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Future Sex: My Cheating Boyfriend Blames Booze

You know what is the worst thing? Nicotine withdrawal. Actually, it’s definitely not "the worst thing," but it is the worst thing that is happening to me right now. When you withdraw from nicotine, your brain gets all fuzzy, and the more you try to...
June 6, 2012, 6:30pm

You know what is the worst thing? Nicotine withdrawal. Actually, it's definitely not “the worst thing,” but it is the worst thing that is happening to me right now. When you withdraw from nicotine, your brain gets all fuzzy, and the more you try to conjure up words to type into your computer, the less it is possible to form any cohesive thought. And, if you're me, you might begin violently eating Tate's chocolate chip cookies in response while itching your face a lot. Why is it so itchy?

So I have taken on some inquiries from some lovely readers, hoping to distract myself from my physical distress. I apologize if I am curt, dear readers, but my eyelid keeps twitching and I'm yelling at everyone. Onward:

My boyfriend and I have been together for three years. We met when we were in college, drunk at a bar. We both partied pretty hard, but it was college, so who doesn't? But after we graduated, moved to New York together, and got an apartment together, the real extent of his drinking became apparent to me. He was drinking every day, starting pretty early and going super late. I tried to chill out myself, but I would inevitably get pulled into his habits.

The last straw was when he cheated on me with a girl I kind of know a few weeks ago. I found out, he apologized and cried and said it was only because he was blacked-out drunk. I don't know what to do. Maybe he has a drinking problem but maybe we're both just young. I do know that he would never cheat on me sober. He promised to scale it back, and he's been a little better. I love him so much, but I'm on the fence on whether I should stay and try to work things out or go.


Okay, Liz, your question isn’t exactly about love and technology, but I feel like you’re looking for answers, so I’ll be straight with you: you should leave.

You say you've been together for three years, which is a long time – longer than any relationship I've ever had, I'll freely admit – and leaving a long-term relationship with a lot of history and love is difficult. It's one of the most difficult things anyone ever does. But you also say you met in college, so you're probably like 23 or 24. You're not married and you don't mention even thinking about marriage, so you're not stuck with this guy. Marriage is what happens when you've taken stock of someone's shortcomings and decided that you can live with them and that you love the person despite them. When those shortcomings inevitably resurface, you'll know what they are and how to deal with them together.

Dating is the part where you figure out their shortcomings and, when someone's shortcomings harm you in ways that are unacceptable to you, you get to leave. You're right. Lots of people party all the time in college. Then lots of people move to a big city after college and treat their internship lifestyles as an excuse to continue the party. But when you're living with your girlfriend in a supposedly monogamous relationship, it's your responsibility to not get so blackout drunk that you cheat on her.

The tricky part of drunk cheating is that when your partner looks you in the eyes and is super contrite and says they would never cheat on you sober, they're probably telling the truth. I don't buy into the “wisdom” that if you would cheat drunk then you would cheat sober, and that alcohol is simply the excuse that people claim to “get away” with their actions. Alcohol literally impairs your judgment. Just because some dude pisses on a cop car when he's blackout drunk doesn't mean he's been secretly harboring a desire his entire life to piss on a cop car, just waiting for this opportunity to live out his fantasy. It means he was a drunk idiot and did something he might never ordinarily do.

But just because your boyfriend really, really wouldn't cheat on you under normal circumstances doesn't mean he's a great dude. I've dated guys with “drinking problems” or “alcoholism” or “blackout cheating tendencies,” whatever you want to call it. And those guys do change sometimes, but that usually takes time and a lot of willingness on their part. You sound uncomfortable. You sound like your gut is telling you something is off. If I were you, I wouldn't bet on your boyfriend changing any time soon. I would cut my losses and get out of there.

Follow Kelly Bourdet on Twitter: @kellybourdet.

Future Sex explores how technology affects our personal relationships and how drugs and medications influence our sexuality. Previously on Future Sex: Should I Make a Relationship Contract Just Like Zuck?