Dear Rosie & Sherry,
Last year I started dating a guy, he was incredibly talented, graduated from an Ivy League school, and charismatic. I did everything I could for him, but at the end of the summer, I found out that he had meanwhile been also dating one of my "friends." It's been six months and I can't get this situation out of my head.
About three months ago I met a wonderful man, and we've been dating seriously. He's everything I want: compassionate, Jewish, and most importantly, trustworthy. I can really see this leading to marriage.
My problem is that I cannot get my "ex" out of my head, and I have a problem with my former friend. I emailed her several times to try to bring peace to the situation, but she's been short, defensive and non-apologetic. I don't want to get back together with him, but I feel like they're both haunting me. I still have random nightmares about the two of them.
The new guy I'm dating is incredibly understanding and knows that the break-up was hard -- most of all because it made me feel jaded and lose faith in humanity. I'm trying to bounce back, and I don't want to bring problems into the new relationship by dwelling on the past.
Do you have any suggestions?
We can see that you are going through a very difficult time. You've been hit twice -- two friends betrayed you, and now you are dealing with both the betrayal and the loss of those relationships.
Let's deal with one issue at a time. Sometimes it is more difficult to lose a long-term friendship than it is to lose a dating partner who has good potential. You've lost a long history together, as well as the emotional intimacy and trust that the two of you built over the course of your friendship. You'll have to go through a mourning process before you can really let go of your anger and get over the betrayal.
We have difficulty understanding why you are trying to reconnect with your former friend. Is it because you want to understand what she did? To have her apologize? Because you miss her company? From what you've described, trying to speak to her will not be beneficial to you. The conversation will probably not go the way you want it to go. She isn't ready to apologize (in fact, she may not be sorry for what she did), and even if she does apologize it may not be sincere or it may not comfort you.
What we suggest is that you acknowledge what happened and admit the feelings the betrayal caused (anger, disbelief, shame, feelings of lack of self-worth). It may be helpful to write down your feelings, perhaps in the form of a "letter that you will never send" to your friend. After you've had some time to absorb this, then write down all that you have lost because your friendship is over. These steps are part of the mourning process.
There are many ways to move past the loss once you acknowledge it. Try to tap into your creativity and talents. Find an activity or project you can enjoy. Explore it. Finding a new focus will help you stop dwelling on past. It will also enable you to feel an inner sense of happiness and fulfillment that has nothing to do with another person -- not a girlfriend or a dating partner.
You can follow the same process to put your former beau behind you. We'd like to offer you an additional suggestion to help in this regard. Why not look at the quality of the courtship that ended? We're not talking about enumerating everything that made this man right for you "on paper" or the fact that you were developing affection for him. Instead, focus on where the two of you were headed in terms of your personal lives and in terms of common values, expectations and goals. How different were you?
You can also look at the level of personal investment each of you had in the dating. When two people are right for each other, both of them should want to make the emotional investment needed to move things forward. It seems that while you put sincere energies into this courtship, the man you were dating wasn't.
This exercise may help you to realize that the two of you were not well-suited for each other in the long-run. And that will enable you to move forward more easily.
Which brings us to the subject of the new man in your life. While you are beginning to develop an emotional connection, we hope that you are also clarifying that you are both dating for the same reason, want compatible things out of life, and are traveling in similar directions. If you both seem to be on the same page, then in addition to enjoying your time together and connecting on a personal level, we suggest that you make each date purposeful. Each date can be a way to find out something about each other that can help you eventually decide if you can build a life together.
What kind of information would you want to learn? Goals for the future, value systems, qualities you admire in other people, ways you cope with anger or stress, challenges you have overcome, expectations about how families and couples should relate to each other, the way each of you interacts with friends and family, your attitudes toward all the types of people you come into contact with, etc.
The way to make these discoveries is to share different experiences together, meet each other's friends and families, ask each other questions, and observe each other's reactions and interactions with the world around you. The more you get issues out in the open, the less likely you are to be "surprised" by a later discovery that the man was not who you thought he was.
Beyond all this, the reality is that once you have been betrayed, it is harder to trust. So here's a suggestion that can help: Think back to times in your life when you were able to benefit from the trust you had in another person. What qualities did these people and relationships have? Were there any commonalities? Does the man you are dating seem to have similar qualities? Is your level of trust in him growing over time?
We wish you success in navigating the dating maze,
Rosie & Sherry