Dear Sil Lai,
I recently got involved with a friend/associate of mine who had been in a relationship for as long as I’ve known him. He had flirted with me for years, but I never responded. One day he tells me that he and his girl are no longer together. Something made me question if they had really broken up, but I couldn’t get a straight answer out of our mutual friends. They told me that she had moved out and that they hadn’t seen her around in a while. So, even though it was a little soon after his breakup, I decided to give him a shot. In a very short time we were totally immersed in one another…he even went so far as to declare his love for me publicly in front of our friends!
Then one day I discovered that he had lied to me about the entire breakup when I got a call from his “ex” and all hell broke loose. She had heard that he and I had been stepping out together and asked me point blank if we had slept together. I lied and told her no and I also told her that he had told me that they had broken up. She said they hadn’t, that she loved him and wasn’t willing to give up a relationship for something that could be worked out.
Even though it was brief, he and I had a very intense relationship. This has been so messy and I’m completely emotionally drained by the whole thing. Part of me feels I should have told her the truth about what happened, but I didn’t. Is it too late for me to say anything? I’m not trying to become her friend or convince her to leave him, but as a woman I feel like she has a right to know what kind of a man she’s dealing with. Should I tell her the truth?
Dazed and Confused
Let me start by saying I’m so sorry to hear that you got caught up in the web of a cheat’s deceit. I’ve often wished that people came with warning labels stamped on their foreheads. But alas, that’s not the case so we’re left instead to use our intuition and common sense.
With that being said, I’m going to give you some tough love on this one. I’ve been in your shoes before and I truly believe that you can empower yourself in your relationships by keeping one thing up front at all times: the truth. Not just about what’s happening outside of you, but also what’s going on inside of you.
It was Maya Angelou who said “when a person shows you who they are, believe them…the FIRST time.” From jump you knew he had the potential to be a cheater (I believe the word you used is “flirt”). For years he kept testing the waters with you and you never went for the bait…completely. He knew you were attracted to him and eventually figured out that you would probably go for him if he wasn’t with his girl. So he lied, as cheaters do, which leads to me to the first lesson: if he’s willing to cheat on HER, he’ll be willing to cheat on YOU. What I’m wondering is what was going on inside of you that would lead you to knowingly get involved with a man that you knew had the proclivity to cheat?
The second thing is that we should always be wary getting involved with someone who is coming off the heels of a breakup. One should take things very slow – like molasses dripping slow. Everybody processes things in their own way, but if there were real feelings involved it takes time to move on. So lesson number two is don’t rush to get involved with someone who is coming out of long term relationship. You can be friends, flirt, go to the movies, but don’t sleep with them until you are 100% certain that they’re available and committed to you.
The third thing is that the alarms should’ve been going off when it was your “friends” that told you his girl had moved out…not him. You were “friends” with this man, but you had never been to his house? The best relationships start out on the basis of a true friendship. If he was really your friend, you wouldn’t have had to ask the people you knew in common whether or not they were living together or had really broken up. So the third lesson here is that if you feel you have to ask other people about the person you’re involved with, something is off. It could be you (if you’re insecure or neurotic) or it could be him (not being honest). But I’ve found that where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire.
Finally, as for you telling her the truth, you had an opportunity to tell the truth when she called but chose not to do it. I agree that sisters need to look out for each other, but let’s be honest: calling her back would really just be a way for you to punish him under the guise of enlightening her. She told you point blank that she is going to do whatever she can to save this relationship. Trust me, this woman knows who she’s with and you calling and telling her that you slept with her man won’t help. From personal experience I can say that 95% of the time we know in our gut when our mate is cheating. But our ego and attachment to a specific outcome for the relationship is more important than accepting the truth and working from there
The best thing for you to do is to let it go. Use this time to heal yourself and get to the root of why you would get involved with a man of less than noble character. And instead of making a point to tell her the truth, focus on how you can be more honest with yourself.
Sil Lai Abrams is EBONY.com’s Relationship Expert and the author of No More Drama: 9 Simple Steps to Transforming a Breakdown into a Breakthrough and a board member of the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Follow her on Twitter: @sil_lai and connect with her on Facebook. Want Sil Lai’s advice? Email SilLai@ebony.com to have your love questions answered in a future column!