I met him when I was 16 while on a cruise with my family. The first night, I went up to the "teen club" without my sister, who didn't want to come. I was playing air hockey with a girl I had met when he walked in. As soon as I saw him, I couldn't look away. He had gorgeous blue eyes and sandy blonde hair. He looked shy, kind and someone I wanted to get to know.
I urged him to come hang out with the girl I met, and we talked and got to know each other. As the night went on, we all went for a walk and I was shivering because it was cold on the top deck. He offered me his sweatshirt. It smelled like tobacco, cologne and something I never wanted to take off.
We were all talking, and I asked him if he had a girlfriend. He laughed and told me he didn't. Apparently he and his girlfriend had "just broken up." That made me happy because I wanted something to happen between us.
The next day was the first time we hung out alone. We told each other things we hadn't told anyone else before, and we bonded over the fact we had struggled with depression in the past. I didn't think it was possible to like him more than I did before that night, but I did.
We hung out whenever we could, holding hands, kissing, laughing, spending time with each other. After the first week, he said he needed to tell me something. He told me that he and his girlfriend were actually on a break. I was confused, considering I thought he had told me honestly that he was single the week before. I listened to him explain the situation and thought that what we were doing was still OK, because he and his girlfriend were separated. He needed time to figure out what he wanted to do with their relationship.
We continued hanging out. A few days later, he informed me he had to tell me something else. He said that he and his girlfriend were technically still together, but he had been wanting to end things for a while.
I was stunned. How could he have lied to me about that? He let me open up to him about so much stuff, and he opened up about so much stuff to me. And yet, he couldn't be honest about being in a relationship? I felt disgusted with myself. I felt like I was to blame. I couldn't believe I had been hooking up with someone who was in a committed relationship.
Before the cruise ended, he told me he would keep in touch with me, we could talk on the phone every night and we would visit each other. Although I still knew what we were doing was wrong, I had fallen into his trap. I couldn't escape. I had fallen for him and I couldn't get out.
After the cruise, I looked at his Facebook filled with photos of him and his girlfriend at dances together, on dates, cute selfies of the two of them. His Instagram was filled with "Woman Crush Wednesdays" of her, and pictures of them together. Soon after the cruise ended, they went to prom together and the pictures then appeared on my newsfeed of them staring into each other's eyes, dressed beautifully, looking as happy as ever.
Eventually, his girlfriend found out about the two of us. We messaged each other about it, and I told her honestly how I felt so badly about what I had done, and I would have never gotten involved with him in the first place had I known he was in a relationship. We talked about how he had screwed us both over, and she was very understanding of me in the situation. I didn't expect her to be so kind to me.
It's been years since this happened, and I've been able to learn from the situation and use what I learned towards other relationships and encounters. Here are some of the main things I've learned through being the "other woman" in a relationship triangle:
1. Sometimes, it's just not your fault.
I blamed myself for not thinking this guy could be lying to me and for believing everything he said. Maybe that has to do with me being naïve at times, but I honestly thought what we had was special.
After this happened, I blamed myself. But looking back, I know I wasn't the one to blame.
2. Cherish what you had in the moment.
The time I did spend with this guy was awesome. I really did have a nice time. After all, it was a vacation. I look back on what happened, and I do cherish what I had while it lasted.
3. Listen to other people's suspicions.
During the whole vacation, my sister was telling me she thought there was something fishy about him. I brushed it off, though, telling myself she was just being overprotective. I definitely should have listened to what she had observed.
4. Don't expect to find love within a short period of time.
Going into my vacation, I was hoping to meet someone and have a wonderful, spontaneous time. However, the cruise occurred during a short period of time, and I definitely shouldn't have had such high expectations. I thought I loved this guy, and I've come to realize you can't expect that to happen in such a small timeframe.
5. Don't make yourself completely available to people.
I put forward so much for this guy and made myself available to hang out during all times during the day and night. I should have spent more time with my family, and shouldn't have been so open to spending all of my time with him.
6. Don't compare yourself to his actual girlfriend.
After this happened, I would look at pictures of this guy's girlfriend and tell myself I wasn't as pretty as her, and that he was just using me. This didn't help myself feel better about my situation. It just made me feel worse about myself, but I wasn't the one committing the wrongdoing here.
7. Let him go.
Learn and move on from it. Don't continue talking to him because if you do, you're just feeding into his behavior.
Overall, the experience I had on that cruise and afterward influenced the relationships I would have later on. It made me not as trusting of men. I wish I hadn't gone through a situation like this, but I'm grateful for the lessons I learned from it. After this vacation, I made my profile picture a photo that had been taken of me during the cruise and I captioned it, "Learn from it, and let it go."
Wisdom comes from life experience; life experience is the result of repeatedly taking corrective action while courageously learning from mistakes.