"Once a cheater, always a cheater." Or so they say.
I used to not be able to explain why I cheated on my ex-boyfriend. I couldn't wrap my head around what I had done- but there was no disputing the fact I had done it. I had done what I, at one time, considered to be the unimaginable. And I didn't do it just once.
The guilt that had been built up over the six months leading up to our breakup began making me literally sick to my stomach. I could barely be around my ex without feeling like my insides were bouncing around on a trampoline; his simple presence triggered me into an internal fit of shame and denial.
I woke up one morning at a guy named Joe's place. I had met him a few weeks back at my friend's law school's Halloween party. So that morning actually marked the second time I had woken up in a daze in his apartment. I could blame alcohol for the fact I slept with Joe, but to be honest- I knew what I was doing. I knew going into that first party that I wanted to hook up with some "cool" law school student and I knew once drinking became involved, I probably wouldn't have a hard time doing so. What I didn't, or barely thought about was the fact I had a boyfriend. I had a boyfriend who was texting me constantly, wondering if I was okay. I think he knew in his gut something was off, but I don't think he knew the extent of my actions.
When I left Joe's apartment, the rain was absolutely down pouring. On top of that, I was in a mini dress with my fingers wrapped tightly around my six-inch high-heels. I found my car (God knows how) and made it about two minutes down the street before running out of gas. The icing on the cake is that I had lost my wallet during my little adventure. Sobriety crept onto me and my body began to shake. I remember throwing my head against the steering wheel and beginning to cry as though there was no air left to breathe. An angel of a friend came to the gas station and filled up my tank. As I drove home, I knew, with the sickest feeling I have ever encountered, that I had to break up with my boyfriend.
We had been together since we were seventeen; he was my best friend; he was all I knew.
I think people who have never cheated or have been cheated on seeing it in such black and white terms. If you cheat, you're a bad person. It's pretty much that simple. But the truth is, cheating is much more complex than that. There are so many aspects to why one might cheat- by no means am I defending it, it's an absolutely horrible thing to go through, but it's not always as simple as someone doing it simply because they feel like it, or because they're a bad person with no soul.
As I drove home on that rainy morning, I googled counselors in my area and I made an appointment with the first one I saw. I sat down in front of her and for the first time since the cheating began, I let it all onto the table. I told her about the first time it happened. I told her about how he said things to me my boyfriend didn't say and how he convinced me I was special to him. Then I told her about the second time- how it was with the same person and how it was after promising my boyfriend it would never, ever happen again. Then I told her about the guy from the nightclub and finally, I told her about Joe. I was hysterical, hearing everything out loud for the first time. What the fuck was wrong with me? How could I be so selfish and thoughtless and downright cruel? How could I do that to someone I legitimately loved?
That's the thing- I did love my boyfriend. I loved him with the kind of "first love" feeling that I'll never feel again. But I knew he wasn't the one. I knew we were too different to end up together. But he was my world and to tell him what I had done would completely ruin him. I was young, he had become part of me, and I was scared to death of losing him. But I had cheated too many times and there was no going back. That day, I broke up with my boyfriend without telling him what I had done. I couldn't hurt him any more than I already had and I could no longer be in a relationship that had become built off lies and sadness.
Thanks to a lot of quality time with my therapist and four years' worth of self-reflection, I am now able to see why I did what I did. Here's the thing. I was insecure as hell. Not only insecure within myself but insecure in my relationship. We had been off balance for years, but I was addicted to the losing fight. I had known for a long time I didn't feel the same I did for the first couple years, but I refused to accept it. And because of that, I dug myself into a hole so deep it took years and years and freaking years to find the surface.
Even though I have moved on, every time I think about how my first love came to an end, I get the same sick feeling I got throughout the experience. What I did is a terrible thing to do someone and I don't think my ex will ever forgive me for it. But it's something I just have to live with.
What I want people to understand is that when someone cheats, it says way more about them than the person they're cheating on. It may mean they're insecure and unfulfilled in their relationship. It may mean they fell out of love and don't know how to handle it. It may be because someone else is making them feel a way their partner doesn't anymore. Or maybe it's because they're just a straight ass hole.
I went on to cheat on my next boyfriend, and again, it was due to my own unhappiness and inability to end a relationship that was already long gone. If you're cheating, or have cheated and are keeping it a secret, my advice to you is to really take a look at the situation and why it's happened. It's hard to face shame, but truth be told if you've cheated- it's most likely time to break up. I don't believe that cheating makes you a bad person, but it does mean something is very wrong in your relationship. Blame it on the alcohol all you want, or maybe take a deeper look inside yourself. If you are able to do that, it could save you from the inevitable karma that haunted me for years.