I'm Dr. Jackie, an interpersonal communication researcher/professor and relationship expert. I'd like to help.
First, if you and this woman were in a committed relationship like it sounds like you were and you had the understanding that you were exclusive, then no, it's not your fault she cheated on you. It doesn't sound like she has a reasonable excuse either--like you were extremely abusive phsyically, emotionally, and/or mentally. So no, it's not your fault.
It sounds like she was indeed taking advantage of your good nature. Sometimes people lose respect for their partners and "try to test the limits" by doing things to them--being mean, cheating, etc. It's basically a "test" of wills to see how far they can push the other person, what they are willing to do for them, etc. It's a game, and it's not healthy--it never is a good idea and always produces heartaches.
It sounds like you are no longer together although I don't see those exact words except in your last sentence, "...relationship which would not work." Her actions do not seem to indicate that she cares for you in the way that you have seemed to care for her. And to answer that last statement, I don't know if she really respected you or not. Her actions do not seem to reflect respect. But your point that it seemed that she cheated easily may reflect more on her own self-respect. In other words, it may be that she is not true to herself. Sometimes people with low self-esteem tend to treat others not-so-nicely because for the moment, it makes them feel better. However, the moment is VERY SHORT and it always goes downhill fast.
My suggestion is that your focus be re-channeled to your studies and your future career. Trying to figure out the "Why's"--why she did this and why she did that will only drive you nuts and not really be productive.
Do you want to talk through this or were you just looking for a brief response? Please let me know so that I can better help and provide the best service possible.
Take good care,
Hi Dr Jackie, thanks for your reply.
I have a few follow-up questions if that is alright.
Her actions are certainly not justified morally, I agree, but I wonder , had I been a stronger personality/not shown this weakness, whether we might still be together - being the early stages of university, I am aware that it was chock full of temptation. Perhaps if we had made it through this period we would still be together?
2) Should I take it as a personal reflection that she seemed to lack respect for me? I am very low on self-esteem but ordinarily presented quite a strong front to her. Do some people lack respect in this way?
3) I have read about emotional immaturity and she seems to tick many of the boxes. What do you think?
4) Do you think, considering the excitement of starting university, temptations, the fact that we seem to have had only an infatuation and then not knowing how to interact with me when I visited could justify her actions? Or do they seem like the actions of someone I shouldn't feel too upset about losing?
She did indeed lack in self respect - she had cheated on an ex, was highly promiscious in her youth, had self-image issues and had had an eating disorder in the past. Despite her actions, I genuinely believe that she did care whilst we were together, perhaps to a varying extent, simply because she apparently wrote in her diary that she could see our lives together, really wanted the relationship to work etc. She would also break down sometimes when she mentioned her fears over "messing up" whilst away at university.
You raised some interesting questions, so I'll try to address each one.
1) Definitely there is a "trial" period that if you can just cross that bridge, the relationship has a higher level of success rate--measuring success by the individuals reporting that their relationship is satisfying. But remember that this "period" can vary per individual case as well as due to other factors such as age (we typically date more partners in our youth), stage of life (school vs. employment), etc. But also remember that this still doesn't mean that there won't be cheating; it just means that the liklihood is reducted because you have "made it" so far. and proved that you can beat temptation. I hope that makes sense.
2) I know it is hard NOT to take the cheating personally and that it SEEMS to indicate a lack of respect. However, people must take responsibility for their actions--unless someone is "holding a gun to your head," you choose your actions and reactions. So I do not believe her cheating is about you--it's about her, her background, what she has established as patterned behavior for her life, etc. Some people have lower respect and reguard for others--definitely. Research shows that a lot of this comes from how children are raised--how they are treated when growing up. Are they shown what constitutes healthy respect in a personal relationship, etc.? A lot of our adult behaviors are the result of "seeds that were sown" when we were younger.
3. I make it a point to never judge or even attempt to describe someone with whom I have not spoken. So I really can't answer if she is emotionally immature. However, if what you have shared is accurate (and I'm assuming it's a pretty close depiction), then yes, her actions do indicate that she does not have a fully developed emotional self. Her actions show a lot of selfishness and lack of reguard for others--much like that of a child who wants a certain toy even if she or he has to steal it from another child. That is why it is termed "Immaturity."
Please let me know if I have answered your questions and/or if you would like to chat further. I do hope in time that you see yourself the way that I think other deserving people probably see you! :-)
Thanks for your extended reply Dr Jackie, it really is helping me (I have been borderline suicidal for the past month).
I suppose a pressing issue for me is whether, although I tried my best, ***** ***** have been stronger, set more boundaries etc. Whether, had I not expressed that weakness, things would have lasted for longer?
It's interesting that you mentioned early experiences. Her parents broke up when she was young, possibly due to cheating. Her father then cheated on another partner. However, her step-father and mother have always been a stable partnership. Her sisters are not like her at all either - both are kind, respectful, in very long term relationships. But she feels inferior to both of them.
It's interesting that you describe her behaviours as selfish - from the inside of this, I keep finding excuses for her - tempatation, pressure, low self-esteem for cheating, then awkwardness, guilt, uncertainty for the manner of the breakup. But I suppose that this can't be justified on this basis? She doesn't seem like the kind of person I would want to end up spending my life with.
This immaturity showed itself at other times, but not always. I wonder whether she will grow out of it? Do you think her behaviours could be suggestive of character flaws rather than immaturity?
The other thing I wanted to ask about was her behaviour since the breakup. I barely heard from her for 2 months and removed her from facebook. When she realised, she asked me why by text. I told her I was seeing someone new and she responded with "Now my head has gone into overdrive" and "I hope she makes you as happy as you made me". What does this indicate?
Finally, I had a severe car accident recently (a suicide attempt although noone is aware of this). When she heard of this she immediately called me and, following a text conversation, we met up. This seems to indicate caring, but is not consistent with her previously selfish behaviour. Would love to know what you think.
I'm really concerned at your first sentence. Please do not do anything like that. I can find numbers for you in the UK if you want. We are ethically obligated to report suicidal thoughts so I want to be clear that I am very concerned for you. That is the most important thing--we here at JA all want you to remain alive.
The excuses that you are finding for her are because you care about her and you don't want to remember the bad--just the good. It's a built-in defense mechanism we all possess. After something horrific or tragedic or even just bad, after time, we sometimes look back and think, "OK, it wasn't THAT bad" and tend to remember good things. Yes, we will remember bad. But we tend to remember more good than bad. Think of this analogy. No mother of multiple children would ever go on to have a second child, a third child, etc. if this didn't happen, especially those who choose to have their baby (first) natural. The pain is so unbearable that it doesn't seem rational that anyone would want to do that again. But the pain is forgotten (mostly) as soon as the baby is placed into the mother's arms. It's nature's way of "softening" a bad experience. And we do that for a lot of experiences, even long-term ones.
I do not know if she will become more mature. She may in time learn from her experiences and grow. Otherwise, she will continue to have experiences but not learn or grow from them and will continue to be at the same "level." That is something I would not try to predict without having spoken with her.
I am a bit concerned for you. I'm going to send you my phone and Skype contact information. Again, at JA we want you to be well and stay as well as possible.
Please let me know what I can do for you.
I am finding excuses for her, this is true, but she also doesn't believe she did anything particularly wrong, at least she won't admit such a thing. She told me a little while after the breakup that she "thought we ended things amicably" and said "I don't know what it is I have done to offend you". Later on still she admitted that the break up "wasn't the best" but has never really apologised for it properly.
So, in terms of developing, she will not just become more respectful etc with time? It actually has to be a conscious recognition of fault and a concerted action?
Thank you for the offer of additional support. My medical school and doctors are offering as much help as they can also, but my depression continues to worsen. Life just doesn't seem worth it in comparison to my time with this ex. She was my first love and I utterly adored her. To be let down and seemingly disregarded to such an extent, in addition to her denials, has led to this concerted questioning of my potential fault. I can't bear to think of her now being with this other guy.
Looking forward to helping you with your concerns,