During all my years of existence as a strong and independent woman who could understand relationships and the concept of cheating, I always vowed both to myself and others I would never stay with someone who cheated on me.
Sound familiar? That’s because it’s exactly what any other strong and independent woman would say.
It didn’t matter if the person who committed the offense was Channing Tatum or just another boy; I would never stay with a cheater because cheaters never prosper.
The words seemed like a jinx on myself. Now that I’d said them, I’d be presented with the opportunity to choose between staying and leaving, and I’d choose wrong.
All the years leading up to the incident, I was proud to say this fact remained true. I would be able to tell my future daughters about how I kicked that boy to the curb and about how no boy is worth their unhappiness, no matter what the degree.
That is, until I wouldn’t be able tell them these things anymore because I’d gone back on my word.
It’s funny how it’s so easy to determine what’s black and what’s white when you’re an outsider looking in.
I will reluctantly admit I silently judged and was constantly puzzled by those girls who stayed with boyfriends who cheated on them. It’s easy to make a promise to yourself when you’ve never experienced what those girls have.
Suffice it to say, I was young, 18 and in my freshman year of college when I found out my long-term high school “sweetheart” of a boyfriend cheated on me.
The way I found out about the indiscretion was a bit brutal, and years later, nothing has changed about that fact. We were at a house party at a mutual friend’s house. It was a typical Friday night, until it wasn’t so typical anymore.
Someone decided it would be appropriate to drop some major relationship truth bombs at this little get-together.
Some pertinent background information: My ex’s best friend, Oliver, was dating someone new; for the sake of anonymity, let’s call her Alanna. Upon meeting her, she seemed great; she was funny and meshed well with our group of friends.
Then, she started requiring all of Oliver’s attention and time, so he wasn’t allotted any time for his friends. It wasn’t long before his friends got sick of this.
One late night I was hanging out with my ex and his friend, Taylor.
They were perusing Facebook when they saw a status update posted by Alanna (aka Yoko); Taylor decided to comment on it from my ex’s Facebook by saying something to the effect of, “Give our friend his balls back.”
This wasn’t received very well by Alanna, and she proceeded to delete and block all of her boyfriend’s friends on Facebook, myself included. (It’s safe to say friendships are effectively over once you delete and block said ex-friends on social media these days.)
Now, back to the original story: Alanna was the person dropping truth bombs at the party.
She started yelling at my ex for the comment on her status because apparently that sh*t matters to some people.
Naturally, being the loyal person that I am, I came to his defense by telling her the guys were just joking around, and he wasn’t even the one who posted it.
Then, she started alluding to some secrets my ex had been keeping from me, but she didn’t come right out and say them. Never one to handle confrontation well, my ex had walked out and home from the party by this point.
Then, she practically spit out the words at me, “I don’t know why you’re defending him. He cheated on you. He hooked up with Andrea.” She said it in front of everyone at the party.
The music stopped. It felt like the world stopped as my heart dropped out of my body.
Everything and everyone was quiet. Everyone who was outside heard what she said. I started thinking, “If this isn’t true, why would he leave the moment she started saying these things?”
I was so naïve for so long, thinking he was the first person to ever love me who didn’t have to.
My fight-or-flight instinct kicked in because I could think of no way to respond to her claim, and I bolted for the bathroom to wretch up my feelings, the alcohol churning in my stomach.
I bumped into Oliver in the hall and said some choice words about his oh-so-wonderful girlfriend.
After I’d let all of my angry tears of humiliation finish streaming down my face in the bathroom, I left the party with as much dignity as I could muster to confront my ex.
In a hilarious twist of fate, I was leaving just as Andrea was arriving. I gave her my darkest glare and was on my way.
I was in no fit place to drive anywhere, but luckily, my ex lived right around the corner from the friend’s house we were at. I was cold inside and out, dreading what he would say, hoping it wasn’t true but hoping more for the truth.
I thought he would deny the accusation, but he didn’t. I felt like I’d been stabbed in the heart, and he turned the knife sideways.
Call it a woman’s intuition or whatever you’d like, but I had never liked that girl, Andrea. She’d always rubbed me the wrong way, and now I knew why.
Apparently, the incident had occurred when they’d first met the previous year, which is around the same time she and I met.
Everyone called me harsh for not giving her a chance, even though I came to find out many of the people who said this also knew what was done behind my back.
What stung even more was that after a year of being worn down, I was starting to change my tune about Andrea, thanks to Alanna insisting we hang out.
My pride was dealt a terrible blow in more ways than one. This single most dramatic incident of my life has taught me never to go against my gut.
My ex admitted what they’d done, and I broke down from the betrayal and my wounded pride.
How would I go on? I cried. And I cried. And I cried some more.
It was strange because rather than find a way home and never see this prick again, I stayed. I wanted to be held, and it didn’t matter that it was by him, even though he repulsed me to my core for lying to me for almost a year.
Part of me thinks I wanted to be in close contact with him so all of my negative feelings and energy would transfer to him so he could feel as awful as I did. After all these years, what was mine should have been his, misery included.
I’m not going to lie; my methods of coping with the situation weren’t great.
Even though we tried to work things out over the course of a few months, I was too resentful, too unforgiving.
On a rare occasion, we still had fun together, but that cloud was always looming over us. I became passive aggressive, constantly bringing up the past.
Reflecting back on this period of “trying,” I feel like he felt he owed it to me to try to work out our issues because of what he’d done and not because he actually thought things would work out in the end.
Those few months of “work” turned out to be nothing but a waste of time for the both of us.
It’s questionable as to why I was so determined to stay in this relationship, despite the fact I was so emotionally wounded and drained from it.
I know one of the reasons was because I didn’t want to feel like four years of my life had been flushed down the drain if I decided to call it quits. Plus, all those “I love yous” couldn’t have meant nothing, right?
Was I associating my self-worth with my ability to keep this relationship afloat?
If our relationship did end, I didn’t want it to end on bad terms, even if that meant perpetuating it despite its inevitable doom.
Looking back, I feel incredibly foolish for the way I handled the situation instead of just gracefully bowing out.
It was a great learning experience for me, though, and at the end of the day, I’m glad it happened. I was put through the wringer, both emotionally and mentally.
I learned what I could handle and that this relationship was not my be-all and end-all. I was just fine on my own.
For a time, he was exactly who and what I wanted, but at the end of it, all the “I love yous” meant absolutely nothing to me.
Words are wind, and it took me four years in a crappy relationship for this bit of common sense to truly sink in.
Years later, I thought this relationship would wreck me for all my attempts at future relationships. I thought I would have trust issues and ruin a good thing before it really had time to develop.
To my surprise, none of these things have happened. I am currently in a healthy and happy relationship, and I’m proud to say I haven’t let any of the negative experiences in my previous relationship affect my current relationship.
I know who and what are worth fighting for and who and what are not.