I’m a 19-year-old first-semester college freshman right in the midst of my first finals week. But an overload of academically-based stress isn’t what I’m writing to you about. I’m a recently out bisexual who began dating my 20-year-old girlfriend about three months ago. This was my first relationship and even though it seems short, it was getting pretty serious: I had already met most of her family and really bonded with them.
Here’s the catch.
Over the weekend I went to a party with some of my friends and got black-out drunk (ever heard of Four Loko?). I don’t remember anything about that night except what my friends have told me. My girlfriend, we’ll call her Alex, picked me up from my friend’s dorm to take me back to her apartment so that she could take care of me. I woke up that morning with a slew of texts from my friends telling me what happened that night. Long story short, I flirted with random guys, had to be hauled around by hand, peed in a bush, and sat on a guys lap in the car between parties. All of that was revealed to me in texts from my friends, which I read the next morning with my girlfriend laying right beside me. She saw the texts and demanded to read them, which I let her do. She then had me call my friend and have her say on speaker everything that happened. I was absolutely mortified and could not believe the person I was when blacked out. Alex got mad and I had to have my friend come pick me up from her place.
Fast forward a couple hours to when I get a call from Alex. We talk on the phone and I apologize over and over but to no avail. She ends things and then hangs up. I call her back and plead with her until she agrees to take some time to think about taking me back, but on one condition. I had to ask my friend “Kyle”, whose lap I was on in the car, what happened between him and I that night. I texted him and was totally horrified by what he said. According to him, I was laying all over his lap while moaning (I know) and kissing and biting his neck and ear, all the while talking about how much I love my girlfriend. So messed up right? I desperately didn’t want to send the screenshots to her but knew that lying would just make it worse. I sent them to her and her reaction was, in short, “I’m done, you betrayed me, you obviously want attention from other people, leave me alone.”
I don’t know what to do. I can’t sleep without crying to the point of exhaustion and haven’t stopped shaking ever since her last text. I feel like the worst person ever and can’t stand the fact that I hurt her like that. I would never have done something like this when I was sober and hate the fact that even blackout drunk I couldn’t control myself. I truly do not remember anything about that night and honestly wish it never happened. I want to give her space but we all get out for a month-long winter break in a couple days and I don’t think I can live like this for that long. I’m consumed by guilt and remorse and feel nauseous every time I think about it. I’ve even had passing thoughts of suicide but I also realize how melodramatic that is.
I want to get her back or at least fully apologize, and I feel like I can if I just talk to her face to face, but I don’t know when I should approach her so that she’ll even consider talking to me. What should I do? I’m on the brink of a meltdown.
Well, let’s start here: the first thing you should do—the very first thing, before you do literally anything else—is to give yourself a freaking break for making a series of dumb mistakes that put you in a club with virtually every adult human being on earth. Honestly, Sparkler: peeing in inappropriate places and flirting with inappropriate people are not awesome, per se, but they are very ordinary outcomes of getting very very drunk, right up there with puking, passing out, and spontaneous screaming renditions of Wrecking Ball by Miley Cyrus… and that’s especially true when your beverage of choice is commonly known as “blackout in a can.” For the record, y’all, alcoholic energy drinks are notorious for causing blackouts, because the “energy” ingredients keep you awake even when you’re seriously, dangerously wasted and should have passed out an hour ago. (Based on your description, Sparkler, I am guessing you managed to get your hands on a vintage Four Loko—the one that they don’t sell anymore because the combination of caffeine and alcohol made people go completely ape-ass crazy and engage in erratic, uncharacteristic, and occasionally fatal activities.)
But here’s the thing, sweet pea: yes, the “I licked my friend’s ear and peed in a bush” part of your letter made me cringe. It wasn’t your finest moment, as you obviously already know. But that was nothing compared to the part that really, truly disturbed me—which has nothing to do with how you behaved while blackout drunk, and everything to do with how your girlfriend behaved while stone cold sober.
Demanding access to your texts? Making you call your friend to get the full account of the evening on speakerphone, forcing you to process your embarrassment in front of her? Dangling the possibility of reconciliation on condition that you send her humiliating screenshots of your conversation with your friend—and then using those screenshots to further denigrate you?
I know this isn’t what you were hoping or expecting to hear, but it nonetheless must be said: I don’t think you should be trying to get this girl back. In fact, her reaction as you describe it contains a ton of controlling, abusive red flags that call into question the health of your whole relationship, especially in light of your inexperience and how quickly things seem to have been moving. Did she have good reason to be upset? Sure, of course—but that’s where an emotionally mature person initiates a conversation about her feelings, one in which her partner has an opportunity to respond. Your girlfriend, on the other hand, dealt with her concerns by launching into an immediate inquisition in which you had no voice, no agency, and no opportunity (or even expectation!) of offering your own perspective. I keep coming back to the part where this all began with her demanding access to your texts — and where you apparently felt you had no choice but to hand your phone over. It’s not just that this girl went nuclear at the first hint that you’d flirted with someone else. She quite obviously never trusted you in the first place.
That’s a problem! It’s at least as much of a problem as one single incident in which you got too drunk and turned into a sloppy, attention-seeking tornado of feelings who just wanted to ooze all over everyone and talk about how much you loved your girlfriend—for which you have taken full responsibility and been more than adequately contrite, and which isn’t even that significant, for Pete’s sake. Yes, it’s embarrassing, but it’s not like this reveals something hidden and horrible about your true character, and it certainly doesn’t mean you’re “the worst person ever.” (Honestly, as an isolated incident, all it really means is that drinking too much has the same inhibition-obliterating effects on you as it does on everyone else.)
The true revelation here is about your relationship, and your girlfriend’s approach to conflicts. Even allowing for the part where she had a right to feel hurt by what you did, she was still remarkably eager to think the worst of you, and to punish you for being honest as fast as she could demand you lay yourself bare. A person who loves and respects you will not make you throw yourself at her feet for forgiveness and then kick you when you’re down there—and that’s true even if you’ve done something very regrettable.
So when you ask what you should do, here’s your answer: first, take some time to understand that not all of this is your fault, or even your responsibility. You can be sad over the end of the relationship while still recognizing that you didn’t cause it singlehandedly; your ex made a choice to react punitively instead of communicating with you, and it was her choice to end things. And in fact, even if you’d never made the error of letting a Four Loko pass your lips, her own issues of trust and control would’ve still be a problem, and would have eventually popped up for other reasons with the same result. A relationship that doesn’t leave room for both partners to make mistakes, talk things out, and find solutions together is a relationship that’s bound to implode the first time one person missteps.
And when it comes to moving forward, please, leave her out of your plans. She’s told you to stay away, and you should—for the sake of respecting boundaries, but also for the sake of finding some grace yourself. You don’t need to confront her face-to-face to “fully apologize”; the measure of a full apology is not in how your ex reacts. It’s in your own ability to recognize where you messed up, and what you’ll do differently to avoid messing up in the future. If you’ve taken responsibility, if you’ve expressed regret, if you’ve learned something? That is what it means to be sorry—and to be forgiven is a simple matter of forgiving yourself.
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