DEAR KELLY: I messed up and cheated on my boyfriend with some guy who meant nothing to me. It was a huge mistake, and I don’t know if I can ever forgive myself.
My boyfriend had been a good boyfriend, always nice and faithful to me, but he broke up with me when he found out I’d cheated on him three times with this guy while we were going out.
It seriously meant nothing to me, and one time I was so buzzed that I hardly even remembered what happened. I know it’s bad to blame it on alcohol, but it really was the reason I cheated.
I begged my boyfriend to give me another chance, but he said that even though he loved me, he couldn’t trust me again and he would look like a total chump to his friends if he stayed with me since everyone found out what I had done.
I text him every day, and he answers everything I ask with “idk,” so he’s not giving me any answers about how he feels, if we have a chance to get back together or if he can forgive me. I miss him and I want back what we had.
I hate myself, and I don’t know what to do. We’re in high school so I have to see him every day, and it kills my heart to not be able to walk up and hug him or talk to him.
I don’t know why I cheated, and I feel like I’ll be punished for life for doing this. If he had cheated, I think I’d have forgiven him, and we would have still been together. What can I do so he forgives me and so I can forgive myself?
I feel like if he never gets back together with me, I might never find a guy who’s as good of a boyfriend as he was.
I’m confused, heartbroken and so mad at myself that I want to cry all the time. Everything in my life is a mess, and I did it all to myself. Do you have any advice for me?
– Ashamed Ex
DEAR ASHAMED: We all mess up in our lives, but sometimes we can take a mess and turn it into a message. Your relationship with your ex-boyfriend is a mess, but the message is very clear and one you can learn from to help you in the future.
Your focus is on the relationship, but I think you also need to look closely at the risk you are putting yourself in when you drink to the point of not even remembering what happened.
Don’t just concentrate on what happened with your ex, but rather also on what future choices you need to make regarding alcohol.
The emotion you are feeling is guilt, and it is very powerful. Guilt makes us do crazy things and causes us a great deal of inner pain. No one can beat us up better than we beat up ourselves. Guilt is a horrible feeling, but it does serve a positive purpose.
Guilt teaches us compassion, tolerance and helps with our moral compass. It helps us to appreciate doing something that leaves us feeling good about ourselves vs. something that causes us (or someone else) pain.
You begged your ex-boyfriend to take you back, but did you ever truly apologize?
Just saying “I’m sorry” isn’t a true apology, it’s a bandage. It’s just trying to cover up a wound, not taking accountability to what actually happened.
Saying you are truly sorry, with no expectations (like getting back together) is the first step in forgiveness, both from him and from yourself.
Write your ex-boyfriend a letter apologizing for what happened. No cheap excuses like I was too buzzed, or I don’t know why I did what I did – an actual apology that is honest and open about why you did what you did.
Did you like the attention from the other guy? Were you getting bored in your relationship? Did it feel good to flirt? Be honest about what happened and why you made the choices you did.
Don’t ask him to forgive you or get back together, just ask him to accept your apology and know that you recognize the big mistake you made.
Once you give him the letter, tell yourself that what is done is done.
The longer you chase after him, the more you punish yourself. You can’t control if he forgives you; it may or may not happen. Accept that the relationship is over and you need to move forward. You can’t change the past, but you can change the choices you make in the future. By learning from what has happened it is no longer a mistake but a lesson.
You will have other relationships in your life, and one day this will not sting as badly as it does now.
Your relationship with your ex wasn’t perfect, but perhaps you took his good qualities for granted. You will meet other nice guys in the future and hopefully you appreciate them and treat them with the same respect you hope they give you.
Write to Kelly Richardson at Teen Talk, The Sacramento Bee, P.O. Box 15880, Sacramento, CA 95852, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.