Robot Hearts: Waiting periods and revenge

This week: When is it ok to start dating someone who’s just out of a relationship? and Is revenge acceptable when your girl is cheating… with one of your friends?

Question #1

Hi, Robot Hearts! Longtime reader, first-time writer. My question is simple: What’s the acceptable waiting period for dating someone who just got out of a long-term relationship? Everybody I ask seems to have a different answer for this, so I thought I’d check with my favorite warring columnists.

— Patience is a Virtue? In Uptown

Tess: My dear reader, waiting periods are for handguns and “Patience” is the name of a Guns n’ Roses song. The truth is that life is very, very short. If we had infinite time allotted to us on this earth, I’d advise you to be incredibly wary at all times. But as it is, I’m a firm believer that as soon as a relationship is over and both parties have been informed that it’s over, dating other people is appropriate. If you want to see if this is the right person for you, it is most prudent to start exploring that question now rather than wasting time. Act now, because people do tend to move on quickly. As Rhett Butler says, “I can’t go all my life waiting to catch you between husbands.” So go ahead, ask her out while she’s still in her mourning clothes.

The other thing is that waiting for some vaguely acceptable time to pass doesn’t ensure success when you finally do start dating. Some people take decades to heal completely, so there’s no way to know how much time is enough. Likely, if it’s only been weeks or months since the breakup, haters who don’t know how to read a calendar will convince themselves that you were (gasp!) cheating during the relationship. If you know that you have acted rightly, then you have nothing to fear. All of this being said, you should still be watchful for folks who need to be with someone in order to feel normal. Those people do need time alone to learn how to be independent, so allow them that time before they suck the life out of you. And as in any new relationship, some degree of caution makes sense so that you can guard your heart as this new enterprise unfolds.

Jack: I agree wholeheartedly with Tess. Our time on this earth was not meant to be spent fretting about your lover’s past lovers or “healing,” or other wasteful pursuits like caring what other people think. Only you and this new person will know if it’s right. You will hear many people tell you that someone fresh out of a relationship needs to bang out a few rebound hotties (or rebound uggos, depending on the person) before they’re ready to heal. That’s bullshit though. There is a reason that they are not with the last person; it’s now your job to be better for them than that asshat was. If you can’t be, they’ll find someone who can and the cyclical relationship boat will sail on, with or without you. Don’t be scared to take that chance….

The worst that could happen is they continue to bang their ex-boyfriend and you get your heart broken. (Go on to Question #2 with advice on how to deal with a scenario like that).

Question #2

I’ve been seeing this girl for 5 months and things have been great. Night after night spent together, passionate kissing, great dates, fantastic conversation, long walks on the… you get the point. I found out a few days ago that she has secretly been sleeping with one of my so-called friends for about two weeks, maybe longer, while still sleeping with me and saying she “thinks she’s in love with me.” I haven’t told her I know and I don’t just want to drop the bomb on her and storm off. I want revenge. I want her to feel the betrayal and heart break I feel right now. What should I do (if anything)? Do I walk away the bigger man? Do I hit her cat with my car? I’m undecided.

— Heart shattered In the Fan

Jack: A Question concerning plotting, revenge and heartbreak? Somewhere I smile coldly and laugh maniacally as I begin to type.

In certain situations it’s always better to walk away without a word. The cold shoulder is one of the most devastating maneuvers that one can pull in the game of life. Unfortunately (or fortunately), the cold shoulder isn’t enough in your scenario. A betrayal of this magnitude calls for maximum punishment. An entire face for an eye, so to speak. While it’s difficult to tell you exactly what to do without the specifics of your cheating girl’s and former friend’s lives (i.e. address, parents address, dogs name, name of their elementary school, etc.), I can give you some words to get you started.

At first, say nothing. Swallow your pride, smile, and keep everything cool. Keep banging her. Grin and bear it. Whatever devious, hopefully live-shattering plan you unlock will be useless if she thinks that you know anything. Next, devise a scheme that will ultimately crush her and this asshole you called a friend. A plan not unlike the Manhattan Project. We need total destruction… of property, psyche, parents, etc. Use drugs, guns, rabid bunnies, anthrax, whatever you need to make it happen. (Email me personally and I can meet you in a dark alley and help with the planning and for a fee, the execution of said plan.) A man should always be the “bigger man”, unless it’s time to not be the “bigger man”, and this is that time. (That last line was so “Dalton-esqe” (Roadhouse).)

… Or you could just disown your friend and dump the cheating whore in one fell swoop. I like my first idea better though.

Tess: My question about your question is: are you In A Relationship with this woman? If you guys have just been loosely “seeing each other” for months with no DTR, you really don’t have any grounds for being disappointed here. If this girl can sleep with you, fall in love with you, and everything else without officially being your girlfriend, it follows that she can probably do the same with other people in the meantime. In this case, you should probably either have a DTR immediately, or just slink away into the darkness with your tail between your legs and know better next time.

Assuming that she is indeed your girlfriend, you need to ask yourself how you really feel about this and what you want to happen next. I don’t believe in any of this “maximum punishment” hogwash; the purveyors of revenge are usually the only ones who end up truly poisoned by it. When you think about her upcoming reaction, do you want her to apologize for hours and beg to have another chance? If so, explain how betrayed you feel and then give her that second chance. If you decide to give her a second chance, your forgiveness must be real: no guilt-tripping, holding it over her head for the rest of the relationship, and fabricating a whole slew of new trust issues. If you come to the conclusion that no apology could be enough, then a polite phone call or short meeting should be enough to let her know exactly why you won’t be returning her calls any longer.

Would you like to be similarly fulfilled?? Send your relationship questions to and start the argument. Also, check out past columns at Robot Hearts, keep tabs on Jack at Jack Goes Forth, and see what Tess is up to over at Parasol Party.

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