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‘My ex-fiance cheated on me. Do I tell his new girlfriend he can’t be trusted?’

Ask Roe: It seems so unfair that he’s been able to move on so quickly while I’m nowhere close to being over him

Dear Roe,

Seven months ago, my fiance broke off our engagement. He proposed after I found out he cheated on me, and though I was obviously upset, he made it seem like cheating had made him realise what he valued, and that he was ready to commit to me. We had been together for nearly three years and I was utterly in love with him. He was charming, funny, handsome and exciting but could also be dismissive, cold, inconsiderate and often disappeared when I needed him. When he cheated, he gave big speeches about how he wanted to be a better partner and I believed him.

He was on his best behaviour for a while, but it all slipped back eventually. He broke it off after an argument that was small and stupid and shouldn’t have meant anything, but he said he was sick of dealing with my emotions and “constant demands”, when I had spent the entire relationship trying to please him. He’s now with someone else while I’m still grieving the life I thought we were going to have together. I keep obsessing over every little moment of our relationship, every fight and wondering if he ever actually loved me. I also can’t stop feeling stupid for staying with him after he cheated. I keep thinking about reaching out to his new girlfriend and warning him that he cheats so she doesn’t fall for the same lies I did. It seems so unfair that he’s been able to move on so quickly while I’m nowhere close to being over him. How do I stop thinking about him?

There’s a poem I love by Marty McConnell in which she imagines Frida Kahlo giving her advice after a heartbreak. “Leaving is not enough,” it begins, “you must stay gone. train your heart like a dog. change the locks even on the house he’s never visited. you lucky, lucky girl”.


Sometimes we obsess over people because we want to be distracted from the lesson that’s being offered to us instead. You ask if your ex ever loved you and how he’s been able to move on so quickly – when what you need to ask yourself is why you stayed so long with a man who you’re not sure ever loved you, and how you can move forward from this making better decisions, protecting your heart, and never again putting up with disrespectful, inconsistent, disloyal treatment?

You’re also contemplating reaching out to his new girlfriend, hoping that telling her what he did to you will hurt him, will have negative consequences for him, maybe break up his relationship – and then what? Will you feel empowered? Will it undo what he did to you? Will it leave him single and regret-filled and begging to come back to you? I don’t think so.

All it will do is keep you tied to this man, prolonging your belief that your happiness and healing is tied to him – his relationship status, his happiness levels, his desire for you. But I need you to read this sentence and then read it again and try to believe it: he is not your concern. That seems delusional and utterly wrong to you, I know, as you grieve him and miss him and think about him constantly. I don’t mean that you’re in any way wrong or unreasonable to be devastated by this break-up. You’re grieving not only the end of a relationship but the promise and hopes of a life with someone. It’s completely natural to be upset. But he does not hold the key to your happiness, and believing that he does is only going to prolong your suffering.

The truth is, this man didn’t hold the key to your happiness even when you were together. He was charming, great. He made you laugh, wonderful. He was good-looking, that’s nice. But it doesn’t sound like he ever made you feel completely comfortable, safe or supported. It sounds like he constantly made you feel like you were too much – your desires were inconveniences, your needs annoyances, your struggles were unforgivable burdens.

He withdrew when you needed anything; he disappeared when life got hard; he cheated when your relationship was getting really serious; he was interested in dramatic speeches and a Hail Mary proposal but then left the relationship when marriage got closer; and he left the relationship claiming that your emotions and “constant demands” were a problem was because he was not willing or capable of being an actual partner to you. He was willing to be funny and charming when you were also being charming. He was willing to be exciting when life was exciting. He was willing to apologise and be romantic if it distracted you from holding him responsible for his infidelity.

But remember, everyone is on their best behaviour at the beginning of a relationship, and it’s easy to be the best version of yourself when you’re getting everything you want. It’s harder to turn up when someone else wants something, when someone is struggling, when life is routine and unexciting, when you have to put someone else first – and it doesn’t sound like he was capable of any of that. Your future with this man would have been dependent on you always shrinking yourself down to please him.

Asking whether this man ever loved you is not the important question

I bet that a lot of the obsessing you’re doing is retracing your steps, trying to figure out if you could have done something different, if you could have been more easy-going, more needless, more exciting in order to keep him. Do you understand that you’re trying to conjure up an image of happiness in which you are less equal, less yourself, less human, and believing that would have been the key to retaining this frankly mediocre-sounding man? No. I’m not letting you do this to yourself any more.

Asking whether this man ever loved you is not the important question. The question is what do you want from love and how do you want to feel loved – and what made you stay with a man who was offering you so little? Continuing to focus on this man and his new relationship is preventing you from focusing on the lesson that is waiting to be learned: Happiness and love never require you to shrink yourself down to a needless, constantly people-pleasing facade. A real, equal, loving, respectful partnership will feel supportive and consistent, and even when conflicts arise – which they will – you won’t feel like the only options are to remain silent or to be left.

The reason this work feels so difficult is because it involves a major reclaiming of your life, mind, heart and power from someone who dominated it for so long. It also involves exploring difficult questions about your sense of self-worth. But I promise you, these questions are worth exploring, because these are the questions that will lead you towards your future, and your next great love, which will feel so much more authentic because you will pick someone who wants you to show up, real and authentic.

“You loved a man with more hands than a parade of beggars,” writes Marty McConnell, and yet, “here you stand. Heart like a four poster bed. heart like a canvas. heart leaking something so strong they can smell it in the street.”