Lifestyle

‘I cheated in two relationships – now I can’t stop obsessing over the past’


‘I was pretty unhappy’ (Picture: Neil Webb)

‘I’ve been obsessing about the past lately.

‘I cheated in two relationships as they were ending and at the time I was working in a job that involved lots of events. Overall, I was pretty unhappy.

‘I’ve been single for two years now and both my exes are in new relationships while I’m still giving myself a hard time, stuck on the same loops.

‘I was considering going on dating apps and at least get chatting to guys but I think I should probably focus on feeling better first. What’s your advice?’

Forgiving ourselves for our perceived mistakes is a radical act.

Not only does self-forgiveness lack the energy of self-loathing, it requires pivoting and perceiving ourselves from a different perspective.

‘Criticising ourselves is such a familiar mode that it can feel drippy and ineffective to start being kind to ourselves instead,’ says Dr Angharad Rudkin. ‘But this understanding is deep and long-lasting.’

You appear to have already started the process by recognising the context to your behaviour, in that your relationships were ending and you were presented with temptation.

‘But your past will be feeling particularly painful at the moment because you currently have far less social opportunities, which might be feeling like some sort of punishment,’ Rudkin continues. ‘When we have more space to think, our minds tend to fill up with regret from our past and worries about our future. This natural rumination is then made more overwhelming because of this feeling of being stuck.’

One way to untangle your emotions is to write about them. James McConnachie suggests you make a list of everything you did that you perceive as wrong.

‘Make an apology to anyone you hurt, if you really must, and if you think it’ll help them,’ he says.

As you write, be clear about what happened, how the other person acted and felt, and how you behaved and felt.

This narrative will help you see that things are not quite as straightforward as your mind makes out and that there were a host of reasons why you behaved the way you did – some were under your control, many weren’t,’ says Rudkin.

This reflection will also help you see that there was far more going on than intoxication and infidelity.

‘You’ve said yourself that your previous relationships were ending at the time so why are you indulging in this orgy of self-recrimination?’ asks Rupert Smith.

‘Perhaps start thinking about where your ideas and feelings around sex come from, starting with the attitude your family had towards sex, so that you can find new ways of relating to your desires.’

Then do your best to start looking forwards, says McConnachie.

‘Say to yourself, “life is hard, relationships are complex, I made some big mistakes” – and, when you’re ready, throw away the list. I had a girlfriend whose mum used to say “we move on from where we are”. She was right. I’d add, “We move on to where we hope to be”.’



The experts:

  • Dr Angharad Rudkin is a clinical psychologist and co-author of psychology guide What’s My Teenager Thinking? out now
  • James McConnachie is the author of Sex (Rough Guides)
  • Rupert Smith is an author and counsellor

Got a sex and dating dilemma?

To get expert advice, send your problem to lisa.scott@metro.co.uk.


MORE : ‘Should I open up my marriage?’


MORE : ‘I’m having an affair – should I leave my husband?’


MORE : ‘Why can’t I let go of my ex and have no-strings sex?’



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