Dear Dr. Romance:
Just over one year ago, my girlfriend cheated on me. It wasn't the standard 'met a guy, went to his place' kind of thing, she did it via the internet. He had her cell number but she swears they never talked (though she admits he left voicemails). Everything seemed fine with the relationship (though clearly it was not) until within a week of the time she began talking to him. During the time she was talking to him (sometimes in Spanish, which I do not speak, in front of me) she said she had lost interest in our relationship and seemed generally upset. He was a mutual acquaintance we both knew from an online hobby (a game). Suddenly she had lost interest in me though we had an increasing amount of sex. I later found out she thought of him when we had sex some of these times (she didn't volunteer this information, I asked point blank expecting a "no"). After talking to her I drew my own conclusion that she was naive, opened up to him, and he took advantage of her, first talking about how things were generally, and slowly transforming her opinion of our relationship to think it would never work.
Now I am finding myself 16 months past this, and I can't let go. We've talked about it, I know everything she remembers (or everything she will tell me). She says everything is ok, seems truly remorseful, but I can't let go of what she did. I can't help but think 1, 5, 10, 20 or even 30+ years down the road how I will feel about my decision to stay with her should she do this again. My problem is that I cannot let go of this event. I enjoy time spent with her and we rarely argue. We enjoy many of the same foods & music, have similar goals, and basically want the same things out of life. Unfortunately, I can't truly forgive her for what she did to me, and this event feels like a wound that refuses to heal. I have only brought this up once or twice (and never during an argument) since it happened, but I feel like I get nowhere (despite both sides trying) when we talk about it; the only thing that changes is her going from happy to upset. I want to forgive her, but it feels like an impossible obstacle to overcome. I know it's silly in comparison to someone actually physically cheating, but had that been the case, we would almost certainly be over. I'm not sure how I can cope with this, many people have told me I'm being silly and should continue the relationship, but I can't seem to get myself to see it that way. Now I see her spending extra time on school, doing the right thing and possibly lining herself up for a job once her school completes, and I can't help but wonder if she's cheating (my logical self tells me it's not the case, but if I don't actually see her all day, I feel like I simply don't know).
The reason you can't let go of your hurt and betrayal is that you and your girlfriend have not healed the wound in your relationship. I strongly recommend that you get therapy. You both sound a little immature emotionally to me, and couples counseling would help you fix this problem and also deal with the other issues in your relationship. You don't need to be able to open up to just anyone, but you do need to be able to talk openly with your partner. On-and-off sex can also indicate a problem, especially if one or both of you is dissatisfied with your sexual relationship. Your girlfriend developed a crush, a temporary obsession with the fantasy relationship she had with the other man. It's easy to get swept up in fantasy, because it is so much more perfect than real life. She's still with you, which is a good sign. Have you ever considered learning her language? The fact that he could speak Spanish was probably part of what she was longing for.
You two need to develop a partnership; not just hang out together. To build partnership, you must develop mutuality. That is, to care about each other's wants and needs, and work together to make both of you happy. Your relationship must have a lot of good in it, or you wouldn't still be together. Build on the good things. "Handling The Green-Eyed Monster"; will help both of you understand how to deal with jealousy, "Guidelines for Being Understood by Your Partner" will help you communicate, and "Stupid Cupid" will give you important questions to ask and answer together. Reading and discussing them together should help you and your girlfriend solve your problems.
How to be Happy Partners: Working it out Together is a manual you can use together to learn healthier relationship skills.
For low-cost counseling, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org