First off, let me offer full disclosure: I have been on the other side of this coin.
I have made my mistakes, I have chosen my actions poorly, I have cheated on boyfriends before. Having never had been cheated on, it had been easy for me to minimize the impact my actions had.
But of course, what goes around, comes around and last year I found myself falling down the rabbit hole of infidelity, but this time, on the flip side. In hindsight, the way I reacted to it was pretty pathetic. Believing myself to be an extremely strong woman, I always assumed that if anyone were to ever cheat on me, my course of action would be elementary – leave. Never would I expect that I would be “one of those” women, too weak and insecure to recognize her own worth. But when my boyfriend-at-the-time’s indiscretions hit me in the face like a tonne of bricks, I was left breathless, speechless, floored.
I remember the first tip off, and the warm sensation that took over my entire body. Buzzing filled my head as I slowly connected the dots. And when it clicks, when you confirm your worst nightmare, in an instant, everything you thought you knew shifts into something ugly and unrecognizable.
This is what happens when you cheat on a girl:
The first feeling that takes over is anger. Pure, unbridled anger. How could he do this? What a fucking idiot! Doesn’t he know you are the best thing that has ever happened to him? That he will never find someone quite like you? At this stage, with rage clouding your vision, it’s easy to pack your things, get out, vowing to him, your friends, your family and yourself that you are FUCKING DONE.
But then, a few days pass and time begins to erode those feelings of hatred, allowing a new emotion to set in: sadness. The highlight reel of your relationship begins to play on repeat in your thoughts. All the good times seem to weigh heavier on your heart than that one moment of his “lapse in judgement”. Are you really going to throw it all away, for one teeny-tiny indiscretion? You picture your future, you see him there, you miss him, you want him back. The anger begins to simmer, and eventually reduces away to an unadulterated longing for what you knew.
Confusion floods your rationality as your mind quickly begins to work overtime in the justification department. Maybe it was all the other woman’s fault? Because after all, he is JUST a man. Maybe he drank too much? Because he can’t really be blamed if he blacked out, right? Were you fighting that night? Because if you were mean to him, maybe you deserved it? Had you not been having sex with him enough? Because that could certainly drive a man to stray. Was it just the one time? Because you could probably get over just one or two times… Was it sexual, was it emotional? Because sexual doesn’t seem as bad as emotional, but then again, maybe it’s worse? As the thoughts come avalanching in, you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed, losing control on your sanity, and your ability to make a logical, intelligent decision.
And throughout this time, you are pushing away your friends, family, not even allowing yourself to be alone with your own thoughts for too long, because you know what will happen if you let those people, those thoughts have a moment in the spotlight. As the alienation drives a deeper wedge, the hold he has on you becomes augmented. More time is spent together, more empty promises are uttered and the imagined gravity that is pulling you toward him becomes more pronounced. If you don’t forgive him, and you don’t stay together, what is left of you?
So, you decide to stay.
And even though it feels icky, even though there is a constant pit in your stomach, and your eyes have taken on this strange new tendency to burn with tears, seemingly out of the blue, you hold on tightly to his hand, sleep stubbornly closer than ever before.
Because you are not a quitter. You know this person, you love this person, you believed in them whole-heartedly for so much time. You won’t give up on this person, you will work through this with them, and come out the other side, stronger and happier than ever before.
Because your ego is standing defiantly in the way of your common sense, blocking your ability to see what is right in front of you. How could you be wrong? How did you not see?
Because you’ve invested so much time in to this relationship, to throw that all away would be such a waste, the thought of starting from scratch again causing you to feel sick to your stomach.
But as time goes on, and his syrupy, adoring, post-cheating behavior begins to fall back to his usual ways, your confidence begins to fall too. You begin to question every extra minute he’s not at home, wonder every time a text comes through, viciously challenge him on every single thing that has even a slight aroma of dishonesty. You are suspicious, you are jealous and you are unsure of yourself, of him. You are finding it difficult to dicern what is right and what is wrong, savoury and unsavoury.
It’s just… you were so blindsided that first time. You truly had no idea, thought never in a million years would he ever do such a thing, never threaten your relationship like that. When it happened, it sent you in to a spinning state of chaos, the shock freezing your ability to make a rational decision. You are constantly interrogating, never believing, because you never saw it coming it the first place… how will you see it coming, should it come again?
Your confidence in him and your relationship is tattered, and so is your confidence in yourself. Why weren’t you enough? What had you not been giving him? Had you gained weight? Did you not put enough effort in? Why did he want her, when he could have you, whenever he wanted? Your thoughts become plagued with self-doubt, as you engage in a constant mental battle. Half the time you are angry, burning with paranoia at him. The other half, you are ripping your own self-worth into tiny shreds.
All the while, you are self-medicating with the comfort that is his presence, his “love”, trying to suffocate those taunting thoughts with what you know – him.
Eventually, though, you reach a crossroads. You are exhausted with the uncertainty, the lack of confidence, the suspicion, the anger, the frustration, the confusion. All the emotions you are not supposed to feel in a relationship are the ones that are constantly present, invariably nagging at your thoughts.
So you either have to make a constant decision to let it all go and stay, or let it all go and… go.
Either way, you will likely never be the same. That sense of unbridled optimism and wholehearted belief in “true love” is tainted. When those rose-coloured glasses come off, they stay off. When I was cheated on, it completely and forever changed my idealistic view of relationships. Shit happens, man. Shitty people happen, shitty situations happen and sometimes good people just do shitty things. The only thing you have control over is how you react to the shit.
Staying with the one who cheats on you is a completely respectable decision, if your heart, and head, can handle it. In fact, I applaud you for being able to work through and push passed a situation that can completely demolish others, myself included. In my case, and in my situation, the risk was not worth the reward. Sure, I “wasted” some time… but I also gained some life-altering perspectives that shifted who I was as a person, and who I wanted to grow to be.
When I was cheated on, my heart was smashed, but what really left an imprint was the way it shook my confidence in my own intuition. Still to this day, I question my ability to recognize duplicity, or hone in on deception. I used to think I was a pretty good judge of character, but once you are duped, you find yourself examining everyone with a slightly less idealistic eye.
I always knew that my karma would come around, and dismantle my life at some point. And you know what? I’m glad it did. Once I experienced the agony that comes hand in hand with being deceived in that way, I knew I would never do something like that ever again. Grow through what you go through, friends.