Dear Thelma: My girlfriend says she loves me but she's cheating on me

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Dear Thelma,

I've been in a relationship with my girlfriend for more than five years now. We've been through thick and thin together. We've had fights, but we still love each other despite all the problems we faced.

She is of a different religion and we've had to face our own family issues. I was willing to choose her over my parents.

However, recently we had a huge problem and I am now completely broken.

She has a guy best friend, J, whom she has been friends with for nine years. I knew about him even before we started dating, and a few months into the relationship I came to know that he had feelings for her from before. It made me really uncomfortable and when I confronted my girlfriend about this, she convinced me that he was just like her brother to her.

As time went by, I started to somehow get used to the jealousy and how it made me uncomfortable and just went along because at the end of the day, she had no one else apart from him and me.

On many occasions, my girlfriend tried to make me befriend J and tried to connect us both. J totally despises me as he thinks that I have stolen her from him.

Yet, I made efforts to know him and be friends with him just for the sake of my love and care towards my girlfriend despite how uncomfortable it made me.

One day, she confessed to me that J had forcefully kissed her after threatening that he would hurt himself. This happened when we were already two years into our relationship.

It broke my heart, but I pulled myself together and even tried to help J to overcome the issue. I did not confront J with anger or threats, but I was there with my girlfriend to help her fix her friend.

At times, when they both had fights, I would call up J and beg him to get back with my girlfriend again as she would be sad otherwise.

Everyone in my girlfriend's family knows J and they initially thought that he was her boyfriend since they were so close. I knew how much he meant to her so I didn't even try to call or reach out to her when she was spending time with J as he is short-tempered and dislikes me.

Recently, I came to know that she and J had been "friends with benefits" before she met me and she stopped doing it once she started to fall for me.

J visited my girlfriend and stayed over at her place several times over the past five years. I trusted her completely even though it made me uncomfortable.

After finding out about it, I was completely devastated, I felt disgusted and betrayed for what she did to me.

Without knowing the truth between them, I had acted so foolishly, as if I was matchmaking them.

I felt they would have laughed at me all this time since I was being so dumb and easily manipulated.

I felt I have been betrayed for five long years without knowing the truth and I feel like she cheated on me all this time.

I broke down before her, cried myself to sleep for days, and tried to take my own life. I couldn't sleep, eat or smile. I drank at night to remind myself of all the good memories we had.

Now, I am barely hanging on and have tried to end my life several times.

She keeps on saying that she truly loved me and that she only lied to me because she was afraid to lose me. But when I asked why she did not leave J, she told me that she does not have anyone else besides him.

She says that she did not cheat on me but I have completely lost trust in her. She has lied to me on multiple occasions.

Deep down, I feel that she is hiding things from me but I am just too afraid to confront her about it as she has been denying it over and over again.

I wanted to confront J to find out if my girlfriend is hiding anything from me but I don't want him to judge her.

I love her so much and don't want to lose her but, at the same time, I don't know why she did what she did to me. I don't know how to move on or what to do anymore.

Please help me get through this. I don't have anyone to cry to, I don't want my friends to judge her and I don't want to badmouth her.

I just want this pain to go away. I miss those old days when we were so much in love and doing crazy things together.

Depressed human

I’m sorry you’re having a bad time. You have listed some concrete needs: A place to cry in, not wanting others to judge your ex, and for you not to badmouth your ex. Also, you miss your happy past.

First things first: I hope you got some help when you tried to suicide. If not, then go seek help now. In addition to helping you manage those impulses, a therapist won’t mind if you cry, and will help you process your emotions safely.

As for your relationship, there are several red flags that concern me. If they are not addressed, you may repeat this painful experience.

People have histories. Therefore, when we date, it’s inevitable to have a love who has past connections. Dealing with it is a must.

If you’re lucky, your love and their exes are all good people and you get along.

But if you don’t particularly get on with them, there’s a very simple answer – don’t see them. You do not have to get along with everyone your partner likes.

In a healthy relationship, you have your own friends, they have their own friends and you also have friends in common. It’s about maintaining your own identity as well as being in a partnership.

Of course, it is normal to feel a bit awkward around someone’s exes. After all, they have history. If you’re lucky, that just wears off.

If it does not, you can politely avoid them. But, should you think that one particular person is inappropriately involved in your relationship, or that your partner is sharing things with them that should only be for you, then you need to talk.

It’s tricky because it’s so hard to tell jealousy and insecurity from identifying an actual issue. Also, there are no universal rules. The only way to get through it and to work out what works for you is to communicate honestly and openly.

You were honest and open but your ex lied. What is worse, she also gaslit you. You felt this "brother" was actually a lover and you felt he was jealous. You were spot-on and your girlfriend knew this. But she chose to lie to you. It was unprincipled.

I agree with you that badmouthing her is not the way forward. She made some cruel choices that hurt you deeply. While I hope she learns to do better, my concern is with you.

In your therapy sessions, ask these questions: Why did you feel the need to make friends with someone you didn’t like? How come you didn’t listen to your gut feeling that something was wrong? And if you could do this all over again, what would you do differently?

Have a chat about respect in relationships and learn about boundaries. Also, have a good discussion about the mechanics of abuse, especially gaslighting and emotional blackmail. I think this will give you insight and help you to process what happened.

As for your friends, they are angry on your behalf. Also, if you mention anything, of course they will respond. The simplest way to deal with it is to be honest, “It’s tough for me to talk about this. Can we talk about something else?” And then you don’t talk about this topic with them. Keep it for therapy.

And finally, those feelings where you want the old days back are understandable. You believed yourself to be happy.

Truth is, can you imagine 50 years partnering a person who thinks it’s OK to lie to you? My dear, it would be awful. So, pick yourself up, learn from the experience and when you are ready, move on.

There are many sweet, clever, honest ladies out there and I am certain you will find someone to share the happiness you deserve. Thinking good thoughts for you!

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