Whether you’ve been cheated on, suspect you have OR done the dirty yourself, the whole experience is a life-changer. I reckon though, that being cheated on is in fact the best thing that can happen to anyone.
Let me set you a lil scene. It was 2015. I was teaching a class of year 3/4 students. My boyfriend at the time was on holiday with a buddy in the Caribbean. At break time, I looked at my phone. I had a Facebook message.
Hey are you x’s girlfriend?– Becky With The Good Hair
My heart sank immediately. He’d been hurt whilst on holiday. I checked her profile. They both worked for the same airline. I put two and two together – she was an air hostess on the same trip and was contacting me to inform me of his injury.
If only he’d been fucking injured. Broken his fucking leg.
Nope, her next message broke me instead.
I’ve been seeing him for 4 months. I’m so sorry.– Becky
Immediately I ran to the staff bathroom and insisted she called me. Weirdly my first reaction was that she was lying. There’s NO WAY he would ever do something like this. I’d NEVER had a reason not to trust him (except hindsight reminds me I did, I reaaally did have reasons).
She recounted the times they’d spent together and I tallied them up with what he’d told me.
But for some reason I just couldn’t believe that they’d slept together. Maybe that’s because for most of the relationship we hadn’t managed to do the deed that many times due to ‘issues’ in the penis department. How had he managed to boff her for 4 months but couldn’t get a lob on once? And then it came…
Well we’ve done everything BUT full sex, because, well, you know…– Becky
But she obviously hadn’t.
So I called him and left the angriest, most foul-mouthed, full of hurt and outrageously visceral voicemail I’ve ever left anyone that wasn’t a customer services rep that wouldn’t refund me.
It was a couple of hours before I heard from him. But Becky made sure to let me know that he’d been in contact with her to ensure damage control.
I went back to my Mum’s, she was so poorly, and she asked me to forgive him. She knew she didn’t have much time left and she didn’t want to see me alone. He could look after me, provide for me, and everyone makes mistakes.
My head was all over the place.
I hated and loved him equally. I needed him as much as I needed to destroy every single one of his belongings. He repulsed me as much as he charmed me.
I spoke to mutual friends, my sister and others around me at the time who assured me it would’ve been some silly, ‘lad’ mistake that got out of hand. That maybe she would’ve pursued him relentlessly. That maybe he needed his last stab of freedom before settling down.
He of course repeated the same rhetoric. It was a mistake. He was hounded. He relented. He was stupid. He realised what he could lose with me. He was ashamed. HE WAS HURT.
And I listened. I looked at what I could lose – his amazing family, our home, our mutual friends, our lifestyle, my pride, the fight for him (ew) and I stayed.
It was FUCKING AWFUL.
I was broken. I wasn’t pretty enough. Sexy enough. Happy enough. Attentive enough. Interesting enough. Funny enough. It was my fault this happened.
I couldn’t watch any film or TV show that mentioned cheating.
I needed access to his phone at all times.
I didn’t believe a word that came out of his mouth.
I was 5 minutes away from cutting him open, whilst sleeping and installing a tracker.
I didn’t recognise myself.
Whilst I won the fight for him, I lost the fight for me.
And what a prize he was. Our sex life never improved. He did about two weeks of repentance before going back to his usual ways. He would often emotionally abuse me by putting me down or comparing me. To make me appear a worse person than he was.
Our relationship survived on barely surviving. Of trying to prove that we could rescue something.
And my confidence, our love, the trust and who I was a person dwindled to dust.
And then the second text came.
I can’t wait to fuck you again– Young Becky From Work With The Shit Hair
And it so happened to come whilst he was passed out drunk and his sister and two friends were standing in our kitchen after a night out.
I tore downstairs with his phone, showing them all the messages.
I was incandescent with rage.
Totally shocked, I couldn’t stop shaking with adrenaline and fear.
His sister tried to comfort me. The boys wondered whether to wake him and take him out of the house.
It was a few hours of us sat around in a convalescing circle before he emerged.
I threw it on the floor beside him. I told him I’d seen everything. That he was every name under the sun. That now his friends and family know what a scum bag he was. That he’d fucked everything up.
And what did he do? Deny it of course.
Too drunk and too dumb to realise that we’d all seen the messages.
The next day I called my sister and my friends. They all told me enough was enough. What I’d needed to hear the first time.
But I had nowhere to go. No friends to stay with. No home to go back to as my Mum was too ill and there was nowhere to sleep in their already tiny council house.
So I bided my time. I let him beg on the floor. I let him cry. I let him talk about proposing. I let him think there was an ounce of chance of getting back together, just long enough to plan my escape.
I needed the money I had invested into the house he/we bought to set myself up and I couldn’t leave until he agreed to help me move. I even had to manipulate him into thinking that I’d just move out for 6 months to clear my head, so that he’d give me the money.
I knew that if I told him where to shove it, I’d be left with nothing.
The power those who cheat hold is unbelievable.
But I was more powerful.
Because I left. Because I saw my worth. Because I carved out a future free from hurt.
It wasn’t easy. He came back into my life as a support when my Mum died and I saw his good side again. I even fleetingly thought about taking the easy route and getting back together.
But being single, having friends that rallied around me, having a support network that reiterated how strong I was, how much respect I had for myself and how much better off I was, saw me through.
It’s so easy to judge people for staying and people for leaving. I’ve experienced both. I learned a lot of lessons from staying the first time.
Like I’d been ignoring red flags all along – suspicious text messages, preciousness over his phone, odd names and numbers popping up. Like I wasn’t really in love with him. Like I was putting less into the relationship than he was.
Like I understood why he cheated.
Neither of our needs were being met in that relationship. Some people can do the right thing, front it and end a relationship that isn’t working. Others treat their partner so poorly in the hope that they escape from having to do the deed. Others cheat as an escape.
It can happen to anyone, in any relationship – and that thought is what made all of my future relationships *that* much better.
Because when you understand that no relationship is unbreakable, you make more of an effort to fortify it.
When you understand that people will have their heads turned towards a source that could be providing something they’re missing, you realise how important it is to communicate.
You realise that everything you do in a relationship is a choice. A choice to put everything in. A choice to be faithful.
Faithful relationships don’t happen by chance – they happen by choice.
I’m not saying you or I will be cheated on in the future. What I am saying is, that if you are – you’ll be so much better for it.
If you want a more lighthearted look at being cheated on, I wrote about Beyonce’s song, ‘Hold Up‘ and how that perfectly encapsulates what it’s like.
Furthermore, my good friend Laila is joining me on a brand new episode of She Did What? this coming Friday to talk about what it was like to be in my support group when this all happened, how we feel about cheating and much more. Subscribe here!
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