Dear Carolyn: I’m an idiot. I cheated on my girlfriend of five years. When she found out, I went through hell trying to regain her trust, and I ended up proposing to her before I really felt ready. We are getting married this summer, but I still have thoughts about the other woman (a co-worker). I feel like I am walking on eggshells with my girlfriend and that one more wrong move will end our relationship, which cannot happen. Tell me I’m an idiot, then please tell me what to do. – Spinning My Wheels
You’re an idiot.
I don’t get to do that very often.
But while knowing, admitting and begging others to underscore that you’re an idiot is a good start, it’s not enough to fix this. For that you need to address the mistakes that earned you this distinction.
It wasn’t just the cheating, or the proposing under pressure, and it isn’t just that you’re still thinking about the other woman.
The biggest idiot move, I think, was jumping from the cheating stage to the winning-your-girlfriend back stage – bypassing entirely (as far as I can tell) the introspection stage, where one figures out why one cheated in the first place.
You come across as having a classic case of the yips. You’re afraid to be honest, afraid to screw up, afraid to get married, afraid to call it off, afraid to upset your girlfriend.
All of them are common, to varying degrees. But the scariest thing of all has to be the fallout from letting your fears rampage unchallenged. You’re not choosing marriage so much as fleeing the alternatives.
Fear is a disastrous excuse to get married – something you already know, but are afraid to face.
So wrest the controls away from your fears by: admitting to yourself everything that scares you; admitting that building on a mistake is always worse than the mistake itself; admitting to your fiancee you’re not ready. As a slave to your fears, you will think this “cannot happen,” but it can.
Keep in mind, too, that any relationship that’s meant to survive will survive your telling the truth.
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