Dear Wendy: Is It Still Cheating If It’s With An Ex?

After being in an 11-year relationship with someone I met when we were 18, a mix of drugs and bad attitudes finally came to a head this past January and we ended things. About four months ago I met a really great guy. He is successful and stable — pretty much everything my ex wasn’t. We have a great time together and spend almost every minute we aren’t working together. Unfortunately, there isn’t that “chemistry” I had with my ex. And my ex has suddenly decided to barge back into my life. After our last phone conversation, well I wouldn’t really call it a conversation, more like him cursing me out for emotionally abandoning him and moving on with my life (gotta love the drug addict), he’s now saying he’s now completely reformed and wants to give me everything he wasn’t able to before when he was so screwed up. Like an idiot I continue to answer his phone calls and have even seen him on two different occasions. My question is, is it still considered cheating if it is with your ex who you were with for 11 years? I am not emotionally attached to my ex anymore but that chemistry or “fire” that has always been there attracts me and causes me to do things I normally would never do in my right mind. I have told him (my ex) how horrible I feel about what I have done to my new guy but he assures me that it is okay because to him, these are “special circumstances”. Do you agree with that? Or is cheating, cheating regardless? — Dazed and Confused

Oh, come on, Dazed and Confused, you know perfectly well that cheating is cheating, even if it is with someone you were with for 11 years. You’re so racked with guilt — and rightfully so — that you can’t even bring yourself to articulate what it is you’re doing with that no-good ex of yours. You think the “fire” you feel with your ex puts you under some spell in which you aren’t responsible for the “things you wouldn’t normally do in your right mind”? Oh, quit fooling yourself — what you’re doing is cheating, plain and simple. Furthermore, it doesn’t matter if I agree with your ex’s manipulative ploy that your relationship somehow constitutes “special circumstances” in which the cheating is OK; it matters if your current boyfriend does. That’s right; the only thing that makes cheating not really cheating is if the partner you’re committed to is OK with you sleeping with someone else. And then it’s not called “cheating,” it’s called an “open relationship.” I’m going to make a wild guess that you and your boyfriend do not have an open relationship.

What concerns me the most, though, is this idea that you aren’t in your “right mind” when you’re with your ex. Clearly, the dysfunctional relationship you shared with him through most of your formative years is one you don’t have emotional distance from. We know drugs were part of the relationship; we know he’s manipulative. I’m wondering if there’s even history of abuse of some kind. It should go without saying that you’re in no place for a relationship of any kind right now, but more importantly, if you’re to have any hope for a happy and successful relationship in the future, I urge you to not only cut off all communication with your ex, but to seek professional counseling. Your ex is a manipulative drug addict who doesn’t care about your happiness. What you do together isn’t love and it isn’t chemistry. It’s destructive behavior that’s detrimental to your emotional — and possibly physical — well-being. Please get professional help so that your “right mind” is something no man can ever shake again.