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Tell Me About It ® By Carolyn Hax

By Carolyn Hax
Sunday, July 24, 2005

Dear Carolyn:

I just broke up with my boyfriend and feel like human garbage. (I initiated the split.) During our last conversation, he flung some really hurtful, hateful comments at me. What's so painful is these comments had to do with my deepest vulnerabilities -- things he knew about because I trusted him enough to share these things with him. How can I get over feeling so betrayed?

Calif.

Any relief in knowing that you had the good sense to dump him? Someone who would throw your trust back in your face is garbage.

Far as I can tell, the three stages of baggage are: sadness that someone you trusted chose to hurt you; horror that you chose to trust someone so unworthy; fear that your judgment will fail you again.

You get over the betrayal by chucking the baggage -- piece by piece. Accept that trusting always comes with a risk of abuse; that shame always rests with the abuser; and that the abuser wins only if you keep blaming everyone else -- future partners, friends, Alan Greenspan, yourself. Let hindsight teach you the signs you missed that your boyfriend was not a nice guy. Then, when you're ready, let yourself trust again.

Dear Carolyn:

My girlfriend's best friend was dating my best friend. She has since broken up with him and gone on what can best be described as a romance binge with a number of suitors, yet continues to call him, even crashing at our house several times (on the couch of course) after late nights. He is too nice to throw her butt out. At what point should someone (me?) say something?

This is causing me considerable issues with my girlfriend, who seems torn between her love for her friend and the truth that her friend is behaving terribly. What is a brother to do?

K.

A brother is to point out to his girlfriend -- and his friend -- that no one who cares about this girl should stand by watching her humiliate herself and/or self-destruct. Your girlfriend is "torn" by two demands that in fact don't compete: love and truth. Friendship and frankness. Warmth and, "What are you thinking?"

Meanwhile, this is your house; you have a right to speak. Never underestimate the power of the compassionate third-party punch: "I doubt your goal in life has been to wake up in a pile on my couch."

Dear Carolyn:

Is it cheating if you kiss someone else while in a relationship for five years (not married)? My partner did this to me but wants to work things out. I just have trouble getting the image out of my head.

Delaware

If it is cheating, is there no hope of working things out? If it isn't, does that make it OK to try?

It is what it is -- something that hurts you and that your partner (I'm guessing) regrets.

Any time you spend on labels would be better used discussing why it happened, whether that reason has any larger implications, whether that helps you understand your partner's behavior and whether understanding gives you confidence in deciding what to do now. Maybe nothing can erase a bad mental image, but nothing helps one fade faster than taking action to fix any problem(s) that caused it.

Write to Tell Me About It, Sunday Source, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or tellme@washpost.com and join Carolyn's live discussion at noon Fridays athttp://www.washingtonpost.com/liveonline.

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