What to do when you’re being shamed for what you did in a previous relationship

Arpita asks: I had broken up with my boyfriend 3 months ago. Then I found a guy withnwhom I want to spend the rest of my life. It’s too new, but he is everything I wanted.  My ex recently found out that I had cheated on him once (I had kissed a guy during my internship). My ex is shattered as he still has feelings for me, and I feel horrible about what I did. His friend has been abusing me in messages, slut-shaming me. Of course I can’t discuss all these with the guy I’m with now. I don’t know what to do.

Hi Arpita –

You’re in three situations, one is shockingly awful, and the other two are more normal than you realize.

The normal ones are that you have a new boyfriend while your former one still has feelings for you, which creates a problem, and that you did something that you’re ashamed of in that previous relationship.  Again, both of these are very common, and I’d even argue that most people have to contend with them.

Then you have something else that’s horrible and inexcusable, which is your ex’s friend doing all this slut-shaming abuse.

So let’s start with my strongest statement here – you KISSED a boy.  Yes, you shouldn’t have, and you wouldn’t have wanted your boyfriend to have kissed another girl.  But it was KISSING.  You didn’t have an affair, you didn’t sleep around, you didn’t do anything to embarrass or shame your boyfriend.  And you know what else you didn’t do?  You didn’t allow (or encourage) a friend of yours to say awful things to or about him!  I’m sorry but that’s SO MUCH WORSE THAN KISSING SOMEONE.  It’s cruel and pathetic and often traumatizing.

No one has ever been in a relationship for any serious length of time without doing things they regret.  I have tons of regrets for things I have done that hurt my human friend Handsome, and he might have even more about me.  But those mistakes are part of how we’ve learned to love and trust each other over the years.  Because we’ve seen how much the other regrets the things they’ve done that have hurt us.  And how much we each want the other to be safe and happy.

So my first advice would be to reach out to your ex, if you’re comfortable doing that, and let him know that what his friend is doing is enormously hurtful to you, and gets in the way of your having any relationship to him, even friendship.  Then it’ll be interesting to see what he says or writes back: If it’s “I had no idea!  I’m so sorry, I’ll call him right now and stop this!” then that’s not so bad.  But if it’s “Well you deserve it, since what you did was unforgivable,” then you might consider blocking them both at least for a while.  (I’m assuming you’ve already apologized to him for having kissed the guy, right?  Ideally more than once?  Because if so, enough is enough!)

But now when we get to the other guy, the new wonderful one, what to do?  Well, again, I’m going to go to my line that it was only kissing.  And suggest that maybe your best bet is to tell him.

Here’s my thought.  Maybe you even start with “What’s the worst thing you ever did in a relationship?”  And when he answers, tell him, “here’s mine.”  And describe it to him.  Tell him how ashamed you are of it, how sorry you are, and (and here’s the big one) what you learned from the experience which guarantees that you will never do that again.  And tell him that you want him to know about it, because you value him so much and you don’t want to take a chance that he might hear it from someone else.  But also, you’re caring so much that it’s a little scary.  And you don’t want to live in a situation where you get so committed to someone who can’t accept you as you are, flaws and all.

(That’s why I want you to ask what he’s done wrong – so you can both accept each other’s flaws.)

If this guy can’t accept that you were in a relationship that wasn’t as good as the one you have with him, and kissed another boy once, then maybe he’s not as wonderful as you think.  But if he hears it, and says that it would break his heart if you did that to him, so he’s counting on you to stick to your word and not kiss another boy as long as you’re together… then I say you’re right, and he’s absolutely wonderful!

So those are my thoughts.  Maybe there’s something I’ve gotten wrong, and if so please let me know.  But the one thing I’m absolutely sure of is that you deserve better than you’re getting now from that friend of your ex’s.  And somehow or other, I’d love to see that stop.

All my very best,

Shirelle (who likes to kiss EVERYBODY!)

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