What Happens When Someone You Love Betrays You

Anonymous Question:

Hi Alex, I’d like to pick your brains, if I may?

I was with my partner for 20 years, we split up 2 years ago. I haven’t dated or been with another guy since. Not because I want to meet another guy like my ex and haven’t found one yet, but I really don’t think I can trust someone after being betrayed. Is 2 years too soon after such a long relationship? He was my one and only partner – ever, we met in college when I was 19.


I’m so sorry about your breakup. I don’t know what happened, but ‘betrayed’ is a strong word. 

I know good men who supported their partners through hard times — drug addictions, HIV diagnoses — only to be abandoned when they needed support in return. There’s more than one way to betray someone.

Many people will tell you two years is enough time, that someone better is waiting just around the corner, and that you never know when lightning will strike. But those of us who’ve been badly wounded by love will likely tell you the heartache process is slower than that. It is slow, and potentially very rewarding. To us, quick turnarounds and people who heal from a breakup after a couple months (or even a couple years) seem annoying. “Their relationship must not have been that substantial,” we tell ourselves. 

But the fact is, both perspectives are very valid. Heartbreak is a slow process, and two years might not be enough. I’ve never been in a twenty-year relationship, so I can’t imagine what you’re going through, but there’s no one tapping their foot, no one rushing you to feel ready to date again. There’s no one watching the clock. You’re allowed as much time as you need. On the other hand, don’t let him ruin your life, because someone better may truly be just around the corner. You’re not bound by him or to the heartache he caused. You did something, and it was good for a while, for twenty years even, but now it’s over. We get hurt because we get love. One doesn’t come without the other. Don’t give someone the power to make you miserable, and never feel guilty for moving on quickly. If, after two years, you want to go on a date someone, then go on a date, and ignore the little voice telling you two years is not enough. If you’re ready to go on a date after two months, then you’re ready. 

Breakups are miserable, but they are also the inevitable endings of our relationships, and even with the reality of breakups and endings as an unavoidable feature of love, love is still worth it. The next date is always worth it. There is a commonality to humans in our twilight years: When we’re dying, we don’t remember the arguments or the money or the stuff. When you’re faced with a cancer diagnosis, you will remember how it felt walking home burning with fear and delight after a first date. Making that memory and experiencing that moment is what makes life worth living. 

You may still be hurting, but remember this: Life is meant to be shared. You’re never “ready,” not really. Life doesn’t care. It throws you in with new people and forces you to learn from them.

If you’re nervous about jumping back into the dating pool for the first time in a long time and starting the process again from scratch, remember that there’s no rule saying you have to jump back into a serious relationship. Start with casual sex partners, fuck buddies, stronger friendships, and so on. You don’t have to put everyone you meet into a classification or slap a label on them. Just get to know someone else — or better yet, a few people — and be a friend to them. Go out. Have fun. Plan friend dinners. Go to movies. Meet people casually and see who you click with. 

You never know when lightning will strike.



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