I am 26-years-old, and work with someone who I had an immediate connection with in another department I work closely with. Months went by and I knew he had a girlfriend, so I never initiated anything. We were strictly friends at work. However, last month he expressed he had feelings for me and I knew he was unhappy in his current relationship. (His relationship moved too quickly with his girlfriend and her 1.5-year-old son – they moved in together and he quickly became the breadwinner and the son’s dad.)
We had become very close, and before I knew it we were seeing each other, (mostly at work or after work). He was looking into getting out of his lease – (they had just moved in together) – and then suddenly on Father’s Day his girlfriend, (who doesn’t know about me/us), gets him all these presents. Suddenly she’s appreciative of everything he does, plans a “family” vacation, and has become a completely different woman. This obviously confused him, and he chose to give her a chance even though the relationship had been toxic and he was not being treated very well.
Now we barely speak. He told me he wants to be with me, but that he had no choice but to try and make things work because he feels guilty. He keeps apologizing to me, and I know he did want to be with me. But we work together and seeing him pains me.
I do not believe he is happy – I believe he is settling. He told me numerous times he loves her but isn’t in love with her. I am obviously going to keep my distance from him, but I do not know what to do otherwise. He says I make him happy but that he needs to focus on his relationship, which is understandable. I just do not know if I really believe him or not.
How do I move on when we work together? How do I forgive myself?
-Rhymes with Lewinsky
Dear “Rhymes with Lewinsky,”
I’m sooooo reminded of why some wolves prefer us when we’re young and inexperienced when I read your story. We fall for a lot more B.S. then, lol… But don’t worry. I’ve seen, heard, (and probably done), a lot “worse.” Fortunately, there’s great hope for you as your actual questions reflect that you haven’t extended the victim status you gave this dude to yourself. And given that, I believe my response might provide you with the answer you’re looking for. So let’s get to it.
How do you move on and forgive yourself after you’ve been “The Other Woman?” Well, the answer’s actually really simple: You get the lesson the experience was there to teach you. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. Got it! No, not really? Christ, I do this every week. Okay, “here’s how…”
To begin with, you must first get that there’s a difference between “I did something bad,” and “I am bad,” and that huge difference is guilt versus shame. (See Brene Brown’s book “Daring Greatly” for more on that f’ed up dynamic.) If you make who you are wrong, (shame), it’s going to take you a helluva lot longer to get over this incident than just acknowledging the truth, which is that you did something wrong, (guilt). (And note: I’m coming to the conclusion of “wrong” and “bad” based on your desire to forgive yourself for helping this lovely lad cheat on his girlfriend. IMO judgement calls are subjective.)
The good news for you is that if you’re starting in shame you’re already on the right track to getting rid of it. How the heck do I know that, you ask? Well, you’ve shared your embarrassing story! Shame likes to live inside us and sorta dies upon its introduction to fresh, clean air. Just make sure that you continue to tell your story to people who’ve earned the right to hear it. Otherwise their reaction will just make it worse – (and between you and me, a lot of the people on this here World Wide Web haven’t earned it… Frickin’ high and mighty weirdos… But don’t worry, everyone on this site’s pretty cool ;)).
Also, don’t forget to be mindful of your self-talk. If you’re saying mean stuff to yourself – you know, the kind of stuff that you wouldn’t say to someone you love in your situation – cut it out. It’s all about accepting that you did something you’re not proud of, not that you aren’t still the miraculous, awesome, super-lovable creation that you are. Over the shame yet? Sweet. Welcome to the awesome world of feeling like a guilty son-of-a-b*tch.
Here, you accept the late, great Maya Angelou’s mantra, “When you know better, you do better.” And here you get your lessons… Awesome sauce. If you’re like most people on this planet, you haven’t yet read “The Care and Feeding of Sex Symbols,” which is cool. I’m not bitter. Swear. But given that, accept that you just didn’t know my rule to “Never listen to what a wolf says, just watch what he does.” If you did know that, all you would have seen in your situation was a guy living at home with his girlfriend and her son, taking care of his family. Sure, he might want to fool around with other women, (in this case you), in order to get other needs met, or blah, blah, blah; but focusing on his actions would have made who and what he’s actually committed to crystal clear. And it’s with that information, and that information only, could you have made an informed decision that you wouldn’t have regretted later.
So, lesson: put more faith in someone’s actions than you do their words. Get that, and the fact that you can’t learn something before you’re taught it, and you’ll be able to let go of your guilt and forgive yourself.
“Rhymes with Lewinsky,” know that if a guy truly, (not sorta or kinda), wants to be with you he’ll move heaven and earth to do so. And, yes, if kids are involved that may include taking time to get his ducks in a row, but someone who cares for you will never ask you to dishonor yourself and settle for less than what you want and deserve in the meantime. They’ll want to preserve your trust and respect, and not hold you up in the pursuit of your dreams while they eagerly pursue theirs, (which in this case would mean doing what they need to do to get you).
And finally, once you get your lesson and forgive yourself, you’ll have no problem working with this guy. You’ll feel renewed. Empowered even. Your growth will make your fling with him seem like just another thing you got caught up in on your road of self-discovery. So get up, adjust your crown, and get on back in that office. You’ll be alright, “you saucy minx, you…” Lol. Best of luck.
Note: As this column is designed to be a judgement-free zone, only those who have been, (or know someone who has been), in a similar situation are invited to comment; especially if the question is unorthodox or hard for one to relate to. And for even more relevant insight, those seeking answers are always encouraged to go within.