We've all had friends who've been cheated on, but we always think it won't happen to us. How could it? We're happy in our relationship and, even if things aren't always great, our partner would never do that to us.
But all of the sudden, something changes. At first you can't put a finger on it, but your subconscious is telling you something is wrong. The atmosphere is tenser, your SO is distant, his phone is always facing the table and he has plans without you.
And then one day, a mistake is made: A message is received at a late hour, the phone is left unlocked, the Facebook account is left open on your computer. Maybe he just confesses. And your world collapses like a sand castle when it gets hit by the waves.
When this happened to me, I was a mess for a while. And while I came out of it stronger and more confident, I had to go through some brutal phases first:
The "Why Am I Not Enough?" Phase
I couldn't help wondering why he looked for someone else. Was I not good enough for him? Was I not smart enough? Not pretty enough? How had I failed and caused him to want someone else?
I kept repeating those questions in my head over and over again with no answer.
The "Identification of the Other Person" Phase
After the shock of the betrayal wore off, I was a girl on a mission. I wanted to know who exactly this other person was. Do I know her? Does she know about me? Do we have friends in common?
I begged for her name. I wanted to know exactly with whom I was competing: what she looked like, what was her job, who her friends were, what type of person she was.
It was actually even worse when I did find out who she was. She was unemployed, living with her parents, not exactly gorgeous. Now I had even more self-doubt when I couldn't compare myself to her in the obvious ways.
The "Stalking" Phase
Even though I was assured by all of my friends that she wasn't better than me and I shouldn't focus on her, I still stalked her on social media. I wanted to know if she was still thinking about him, if she could tell I was spying on her.
I even read multiple articles on her blog to see if she had mentioned him. I had a lot of material to work with, and I jumped to conclusions -- some that were true, some that definitely weren't.
The "Lack of Confidence" Phase
During those first weeks, I was unable to look people in the eye. I just couldn't concentrate at work or at home. I was seeing him online, and imagined they were talking again.
I had to deal with my constant anxiety and still put on a brave face in meetings with my co-workers. More than once, I was forced to go to the bathroom to wash my face with cold water and take deep breaths so I could continue to keep it together.
The "Comparison" Phase
Every time I got into my car, I would compare my ancient Fiat with her shiny new car. When I applied makeup in the morning, I was thinking about her natural look. The fact that I didn't have my natural hair color, but she did, was making me feel like a fraud.
The "Crying" Phase
I often found myself unable to hide the sadness and the loneliness I felt. He was near me, but he was no longer even my friend.
I would burst into tears for no reason and continued to listen to sad songs. After a while, sadness became my company and I was actually starting to enjoy it.
The "Support Group" Phase
All of my friends knew what was happening -- I was bringing up this subject every 5 minutes. I was calling them just to complain and get their pity.
I wanted their undivided attention and I went as far as calling friends that I hadn't spoken with in years, just to be able to tell them my story.
The "Revenge Body" Phase
It wasn't until one of my best friends cut me off that I was able to see the mess I was becoming.
She suggested I should start working out, that it would help with endorphins to ward off my depression.
My motivation at first was to show my ex-boyfriend how good I was looking, but after a few days, I remembered why I love sports and the motivation came from inside me.
The "Total Makeover" Phase
Around the same time that I started to exercise, I also started to take better care of myself. I was dressing better, trying out new makeup tips and smiling more.
I stopped complaining and told my friends to stop listening to me if I started again. My phone was in my purse during working hours, with Facebook chat turned off. For a while, I kept myself busy with all sorts of activities.
The "Moving On" Phase
One day, I suddenly realized I just didn't care about this girl anymore, and I didn't care much about my ex, either. I just woke up one morning and realized it had been awhile since I last viewed her Facebook profile, blog or Instagram account. The need to check on her was gone.
I didn't need any assurance that I was better than anyone. I finally understood we were not in competition.
It took me a while to heal and to understand cheating happens to plenty of people. A friend of mine says in love there are no victims, only volunteers, and I think that's true now.
I'm still not as trusting as I once was, but I now know I'm capable of handling anything. I'm happier, and while I wouldn't wish the experience on anyone, it taught me how to be a stronger person.