moving in with another woman. I can’t think of many ways he could say more strongly that he prefers another woman to you, and that you have no future together.

But let’s say for a moment that is not true. Let’s go with the desperate theory that he has only moved in with her in a moment of weakness, that he is really not all that into her, that she just happens to be the one who is close by, while you are distant and unavailable. Let’s assume for a moment that YOU are his real true love, and she is just a convenient passing fancy. (And by the way, I don’t believe any of that, but work with me here...) If all that were true, could you still hang onto some hope?

No, don’t do it. Walk away, right now, without looking back, because even if all that were true, you deserve better than that guy. You deserve to spend your life with someone who is faithful and true, not someone who cheats and sneaks around behind your back, all the while lying and telling you everything is still wonderful. Imagine the lack of moral judgment he must have to willingly hurt you in that way. Do you want to sign up for a lifetime of that? No way. You deserve better, much better. Everyone does.

Should you confront him about it? In my opinion that is a personal choice. You would certainly be justified if you simply refuse to have any further contact with him. Or, depending on your emotional needs, it might help you to get closure on the pain he has caused you by standing up for yourself and telling him how wrong he was, how much he owes you an apology.

And then you should walk away, even if he has since broken up with the other woman and begs your forgiveness. I suspect that scenario is unlikely, but even if that happens, he has proven how little he values your happiness. Don’t allow yourself to be fooled a second time.

I’m sorry you have had to go through such a gut-wrenching emotional blow. Please know that not all men are like Brannigan. The world is full of guys who are honest and caring, and will do their best to look out for your happiness, not just their own. Everyone – and that definitely includes you – is worthy of being treated like that.

I would also be interested to hear whether any readers have had similar experiences. Do you have any nuggets of wisdom to help Mostly Hurt get past her pain?

So my advice is to keep looking until you find the Prince Charming whose sweet words match the real person inside. Have faith that he is out there and you will find him.

All the best and good luck,

Do you have a relationship issue in your life? Write in and tell me what’s going on so your issue can be featured as a Dismaying Story. Comments can be anonymous and the identity of email respondents always remains confidential.


  1. I say send him an email saying you'll be stopping by on Friday for the weekend and let him sweat.

    Unless of course they are looking for a third and was their plan the whole time?
    You know, the jam to lubricate the peanut butter between the slices of bread.

    Hey it's a crazy world.

    The guy isn't worth the time of day if this is how he treats people.
    No one deserves to be used.

    I agree with you, she should walk away and find someone who wants to be with her.
    But if she wants to paint his car canary yellow i can understand that too

  2. Oh my... Oh my, oh my. I remember when I had the same kind of angst as this woman and was just as baffled as to what to do -- and you gave me the same kind of truthful, wise and kind advice, Andrew.

    This man is a total lying, deceptive, two-timing, amoral jerk that she is WELL rid of.
    His character is non-existent at worst and weak at best.

    This woman is committed to hope and so invetsed in her fantasy that it is sending her into a tailspin of shock and pain and stuckness.

    Andrew has said it so well. Baggage Reclaim also says it very well (see the link in Andrew's sidebar).

    You deserve better than this guy.

    He would ultimately make you very miserable, not blissfully happy.

    The red flags he's shown you are not things to dismiss, rationalize, excuse or explain and keep going as though they don't matter/aren't deal breakers.

    My empathy to you for your pain.

    The journey from being willing to be walked on, to having self-esteem and healthy boundaries where you'd walk away and never talk to a jerk like that again because you totally lost respect, IS possible.

    Please do the work on YOU, for healing, for seeing clearly, for all the things that go into settling, so that never again in your life will you ever have such pain again.

    You will in all likelihood not be able to get him to explain his behavior in any way that does anything but cause you more anguish or confusion. He's a liar, that's all you need to know.

    And the new woman he's with? He's going to lie to her as well. It's who he is.

  3. Dear Mostly Hurt,
    You've already had the very best advice from Andrew and earlier commenters. I agree with their assessment of your situation, and "Brannigan".

    What you do next depends on your own personality. If it were me, I'd write him a very candid letter/e-mail to help get the hurt out of you, rather than let it fester. This would also give you definite closure, rather than allow you to secretly carry on hoping.

    I assume you met Brannigan on a social networking website. In the past I had some experience of such relationships, though I'm much, much older than you and ought to be more experienced. I did encounter similar scenarios to yours. Luckily I hadn't allowed myself to become over-fond of the people involved. This is the key, I think.

    We have to keep in mind that for many people on-line relationships are little more than a "game". Much as we want to think differently. Sure, there are some genuine ones, like yourself. It's best to assume the worst though, at least at the start of an on-line friendship, and keep it very light. From now on, I bet you will do just that?

    I met my husband on-line. It can work, and work well. But it IS something of a tombola out there, you know. As it is even in off-line life to be honest. That's why it's best to keep things light - don't go falling head over heels for the soul mate for whom you are so eagerly searching without a lot of back-up evidence. that the other party is as genuine as yourself. Such evidence is hard to come by, I know.

    I hope you'll begin to feel better soon, and will feel able to mark this episode down as a hard lesson - but a useful one for the future.

  4. Not knowing IF the dude is the same one, I'd be more inclined to ask him directly. Tell him you'll be stopping by, if it's possible. If he's double-timing, he needs to come clean. Give him the chance to do so before visiting him.

    If you're certain it is he, then end things. You don't need someone in your life who is dishonest.

    Frankly, I get nervous when I see any woman talking about a man as if he would "complete" her, as it were. That's the first ingredient in a disastrous situation. Women need to complete themselves, to get to a point where they can say "I don't need a man in my life - I want one in my life." Big difference.

  5. Anonymous8:23 PM

    I have a simple solution to this problem - just move on. Any question regarding the honesty and dedication to any relationship is grounds to run the opposite direction. There is a man out there who has been looking for somebody just like you and when you let go of this and learn to live comfortably and happily by yourself, he will appear. My wife;s grandmother once told her you never wait for a man. If he is not attentive and willing to do anything to have and love you - he's not the one. I agree with that sentiment and my wife and I have been together for 31 years. Let the other woman have this broken man and get on with your life. It will be wonderful, I promise

  6. It's so difficult when you invest so much of yourself in someone and then are betrayed. I think you know what you have to do, you just need someone to give you permission to do it. Or maybe you just want to carry on pretending nothing is wrong, but eventually things have to come to a head, or he will just stop calling you. But you asked for Andrew's advice, and i agree with it, so it is up to you as to what you do.