Q.I’m a college senior. Just over a year ago, I was seeing a guy, Chad, for about a month. Things were going really well. I thought we were getting to know each other and moving toward an exclusive relationship. One night, we went to an event together, and I found Chad hooking up with another girl while I was searching for him to give me a ride home. At the time, I wasn’t as experienced as I am now in handling these situations, and I was devastated. I recovered with time.
Later in the year, Chad and I went to get a drink together. I had platonic intentions because he had another girlfriend, and although our relationship had been complicated in the past, I was ready to move on and be friends. We left the bar and went outside nearby and sat and talked. Out of the blue, Chad announced he still had feelings for me and wanted to try again long after our short fling that fall. I wanted him to stop talking, but I also desperately wanted him to continue talking, to explain himself, to validate my hurt, to defend our short relationship as something less than a silly fling. I just wanted closure, not his unwelcome, unsolicited, aggressive kiss and behavior that came next. It took two minutes for Chad to recognize that what he was doing was wrong, and to stop. He told me he would break up with his girlfriend to be with me again. I said a quick goodbye and left, feeling weak, emotionally manipulated, and taken advantage of. I texted Chad later, politely saying I really didn’t want to get in between him and his girlfriend and didn’t think we should be friends or anything else. Now, I am mostly fine and have recovered from this bizarre night.
Now I’ve met this really great guy who is not at all like former lovers (or Chad). We are seeing each other exclusively. I really do trust him, but the trouble is, I’ve instilled in myself this deep mistrust of men that are romantically interested in me. How do I break this down? Because trusting him almost feels like a war with myself.
A.I’m so sorry you had to deal with Chad. Chad is terrible. If you want to talk more about that night — and based on this letter, I think it could be useful — please consider seeking out campus counseling resources.
As for trusting this new man, all you can do is give it time. It sounds like he keeps proving that he’s great, over and over. After a while, greatness is what you’ll expect from him, and if his behavior changes, you’ll start thinking, “Hey, this isn’t great anymore,” and you’ll make decisions accordingly.
This letter proves that the person you should trust most is yourself. You bailed on Chad when he messed up at the party. You gave him a chance to be your friend, but the minute he took advantage, you cut him out of your life for good. You know why you stick around, and when to walk away. Feel excellent about that, because trusting your own gut is the most important thing.
I think you’re doing great. You dumped Chad when he deserved it. Then you gave him a few minutes to show who he really is, and when he did, you cut him off right away. You have good instincts. Stick with those and give your new relationship a chance.
You met this really great guy but most of your letter focuses on Chad. It seems like this is the pattern your relationship is holding. Focus on the really great guy the amount you are focusing on Chad and vice versa. The rest will work out as it needs to.
Chad sounds like a tool. Give the new guy a chance. BUT — keep in mind you are a senior. Your job prospects and locations might mean the relationship is short lived, anyway. I wouldn’t invest too much emotional capital with the new guy.
Along with giving Chad too much credit as a human being, you really are overemphasizing the importance of this relationship to the arc of your life just because it involved sex. Maybe the sex was good or the sex led you to believe you were headed to an exclusive relationship, but that was not part of Chad’s makeup. Having sex, with as many partners who make themselves available, that is Chad’s makeup. He is not for you, move on, nothing to dwell on nor is it correct to presume all men are Chad.
Though your generation loves it and seems to expect it, you can’t always be friends with an ex. I wouldn’t even try in his case.
Nobody can promise that the new guy won’t break your heart, but if he’s so wonderful, isn’t it worth taking the risk if everything is going as well as you say? That said, of course it’s always smart to acknowledge red flags when you see them, but if he gives you no reason to worry, don’t punish him for Chad’s actions.
I’d flip your advice to trust people until they prove to be untrustworthy. Another way of saying this is assume no malice. I find that life is more pleasant when I assume that people are good at heart.
You can’t punish your current lover for sins of past lovers. Also, don’t use the word lover in any context ever.