Auntie SparkNotes: The One That Got Away
I'm having boy problems. Quite unusual, I know. Long story short, during my first semester of college, I ended a two-year relationship that made me very unhappy and made me very afraid of ever having a relationship again. I'd rather not go into details, but the gist is that my ex was manipulative and emotionally abusive. As a result, I've been rather scared to even think about dating anyone else.
About two weeks after my breakup, this very nice guy (we'll call him P) asked me out. I said no because I was too afraid to get into anything else, so I suggested we be friends with benefits. Although he didn't want hookups, he agreed. So we continued to be fwb, and we became really close because we genuinely liked each other. During this time, P had asked me if I had hooked up with this guy that I knew through mutual friends. I said no, but a couple weeks later I did hook up with the other guy. A few weeks later, P asked me if I wanted to date again, and I said yes. After about a week I realized I was still too scared of a relationship, and I told him that I still couldn't handle it. (It was at this point that I began to feel like I should let P go and find the girl he really was looking for because I was too afraid of a relationship, but I had strong feelings for him that I couldn't accept or deny.)
Later, P and I were hanging out. When I went to the bathroom, he snooped through my phone and saw that I had slept with the other guy. He got very angry at me, and he said he never wants to talk to me again.
I feel really bad about it. I never met to hurt him, and I really did genuinely like P. I feel so bad for hurting him because I really did care about him and like him. I want to talk to him and make it up to him but I'm not sure if there is anything I can do.
I'm just wondering if there is anything I can even do in this situation or if he is just "the one that got away." I had really strong feelings for him and what I did was completely stupid. I really loved hanging out with P and want to get him back, but what can I honestly do?
Honestly? The hardest thing ever, Sparkler: you can recognize that sometimes, the messes you make are only made worse by your efforts to clean them up.
And this guy, I am sorry to tell you, is one of those messes. I know you didn't mean any harm (in fact, this whole situation is a perfect example of the road to hell being paved with good intentions), but all that fickle waffling you were doing in the course of trying to figure out how you felt? It had the unintended side effect of totally leading him on, and it's no surprised that he felt angry and played. If you go back to him now trying to reconcile, all you'll be doing is offering him another round on the same emotional rollercoaster he's just told you he doesn't want to ride anymore.
You don't want to do that to him, darling. And while that's true for a variety of reasons, chief among them is that it's an offer he may not have the strength to refuse. Which is the other thing: This mess is not only your mess. It's his, too! Your history with this guy makes it clear that he struggles to set boundaries when it comes to you, and his current state of unhappiness is just as much a result of that as of your capriciousness. This relationship wasn't your finest moment, but it didn't exactly bring out the best in him, either, between the snooping and self-sabotage and the repeated failures to act in his own best interest. Cutting ties with you was the healthiest thing, under the circumstances, but I'm guessing it wasn't easy—and your one responsibility now is not to make it harder.
Meanwhile, I know that none of this is likely to make you feel better, and I'm sorry; hurting someone you care about is one of life's more awful experiences, and there's no getting around how crummy it feels. But the worst thing you could do now is to let your regret cloud your judgment, and to try to make things right by doing something you know is wrong, for both of you. You know that you can't give this guy the kind of commitment he's looking for; you were even preparing to cut him loose for exactly that reason when everything went to hell. And while of course you didn't want it to happen exactly this way, the relationship is still the same one you were in for a week before realizing that you just couldn't handle it. That hasn't changed just because it ended badly, and bad ending or not, it's over now. And even if there were some hope of you reconciling in the future, that won't happen until you've dealt, alone, with the things that made it impossible this time. So whenever you feel up to it, tackling those will be your next step.
Got something to say? Tell us in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Want more info about how this column works? Check out the Auntie SparkNotes FAQ.