I wrote yesterday about how my relationship with an ex taught me how different types of betrayal can have lasting and damaging effects. I used to think cheating was black and white. It isn’t. I learned that it is not just the act of cheating, but the intent behind it, and also how it is handled afterwards that can go on hurting us long after any thoughts of love for a person have evaporated. Here’s the second part of my story, showing how the betrayal ran so much deeper than the physical act of sleeping with another woman.
After about a year together, Stuart* and I had been arguing worst than normal. I couldn’t exactly put my finger on what was wrong, but something was different. He seemed disconnected. It was enough to urge me to investigate and late one night (after yet another argument), my heart wrenching at the disloyalty of what I was doing, I opened his laptop and started to read his MSN conversation history. After reading a couple, I started to feel like more and more uncomfortable with betraying his trust in this way. There was nothing there! A few nasty messages about me to his friends about me not giving him enough sex, but I was used to that and there was nothing as dramatic as I had feared.
And then, there it was. The conversation I had unknowingly, but instinctively been looking for.
As I read in horror the detail in which he was BRAGGING about having had sex with a girl in our bed, without protection – a girl I knew and whom he was friends with – I fell to the ground totally winded and breathless by my discovery. It was literally like someone had stabbed me in the back and immediately I understood where the phrase had originated.
I looked at the date and realised with horror which night it was. It was about a month before, we’d argued and I had driven off to my sister’s. I had tried to call him when I arrived and couldn’t get through. Not for the first time, he had gone out and was ignoring my calls, which always made me crazy. But when the next day he still didn’t get in touch, I felt like something was wrong. I called incessantly until his dad answered the phone and told me to stop acting crazy. Oh the shame of not being able to explain that you’re not as insane as you’re acting. The following day Stuart called – full of love and apologies.
It was our anniversary after all.
As I went back to his flat, I noted that he’d cleaned up and changed the bedding; something that would later bear more significance than I thought possible. There were flowers and beautifully set up food on the table. He stroked my hair, kissed my forehead and told me he loved me, and I remember feeling relieved that all had been put in the past and we could limp forward once more. This memory to me now is one of the most haunting of my life.
Finding out he’d cheated was bad. That he had done it in our bed, with a girl we knew was pretty horrific. That he had put my health at risk by not using protection was so abhorrent I couldn’t even begin to make sense of it. The bragging to his friends, every sordid detail of the act in black and white for everyone to read and laugh at, made me want to rip out my own heart and never feel anything ever again.
Believe me when I say that describing to his friend how he ‘came all over her chest’ was just a snippet of the conversation that I was reading. No girl, no matter how ‘crazy’, no matter what she has done, should ever have to read something like that about a boy she loves, involving a girl she knows, in a bed in which she has since slept with said man in. A bed in which he emotionally blackmailed her into having sex with him even though she didn’t feel ready for that kind intimacy after a suicide attempt, because he had ignored the calls of the hospital the entire night – knowing she was there and why – yet didn’t come to her bedside until the following day. I did it because I thought I wasn’t being fair and that I deserved nothing more. I thought if only we could get through this one thing, we’d be ok. We’d be happy.
He belittled all my efforts by making a fool out of me and our relationship. He threw it away without a second thought, even enjoying the aftermath bravado of his conquest. That took me longer to get over than anything else.
You might think I hate Stuart for what he did. I don’t. He treated me badly, made me feel like I was worthless and only useful so long as I gave him what he wanted – sex. But it has made me appreciate how lucky I am to have found what I have now. To be with someone who’s heart would hurt if he hurt mine and vice versa. Because we are one heart. We are a team. There is no back and forth.
In a game of tennis, we are not lobbing the ball back and forth to one another. We are playing doubles – on the same side – coming up with ways to hit the ball back together.
There is another side to this coin; not an excuse but an aspect that I have to tell. For the whole year that we were together, I truly felt like I was going crazy. I had so much anger and had no idea where it came from. I knew I wasn’t well and was convinced that I was experiencing the first signs of bipolar. I much later found out that I had been experiencing PMDD (Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder) after I had decided to get the contraceptive implant, but more on that at later time.
Stuart watched his independent and happy girlfriend turn into a scared, insecure and unpredictable young woman. He certainly didn’t deal with the situation correctly, but he was young, naive and had never had a girlfriend before, let alone one who was experiencing extreme hormonal imbalances, on top of deep seated insecurities. Cheating was his way out of the relationship that he didn’t know he wanted. Months later he apologised, but as you’ve seen from my video, the damage has been done. Cheating was just a very small part of the betrayal and for years I was paranoid and anxious about boyfriends going on nights out, something that sometimes still rears it’s ugly head.
We are all human, we all make mistakes. But how we deal with those mistakes and how we treat people is what ultimately defines us. I urge every single person to think about what long time damage you could be inflicting on someone, simply by not being honest. If you are unhappy, or you aren’t sure, leave. Do not punish the person you’re with for your indecision, or your selfishness. Don’t scar them with insecurity and mistrust.
You’re either in, or you’re out.
*Names have been changed