Dating After Betrayal: Once Bitten, Twice Shy

January 15th, 2014

Cheating, Dating, Dating & Trust, Dating 2.0, NEW!

Name: Candacecheat2
Comment: I’m curious if you or your readers have any advice for dating again after betrayal.  My last relationship was two years ago which ended by being suddenly dumped and then finding out he’d been cheating on me for a month or two prior.  I gave myself time to heal from the experience and have tried a bit of online dating in the past year. Although nothing substantial has resulted, I’ve noticed I’m a lot less confident with men now.  I feel very much like I’m in a game where I’m competing against other women, worried I’ll never be enough and being very skeptical of compliments or attention from men, feeling like it isn’t me they like.. It could be any female with the right parts put in front of them at the right time. In regards to sex, I feel closed off and very hesitant about being sexually vulnerable lest I end up feeling foolish for having trusted that man with my body. While I haven’t met anyone I’d want a serious relationship with again yet, I worry that when I do I will be seeking proof and reassurance which isn’t fair to an honest person and a fresh relationship.
Age: 26
City: Calgary
State: CA

One of my biggest struggles when ti comes to dating is taking what men say at face value. I was talking to a friend yesterday about this very issue. It also came up in therapy the other day. (Get used to that phrase, kids.) I was telling my doctor about a date I had had a few months before. It was nice. Fine. But I went in knowing it probably wasn’t going to go anywhere. My therapist asked me why I thought that was the case. All I could say was, “I just knew.” I then discussed with him something that happened more recently. Despite being told one thing, I couldn’t help but believe the opposite.  When I explained to my therapist why this particular behavior triggered insecurity in me, he pointed out that particular person sounded like a jerk. Did I have any reason to believe this other man was a jerk? No. In fact this other man has done things that make him very much not a jerk. But when he replicated behavior that I have since associated with the jerkface guy,  I pulled back.  I wanted to trust him. I wanted to believe him. But my desire to never be made a fool of again overshadowed that. I don’t give many people the benefit of the doubt. It’s not something I’ve ever really done with much ease. But I did it, and I got burned pretty badly for it.

Since then, I’ve been overly cautious. While I’ve managed to work through that on my own and been able to date guys, I always stayed somewhat detached from the process. I didn’t shut down or refuse to be vulnerable. I just…I don’t know. I always had it in my head that this might not last forever, so don’t get too attached.

My therapist pointed out that I appeared to have a habit of filling in the blanks or writing the script before things were actually fleshed out. Being self-aware and self-actualized are great characteristics. But sometimes you can become so aware that you see right through people and bypass what they actually might be thinking and go right to what you think they’re thinking.Yes, some people will date you just for the sex and then they’ll abandon you. Or they’ll lie or somehow use you. Those people exist. But knowing those people exist is really all you need to help you side-step those people. You don’t have to assign a diagnosis to every guy you meet.

In my mind, things are fairly absolute. There’s no such thing as a gray area. Yes or no. In or out. The wait and see part? It killed me. I couldn’t bear the thought. So I drafted up an ending on my own in order to have some peace of mind. I think sometimes we get so caught up in the where is this going part of things that we fast forward through everything else because we want to see how things are going to end.

My solution to this was to stop jumping ten steps ahead and take everything day by day. Believe him today. Just today. Focus just on today. Then the next day start all over. Believe him that day. That one day. You don’t have to take everything they say at face value all the time. Just what they say today.  Seeking proof really doesn’t do any good because often times the proof isn’t real. The gestures, the comments, the reassurances, they’re sometimes offered disingenuously or out of a self-serving need to to advance the game.

You struggle with trusting someone on an ongoing basis. You don’t have to.  Also remind yourself that that one guy who betrayed you or who did you wrong told you who he was by his actions. He cheated. He lied. He’s a jerkface. You don’t know what these other men have done…yet.  Wait until you see concrete evidence that they’re less than sincere.Then start to question them. But until then? Just trust them today. That way if they do disappoint you, you didn’t turn all your trust over to them.


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15 Responses to “Dating After Betrayal: Once Bitten, Twice Shy”

  1. Adrienne Says:

    Your advice to the OP is spot-on, Moxie. It’s very hard to not take the baggage of a former relationship into the next one, especially when cheating and lying were involved.

    Similar to the OP, my last relationship ended abruptly, and I later learned that he was cheating on me during most of our dating time. I’m now seeing someone with whom I was friends for months before we began to date, and every time another woman talks to him, my insecurites kick in. I keep them to myself and do not verbalize them to him, but I recognize that they’re triggered by how I’ve been treated in the past and I have to remind myself that all men are not the same. I do exactly what you advise – take each day at a time and not think too far into the future – and I’m enjoying each day and each interaction.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 1

  2. fuzzilla Says:

    I relate to this very much.

    As I’ve said, right now I’m dating someone pretty awesome, but as an old broad who’s been burned 1000 times, I am pretty cautious and afraid to trust it. I try not to replace hope with cynicism, but instead to be Zen and have no expectations, simply let things speak for themselves. Take things one day at a time, as Moxie said. I aim for a blank slate as much as possible.

    It’s good to heed red flags, but you don’t want to be so vigilant about any possible tomfoolery that you falsely accuse and create problems where there aren’t any. The nice thing about being a multiply-burned old broad is that the carcasses of failed relationships that litter my emotional landscape serve as an excellent “What not to do” tool kit. That, and a boatload of therapy (both individual and group).

    Also, the OP doesn’t mention how much time she took off from dating, but possibly she needs a bit more time to heal.

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  3. fuzzilla Says:

    **I feel very much like I’m in a game where I’m competing against other women, worried I’ll never be enough and being very skeptical of compliments or attention from men, feeling like it isn’t me they like.. It could be any female with the right parts put in front of them at the right time.**

    This in particular struck a chord with me. I even got jealous when my guy mentioned some woman on TV was hot…I was like, “I know you’re not really gonna hook up with a celebrity, but I don’t feel secure enough to joke about that stuff, it makes me wonder how easily your head can be turned in general.” I issued a million apologies, and “Yeah, I know I’m being stupid”s, but the feelings still crop up. To cut myself a little slack, this was on a day I got Very Bad News of a loved one in the ER and I was especially fragile and freaked out…

    Anyway, I always tell myself that there are lots of people he (or I, or anyone) could be attracted to and find cool and fun and personable, but only so many people hit all/most of what you want at the same time. If jealousy is about your ego, isn’t it far more flattering to be with someone who’s vibrant and attractive to many and has many options and still chooses you, rather than someone who curtails his life and limits who he talks to and jumps through your hoops to appease your insecurity? (Not that the OP does the controlling micromanaging thing, but that perspective might help tame her doubts).

    OP, maybe work on your self-esteem a bit and learn to be happy alone first. You’ll know you’re onto something with someone new when they just make your life better and you have little in jokes and they start to feel unique and irreplaceable and they see you the same way.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

    • Nicole Says:

      I felt like I could have written that passage, too.

      It doesn’t bother me when guys talk about celebrities to random women on the street being hot, but friends or exes? Yeah, I have to really fight the insecurity when that comes up.

      And the part about, “it isn’t me they like. It could be any female…” This pretty much sums up what freaks me out about online dating. I’ve been so brainwashed by the rom com / fairy tale idea that fate will introduce you to “the one” when you least expect it – the idea of meeting people with the intent of finding a relationship still feels artificial sometimes. I met a great guy a couple of weeks ago, but I catch myself wondering if he is really into ME, or if he would have said and done the exact same things with any girl who showed up for that first date.

      Ironically, one thing that helps with this is remembering all the so-so first dates. All the times I showed up for a date and neither of us felt any fireworks. Reminds me that “looking for a relationship” doesn’t mean “will commit to first person he/she meets”.

      Candace, I’ve never been cheated on (that I know of, lol) but I have the same insecurities as you. So do almost all of my friends. Which is incredibly depressing – but maybe will help you realize that just by acknowledging what’s going on in your head, and trying to keep your doubts from screwing up future relationships, you are way ahead of most people.

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  4. BTownGirl Says:

    I think the letter writer’s issue is a loss of confidence in herself in addition to a loss of confidence in dudes. Someone doesn’t cheat on you because you lack something, they cheat on you because they lack something: integrity, honesty…I could go on. I went through the same thing after taking someone back for The Infamous One More Chance and, well, he was chancing his luck all over town. Whenever I would meet someone, I would daydream about various break-up scenarios. I mean…REALLY?!

    The unfortunate truth about dating is that we’re all probably going to get it wrong and feel stupid at some point. One of my friends works for a psychiatric practice and one of the doctors is divorcing after her husband had a string of affairs and used the doctor’s credit card to take one of his side chicks to the Bahamas. This woman is trained in studying human behavior and it happened to her. If the letter writer encountered her or another woman in who was cheated on, would she tell that woman to feel foolish or like she couldn’t measure up to other women? Of course not! Be kind to yourself, Letter Writer. Truly excellent advice, Moxie!

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 1

  5. C Says:

    Been there, done then, hon.

    My first boyfriend dumped me for another woman…TWICE!

    My second boyfriend dumped me for a girl he met at a conference. He said nothing, then dumped me a few days later, moved to her hometown and had a baby with her not even a year later.

    With my third boyfriend, I came home from a 3 week business trip and found a pair of red panties in the bathroom drawer where he kept the hairbrush and condoms.

    I was lucky that I had a lot of wonderful guys in my life who I knew were very faithful to their SO to use as a reminder that it wasnt all men and it wasnt how men respond to me. I had just chosen the wrong guys and stayed past the expiration date.

    I hope you have some men in your life (i.e. your father, brother, guys friends, etc…) who you know are men of integrity that you can use as models of how a good man treats the woman in his life. Would one of those men feel that his wife/gf is interchangeable with any other woman “with the right parts”?

    Beyond that, I just trust people until they prove that they do not deserve my trust.

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    • GI_JANE Says:

      My advice? Keep your gaurd up and cheat on the men before they cheat on you!

      Sorry but I know too much of scenarios like this. It’s always the nice faithful guys/girls that this happens to. This never happens to the bitches or conceited jerks. And guess what? They usually given a second chance.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 0 Thumb down 17

      • Treifalicious Says:

        Yikes. Then again, these are the wages of cheating – a poisoned dating pool.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

      • fuzzilla Says:

        Sheesh…you could just keep things on an unattached FWB level if you’re that terrified of being cheated on. Been there, done that, and I made it work for a while, but I want more and now I actually have a decent shot at it. Don’t create drama and punish a great guy because you’re insecure and full of baggage.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  6. Howard Says:

    My advice on this stuff is always a little different. He was the catalyst for the hurt, but you did the hurt to yourself. We are the ones in life who hurt ourselves when it comes to these emotional issues. It’s not like someone took a baseball bat and hit us with it. The baseball bat is our expectations that we hit ourselves with.

    The therapy is to sit there and say,

    “If this happens again, and I am fine with it. I will be happy for the fun and good times that happens along the way. I will not crush myself with too many expectations”

    When you get really comfortable with that, you will be surprised how quickly all the hurt and baggage disappears. Your energy will transform to the point where this may even not ever happen again. The modern existence we live, is based upon far more failures than successes. Before a scientist is able to come up with something good he has to endure hundreds of failures. Life is about weathering the failures, growing from them, learning from them, even embracing them. Good luck!

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 5 Thumb down 6

  7. Kira Says:

    I can relate to this and Moxie’s reply, as well. Dating after divorce has been very difficult for me because I have this natural tendency to keep my guard up and assume any nice guy is secretly not so nice and it’s just a matter of time before he really hurts me. I’m trying to live day by day and smile and say thanks when the compliments come.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

    • James Says:

      And guess what? People will sense that attitude and will stay away from you. Part of the dating process will mean getting hurt. I’m not saying it’s nice but love is a battlefield. You need to stop thinking every guy is out to hurt you because it’s not true. Otherwise you will be destined to remain alone.
      I knew a woman once who was the same way and she’s sitting at home too afraid to get out and meet someone because she”might get hurt” and all guys cheat and lie. Recently I talked to her and she’s still sitting there alone.
      My ex-wife was a pill popper and loved the taste of penis to get them. While I would be at work she would be working the pole of some guy to get her fix. She was so out of it I took my kids away from her and she then disappeared. It took therapy and a lot of forgiveness on my part to get over that. But I did and I knew there was someone decent out there and I found her. You just have to get out there otherwise that negativity will shadow you forever.

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      • Kira Says:

        Trust me, I know. I’m getting out there and making myself not freak completely out when a man is, whoa, nice to me and seems interested. Fake it ’til I make it and all that. I had an eye opening experience recently when a first date I really enjoyed asked me out for a second, I said yes, and he admitted he’d been worried I wasn’t interested. So I’m going forward a little more open so I don’t put off guys I actually do like.

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        • fuzzilla Says:

          Yeah, that was a bit harsh, James – people can be scared and doubtful and yet still trying/doing their best/putting themselves out there.

          You can “get” something intellectually and have it take a while to sink in emotionally. I swear I’m not humble-bragging, but I was just telling myself today, “This guy I’m dating said he wanted to move in with me (eventually), so why am I tripping out about some stupid bullshit about how he didn’t respond to a silly e-mail that didn’t require a response?” The objective facts say everything’s going great (well, except for some schedule conflicts that are no one’s fault), but emotionally, it’s just so deeply ingrained in me to not get too attached and constantly be in fight-or-flight mode. Historically, the minute I’d get attached and let my guard down is precisely when everything would turn to shit. Maybe partly because I’d equate letting my guard down with turning off all critical thinking faculties. But anyway, I do try to have faith and fake it ’til I make it.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  8. Sarah Says:

    “I feel very much like I’m in a game where I’m competing against other women.” <– there's your problem.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

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