Anna Pulley, @annapulley
RedEye's sex columnist
10:50 AM CDT, May 8, 2013
I cheated on my boyfriend a year ago. We broke up for other reasons, but I still feel a lingering sense of guilt about what I did. Should I tell him about it or let it go? We talk and stuff, but I wouldn’t say we’re friends now exactly.--Too Little Too Late
Unless it’s to inform him about a strangely belated case of the clap, don’t tell him. A confession this late in the game is pointless; it’s just going to reopen an old wound that doesn’t need to be opened. Doing so would make you feel better, but him feel worse. It’s not up to your ex-boyfriend to absolve you from your crappy behavior. It’s up to you. You have to learn from it. And that requires taking a good long look at your past choices and determining not to repeat the ones that make you feel like shit. Now you know cheating is one of those things for you. Yay, learning things the hard way!
Seriously, what’s done is done. You can beat yourself up for it endlessly or you can choose to let the experience inform your life going forward and conduct yourself with as much honesty and integrity as possible. That’s a lesson I learned the hard way too. In fact, I’m still learning it. In some instances, forgiving ourselves is far more difficult than forgiving other people. Other people fall away but we are stuck with ourselves and our choices until we’re cold in the ground. So settle in, it’s gonna be a long ride.
We all have done things we regret--we’ve been mean and hurtful to those we love, we’ve betrayed people’s trust, we’ve lied, been jealous and inconsiderate--but those instances don’t have to define us. It’s perfectly reasonable to reflect on the ways we’ve behaved poorly, but it’s not OK to live in that regret. Doing so only serves to fuel the fires of our self-loathing.
If you need to atone for your indiscretion, then do it, but do it privately. Write a letter to him but don’t send it. Be super-extra nice to everyone you meet. Volunteer. Serving others who are less fortunate than me has never failed to put my Inflated White Girl Problems into perspective. If you’re the kind of person who believes in karma, then put that karmic shift back into the plus side. If you’re the kind of person who thinks that’s all a bunch of witchy crap, then practice acceptance in whatever way resonates with you. The important part is to be the kind of person you want to become. Live with intention. Recognize that all of your actions have consequences, and behave accordingly.
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