My boyfriend and I had dated for almost two years, but he just broke up with me. He was aware that I still talked to a guy friend of mine whom I've known for over seven years, but the messages that my "friend" was sending became rather inappropriate about a month ago.
Despite my best efforts to deal with this uncomfortable situation privately, my boyfriend read messages in my Facebook inbox, and my responses, where I told my ex I still cared about him and how I found it hard not knowing how he felt. Now my boyfriend feels as though I am completely untrustworthy (because I have cheated in the past) and that there is no hope for a future between us, other than as friends. Is there any way to assure my estranged love that I am indeed capable of being trusted?
Madam: I perceive from the tone and content of your letter you are a somewhat youngish person, perhaps even south of age 30, hmmm?
And while I have great sympathy for youth and particularly youth's follies ("If the fool would persist in his folly he would become wise," William Blake said, and that's sort of my story), and often feel like an eternal teenager myself, lately I have also been trying to cultivate my "inner curmudgeon." So I want you to imagine me standing on my porch in a ratty bathrobe and crusty slippers, my bandy, fish-white legs gleaming in the sunshine, as I shake my fist at you and say: "You kids these days! I don't understand you at all!"
In my day (the early 90s), when a man was interested in a woman, he gnawed the cork off a bottle of wine or scotch or (best) tequila, spat the cork on the floor, poured as much of the contents of the bottle down his throat as he could handle, and with inflamed, incarnadine corneas and steam coming out of his ears he cha-a-a-arged!
These days, though, it's all "hanging out" and "hooking up." Throw in "Facebook friends" and "online dating" (a total oxymoron, in my books) and it all seems terribly complex and confusing and ambiguous and full of grey areas.
And the current crop of bachelors! Pardon me for saying so, gentlemen, but such a collection of wishy-washy, weak-willed, namby-pamby numbnuts the world has never seen, it seems to me. The way you guys sidle in and out of relationships, a woman could be dating you for six months and never even know it!
In this type of climate, in 2008, sister, it's no surprise you became disoriented, got your parties muddled up and found yourself having a hard time distinguishing between "guy friend" and "boyfriend."
Still, you need to sort it out. I'd like to know how your boyfriend got into your Facebook inbox, for starters. Did you give him your password or neglect to log out? You didn't write about your "feelings" for your ex on his/your Facebook wall, did you?
You say your boyfriend "feels" like you're untrustworthy at this point. Could it be, perhaps, because you are untrustworthy? If I were seeing someone who "cheated in the past" and found out she was telling her ex behind my back that she still had feelings for him - that would be not only a red flag, for me, but a checkered flag telling me our relationship had just zoomed past the finish line.
If you insist on trying to work this out, I can tell you how to reseduce him. Reseduction is the same as seduction, except with a little more familiarity and fraught, haunted undertones.
Even in 2008, the way you seduce a man is as old as Time (or at least as old as this curmudgeon's threadbare bathrobe): Wave something he wants under his nose, then snatch it away. Wave ... then snatch. Like a matador with the red cape. Could be cleavage. Could be a little leg.
"To get what you want you got to shake what you got," as I heard a woman on the bus put it once. Soon enough his testosterone will start to simmer, his blood begin to boil. Eventually he'll paw the ground with his hooves and, nostrils flaring, cha-a-a-arge, I can almost guarantee.
But I don't think that turn of events would be a good idea for either of you.
I'm not a big fan of reuniting with exes in the first place - it's returning to a poisoned well.
In your case, he's full of regret and doubt and doesn't even sound all that interested. Meanwhile, you're interested but still seem to have fuzzy, underdeveloped notions about monogamy and exclusivity.
Sounds like a recipe for slow-roasted Szechuan disaster, with spicy hot and sour sauce on a bed of stir-fried nightmare, if you ask me.
If I were you, I'd find someone with whom to start fresh, wipe the slate clean and reboot your whole approach to relationships. A relationship needs two things. In the early going: momentum - enough to carry you along for a lifetime. Without momentum, a relationship is like a rocket shot into the air with insufficient fuel: It's bound to come crashing down to earth.
Second thing, once you've cleared the liftoff phase: exclusivity. Exclusivity - if I may use another, completely different but equally elaborate metaphor - is the water you put on the plant of your relationship; and without it the plant will turn brown, wither and die.
Momentum and exclusivity. Momentum and exclusivity. Chant this mantra and when Mr. (or if you're lucky maybe Dr.!) Right comes along, practice it. In the early days, get some momentum going, then focus exclusively on him and keep all fishy exes (including this fresh one) in the deep freeze (where all fishy things belong) if not out of the picture entirely.
(I'd even cancel my Facebook relationships with my exes, if I were you.)
And if you can manage to do that, I predict your next relationship will get past the liftoff stage, get into orbit and circle the earth forever.
David Eddie is a screenwriter and the author of Chump Change and Housebroken: Confessions of a Stay-at-Home Dad.
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