I'm glad I discovered this site the other day. I've wanted to seek advice from people with similar experiences online, and also just to make a statement for my own mental health in the hopes it might help me unscramble my brain and emotions, even if only slightly. I'll try to keep it brief.
I've been with my partner since October of 2014, when we were 19. She was my first, and has remained my only over the last 8 years. We met online, the day I intended to delete my dating profile out of frustration. She was a 96% match, the highest I had ever seen. We connected instantly, and had a lot in common regarding interests and worldviews (so I thought). When we met, she had recently moved back from out of state, where she had briefly lived with an ex she previously only knew online. Contrarily, I had never had a girlfriend, let alone been on a date or kissed a girl - no baggage on my part except my own self-esteem and loneliness. At the time, I was astoundingly naïve. I figured, hey she's been single for 3 months, she must be over it by now, right? Over the next few months we became official, and I fell for her, hard. Despite her saying the same, and often acting like it, there was always something in my mind telling me she didn't want to be with me and I was forcing it - maybe she pitied me, I wasn't sure. I just knew I loved her. On one of our early dates as an official couple, we took LSD together (again, 20 and dumb). She became very emotional and talking about her ex, how she lost her best friend and how hard it was. She informed me they had just gone no-contact after trying to be texting friends since she had returned 5 months before. This to me was incredibly devastating as I would have hoped our relationship would have been more forefront in her mind, and I also had just assumed they were already no-contact (NAIVE!).
In any case, despite these red flags, the relationship grew and we became so close. We were together all the time, we talked constantly and deeply and always laughed together. We had an incredible sex life that just got better and better over the years. She doesn't drive, so I was able to help her in that respect (something that has persisted the entire relationship). I drove the U-Haul when she and her family moved, and practically lived over there. Over time however, her anger and mental issues began to show themselves - beginning with her randomly kicking me out of her house screaming at 3 AM. Despite this, I endeavored to fight for her, and help her. We had some low-stakes hard times early on, questioning things, etc. But we always worked it out and I assumed it would always be that way and we'd go stronger together.
A year+ into our relationship, her phone went off with a text from her ex. I couldn't read it, but she just said "ugh, I hate him" - obviously I didn't believe this and I talked to her about how it made me uncomfortable. At this point we were planning on moving into our own apartment together. She said she understood and that she was just his friend and she felt bad for him cause he was lonely or something. A few weeks later, she was on her phone and thought I saw what she was doing, but I didn't. She said "I only called him that because he called me a fuckgirl the other day" and I was like "What?" and she said "Oh, I thought you saw me call him a fuckboy before I turned the phone away". I was a little suspicious, but I didn't want to fight and I decided to trust her.
Fast forward a few weeks to her 21st birthday. We spent the day with her mom and brother, drinking of course. She made several references to when she "lived on her own" and "cleaned their apartment all day", just irrelevant stuff. I grew suspicious because as the day went on, she grew increasingly absorbed in her phone. She passed out early in the night and I couldn't resist - I had to check. Of course, she had been texting the ex all day, flirting, reminiscing. Particularly painful was their reminiscing about playing strip-beer pong together and her just saying "you stop!;)". Naturally I flipped the hell out. Almost broke up with her honestly, and her mom, who was very supportive, even told me to do as much. But she persuaded me that she would block him and she just wanted to be with me.
So in 2016 we moved in together. Things got complicated regarding money and the balance of bills/chores, etc. Pretty standard 21-year-old first apartment stuff. Sometime during this time, I caught her again. This time complaining to him about me. Again, we "talked it out". Eventually, we moved to another apartment. At the end of 2017, she was on xanax (not prescribed) and decided to show me her recent texts with him (in which she basically harassed him and he ignored her until he insulted her). She said "I'm showing these to my boyfriend, he says you're mean" or something like that. "Oh, the guy who can't pull his own weight?" he responded. Anyway, his insult to her (regarding stretch marks) sent her into a spiral that resulted in her being placed in a 72-hour hold at the psyche ward. She insisted it was unrelated, but it happened and she literally told me why she was freaking out and I took her to the hospital that night. While she was in the hospital, I picked up her backpack to move it and it was heavy as hell. Curious, I looked inside and found literally THOUSANDS of printed photos from Facebook, of some random girl. I came to find it was her ex's ex that he had cheated on her with years ago. When I asked about this later, she said she "had a crush" on her - which doesn't make much sense because as far as I knew she is and has been hetero. All of this is just a sea of red flags obviously, but I was dumb and hopelessly in love.
Fast forward to 2019, and these things were in the past. We were doing better as far as this business was concerned, but our other issues persisted and I obviously had lost a lot of trust in her (and honestly her mental stability). I was in school, and I had to borrow her laptop for class one day. I opened it up at school, and she had left her Facebook open. She was talking to him again, this time about their "future family" and how they'll always love each other, and funnily enough dissolving into an argument and him ignoring her. I left school and confronted her, and I don't even remember how but we made up and she convinced me again.
Just a month or two later, an interesting development occurred. She would often have me bring her to her mother's house when were fighting or she was depressed. I took her there on night, and went to pick her up later. She was incredibly drunk. I'm not proud, but my trust was at its lowest and my paranoia was at it's highest, and I looked at her snapchat. She had been having a conversation with her first ex, from before the aforementioned ex, like from high school. I will refer to him as ex.0 from here to differentiate. It was devastating - "My mom says you're a player..", "I'm down to fuck around, just don't hurt me, I can't handle it", and her basically agreeing she would have sex with him in his car. I immediately left and went to my parents house. AGAIN, somehow we reconciled. She blamed it on her mental health and alcoholism (as she often did in the past).
After this, I basically stopped caring. I didn't look at her phone at all. Occasionally I would ask her and she'd say she hadn't talked to either since that night and I just accepted it (though not internally - my trust was absolutely shattered). It was like this for the last 3 years, with no incident that I was aware of. Our other issues took the forefront - we come from different backgrounds, her mother was an alcoholic and her dad spent 20 years in prison while I'm blessed to still have my entire family intact and supporting me. I transferred to University from community college and my workload increased significantly (and my ability to work a paying job decreased as well). We've been living apart since the death of her mother, when she moved into her friend's house (apart from during Covid when I lived there as well for about a year). I started my last semester at school this fall, excited to finally end it and get on with our life together. I still went to her place almost every night, and she depended on me for so much - from cleaning her house, to even dressing her sometimes, like a freaking child. The night before Halloween, we got into a big fight and I left her house. She threatened to kill herself (a favorite tactic of hers) because she knows how this affects me. I blocked her number (it was a bad, bad fight and we were drunk). She sent me a voicemail that sounded like she was walking down the street and a weird noise that in my paranoid mind was her jumping off a bridge. I called her brother distraught, asking if she was okay. He was vague - "she's fine". But then he slipped up - "she has someone looking out for her right now". This hit me like a ton of bricks. Who? He clammed up, I think he thought our fight happened because I already knew. "you're not gonna like it... it's ex.0". Despite everything, this blew my mind and shattered me. He told me she'd been seeing him for at least the last month. That's when I realized the sound in the voicemail was a car door opening and closing. I unblocked her and told her I knew and that I was blocking her again.
24 hours later, after the worst day of my life, she reached out over email to apologize vaguely (I think she hoped I didn't know exactly everything) and I told her how much she hurt me (and also went on an unhinged angry rant). She was remorseful and cooperative, and told me everything (supposedly) - It had been going on since shortly after I returned to school, they had had sex 4 times (basically every weekend). She says she was so drunk the first time, she barely remembers - but insists he wore protection (despite the fact that she was so drunk, it was supposedly pitch black and he tried to convince her to go raw). Naturally, I still assume it was unprotected since she can't be trusted for numerous reasons (nor can he I suppose). Anyway, over the past two weeks we have been discussing things. The first week she answered all of my questions, was so remorseful and apologetic. We tried to go no-contact after our first conversation, but I slipped up. I don't know what my problem is. I guess I felt she was the only one who could help me process this shit weirdly enough. This week though, she started drinking again, flipflopping between her apologies, telling me its my fault for "neglecting" her, begging me to tell her we can get back together. We went out to eat and it turned bad. I went to her house the next night, and it was relatively fine, and we had an emotional conversation. Then the next night I went over and it was really bad. The next night, she convinced me to come over again, and it was horrifying. I panicked so bad, I knew I didn't want to be around her and she was just making me hurt more by confusing me and being crazy and preying on my pity and love for her and begging me not to leave. The last two days we've been texting relatively normally. She knows we are not together. She keeps asking me what she can do to fix things, begging me to stay over at her place (which is a huge no go for me now), and then shifting to anger and blaming me, calling me a loser, etc. I'm just so hurt and confused, and I feel like I can't get away from her. I know no-contact will drive her insane, and I still worry about her committing suicide (although, its a bit of a "boy who cried wolf" deal at this point, as terrible as that is to say).
I know I will never be able to trust her again. I know I don't want to be with her. I view her differently. I still love her, but I know she doesn't deserve me and will never make me happy. And I see her as a shell of a person in certain ways. And she will always be like this. She seems to have some sort of need for attention from people that should be long gone. And she makes incredibly impulsive decisions. So if I were to take her back, I can be sure it would happen again (at the very least, the emotional text cheating that had been going on for years will always occur). What seals this for me is that she went out of her way to contact him. She initiated. She says she was lonely, and was bored of talking with me (news to me). She sometimes says she knew it was over, and always knew it wouldn't last because she "didn't deserve me". Other times she says I am the love of her life and she has learned her lesson forever. She liked the attention and talking to him about new things (despite the fact that he's totally different from her, and by all accounts a complete tool / serial cheater). She said it was strictly casual, and she essentially exchanged sex for attention. She says it was unpleasant, they kept their clothes on (?) and didn't do anything besides just normal lights off missionary. And supposedly kissed only once. This is hard for me to imagine, as she can be very self-conscious, and I gotta put work in sometimes to get her to be open or even fully nude (not often though, after 8 years). I can't imagine her having sex with someone without a kiss. I've thought about contacting ex.0 (who I've never met, by the way) to see if his story corroborates hers but I don't think it really matters at this point - would it be a good idea, perhaps to find out she lied more and gain more motivation to drop her? Is it worth the potential pain? What bothers me the most is that she felt "neglected" - I came over all the time, helped her with everything, never even spoke to other women, cooked for her all the time, took her wherever she needed to go, gave her rides to and from work despite it impacting my schedule negatively and impairing my schoolwork. On top of that we had sex, all. the. time. - and I know for a fact she enjoyed it and was satisfied in that regard.
She says since it started she can't look at herself in the mirror and has been consumed by guilt (then why do it three more times? Not counting the two times they hung out but didn't have sex). And I was just so oblivious the whole time, having unprotected sex with her the same time she was doing it with him on the weekends. I feel so gross. I have yet to get an STI test, but I'm terrified. Despite all of this, I still desperately care for her. I'm still concerned for her mental and physical health. And she literally has no one else (ex.0 supposedly cut her off after D-day). I've been terrified of falling back into old patterns and compromising my self-worth and boundaries, which obviously worsened as we hung out for those 4 days. Last night was the first night in a long time that I was sober (I know, I know). We both have the flu. And I couldn't sleep. I just thought about the reality of it all, in a way that was more detached and emotionless than I had been. And I was just like "holy shit, this is it and it has to be". In my head, this thing is dead. She is different now. I'm a different person. I'm 28 but I feel like I grew up overnight. Honestly, part of me is excited to move on and find myself and get away from her and that constant obligation and turmoil. But there's just this attachment to her and fear of her hurting herself or being physically ill and not caring for herself.
My head is just a mess, I know this is over and I'm half relieved half terrified. I can't tell how I feel any given moment. I just really don't want things to return to normal. Because they never can. We just text each other about day to day stuff and I couldn't give less of a shit about it, I just don't want to set her off or send her spiraling. I guess I just need to find a graceful way to break contact and not give her false hope out of pity. Because for all I know, she's still lying. I'm not even sure what sort of advice I'm looking for, perhaps just encouragement to stick to my guns and follow through with what I know needs to happen.