(The Root) —
I had sex with a woman and did not tell her about my fiancee. She recently found out I am engaged and she is so pissed, but it shouldn't matter because my feelings for her are real. She is the one I really love, and she is a great girl. Any man would be lucky to have her. My fiancee is great, too. I just screwed up, and now the woman I slept with, who is my ex, feels like she is a "ho," when she is not. (For the record, I'm 27, my fiancee is 27 and the girl I do love is 25.) I feel so guilty. I don't know what to do. Please help me. —J.W.
Your letter and your actions tell me that you are in a great deal of pain and conflict. You are making a mess of your life, and your double living has sullied the lives of two women you say you care about. Understand that your feelings of guilt are your mind's way of telling you that you have gone too far and need to get a grip on how to handle your life. You've recognized that what you have done is bad, but this does not make you an inherently bad person.
I appreciate that you have deep feelings for both women, but the behavior you have exhibited is not at all acceptable, and it's certainly not love, even for your ex. Love is an emotion, and it is demonstrated in action.
The feelings mean very little if they are not shown in deed, which is why I challenge your claim that you love anyone in this scenario. You're not loving your ex by lying to her about your relationship status, and you're not loving your fiancee, whom, to your credit, you don't claim to love but probably should love, since you have made plans to marry her.
You must call off your engagement. Proceeding with this marriage under the current circumstances is a bad idea. Marriage is a serious step — one whose value you clearly don't recognize, or the level of commitment required. Frankly, you are not prepared to be anybody's husband yet.
Get a therapist or a life coach and tell that person instead. This way you can purge your feelings to someone who can help you sort out the series of bad decisions you made to become the star of this dramatic retelling of events. A professional will also help you get to the root of your issues and teach you how to avoid this scenario in the future.
As for your ex, you may genuinely think that she's a "great girl," but you have not treated her as if you value her. If you care, as you claim, show her that you love her by leaving her be so that she can find someone who will treat her with the respect and honesty that you have not shown her thus far.
So that we are entirely clear: You lied to your ex, and it does matter. Consider her point of view for a moment. You deceived her about your current relationship and cheated on your fiancee with her. And then you tried to give her the okeydoke by downplaying the seriousness of it. Perhaps it wouldn't be a big deal to you if a woman you cared about lied to you about her relationship status, but most people would call that a huge violation.
Let me make it simple for you: You demonstrated in word and deed that you don't respect serious commitments and can't be trusted. That's a relationship red flag if ever there was one.
If your ex is a smart woman — which she sounds like, since she flipped on you for hiding your engagement — she won't have much to do with you going forward. I'm not surprised to hear that she feels like a "ho," but she was not aware of your situation because of your deceit, so she did nothing wrong.
You've done enough damage to others and yourself thus far, and your guilt signals to me that you can be a better man and want to be one. Your best bet now is to be alone until you can figure out what it is you actually want — which, based on your actions, is not a commitment. It's something the likes of which you appear to be too immature to fully grasp just yet.
Demetria L. Lucas is a contributing editor to The Root, a life coach and the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. She answers your dating and relationship questions on The Root each week. Feel free to ask anything at firstname.lastname@example.org.