I Cheated On My Boyfriend Three Times, & I Learned I Was Too Immature For Love

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When I was a freshman in college, I thought I met the love of my life. He was cool and fun and sexy, an older frat guy who was good at beer pong and knew exactly how to make me laugh. Within weeks of our first meeting, he became my official boyfriend. Within six months, we moved in together. Another six months later and we were engaged.

It was a whirlwind romance by any definition — except for the fact that I cheated on my boyfriend three times. Despite the heartache it caused, my experience with infidelity taught me a lot about love, relationships, and growing up.

Before college, I had been a serial monogamist. Since my first schoolgirl relationship at 14, I had several long-term boyfriends, and was never single for longer than two months at a time. I lost my virginity the summer before high school, and after that, had been sexually active with my subsequent partners. Despite my "experience," as my friends and future boyfriends would call it, I had no idea what it was like to be in a serious adult relationship — that is, until I went off to college.

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That's when I met the man I would date, get engaged to, and inevitably cheat on. That's when I learned what a real romantic relationship was.

Like any new romance, the beginning of my relationship with my college boyfriend was like a fairy tale. We were inseparable: He walked me to class, studied with me in the library, ate meals with me, and slept over nearly every night. We partied together on weekends, got to know each other's friends, and started talking about The Future. I was 18, and although I had been in what I had considered a "serious" relationship before, this was the first time I had the freedom to explore what I thought an adult relationship was supposed to be like — love, sex, drama and all.

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The first time I cheated on my boyfriend, I wrote it off as a foolish mistake. I was drunk at a concert with a group of friends who found some cute boys for us to hang out with. After a half-dozen 20-ounce beers, a couple of joints, and a few sexy country songs, could I really be help accountable for my drunken actions? I loved my boyfriend, after all, and I knew we were going to be together forever, so what was one stupid mistake?

Even though I tried to write it off as insignificant, a week after I cheated I fessed up to my boyfriend out of sheer guilt. His face crumpled as I admitted, as he had suspected, that something did happen the night of the concert I didn't want to tell him about. His eyes burned with anger when I tried to tell him the same excuse I had been telling myself: I was drunk, and it didn't mean anything.

Eventually, he did forgive me, but after cheating, there was a distance between us that no amount of time seemed to be able to close. Something had changed in our relationship, and it wasn't just broken trust on behalf of my boyfriend. It was an uneasy feeling in my gut and a tiny voice in my head that said, But what if you did mean it?

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Something had changed in our relationship, and it wasn't just broken trust on behalf of my boyfriend. It was an uneasy feeling in my gut and a tiny voice in my head that said, But what if you did mean it?

The second time I cheated on my boyfriend was no drunken mistake, and both of us knew it. After partying with friends, I ended up at a former crush's house and quite predictably, one thing lead to another and we slept together. The next day, that uneasy feeling in my gut had some company: pure guilt, and an overwhelming sense of being a truly terrible person. The voice got louder too, and started to say more: You did mean it, and this won't be the last time this happens, either.

When I cheated on my boyfriend for the third and last time, he wasn't actually my boyfriend — he was my fiancé. Despite the bumps in our relationship, a combination of our feelings for one another, a heavy dose of hormones, and the idea of finding happily ever after kept hurtled us towards a disastrous engagement that would only last seven uncomfortable months.

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A month before it all fell apart, I cheated on my then-fiancé with another former crush, and even before our lips touched, I knew I was doing something wrong, but that I wouldn't regret it. I needed this infidelity to get me out of my relationship, something I knew deep down needed to happen, but something I was too weak and too immature to do on my own. So I cheated — again — and it served as one last sign that not only were my fiancé and I not meant to be, but I was not mature enough to really be with anyone.

That's the biggest lesson cheating taught me: that fidelity is an exercise in trust and maturity, one that not everyone can perform. I certainly couldn't at age 20, and it showed me that not only was I not ready for a serious monogamous relationship with my ex, but that I was not ready for a serious monogamous relationship at all. I may have felt like an adult, but I didn't have the relationship experience, communication skills, patience, or empathy to embark on a forever kind of love I so desperately wanted to have. I was selfish, uncaring, immature, and too caught up in the idea of what relationships are supposed to be, rather than what my relationship was actually like.

Cheating ripped away the false narrative about my relationship that I had created — we were in love, and with love came pain and drama — and instead illuminated my love, or lack thereof, for what it was: hurtful and ugly and so necessary for me to become the faithful person I am today.

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Cheating ripped away the false narrative about my relationship that I had created — we were in love, and with love came pain and drama — and instead illuminated my love, or lack thereof, for what it was: hurtful and ugly and so necessary for me to become the faithful person I am today.

They say once a cheater, always a cheater, but after my experience, I can say that phrase is patently false. Cheating on my boyfriend multiple times taught me invaluable, albeit painful, lessons in love and relationships, on adulthood and maturity, on growing up. My actions showed me that relationships take a lot of work, not just together, but within oneself. It can't be forced, it can't be rushed, and it can't be half-hearted. When it is, people — yourself, your partner, your loved ones — get hurt.

Cheating taught me that kind of hurt never quite goes away.

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