Last year, one of my best friends was cheated on by her boyfriend. Her boyfriend went to another school, and she found out that he hooked up with someone from his school. The girl he cheated with thought he had broken up with my friend, and because they were at different schools, neither of them knew each other. The guy didn’t think he’d get caught.
My friend was basically the last to know, and I was the first person she called when she found out. Of course she was devastated. And she kept wanting to know why. Her questions went from HOW COULD HE DO THIS TO ME to WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME? Was she not attractive to him anymore? Did she do something wrong? Was he the problem or was she?
Being cheated on leaves you with insecurity and low self-esteem. It makes it hard to trust people and to be vulnerable again. It changes people and has lasting effects. I know all of this and yet I myself cheated on my boyfriend, and while I definitely regret it, it gave me a perspective that was helpful to my friend.
Even before I had a boyfriend, I never thought I would cheat on someone, EVER. I didn’t think I could hurt someone like that, and I consider myself an honest person. I’ve always been a loyal friend so cheating never crossed my mind.
But then I was at a summer program away from home, and on the first day, I made eye contact with a guy in my group, and we had a lot of chemistry. I told him I had a boyfriend, but we kept flirting with each other, which I told myself wasn’t cheating. Witty banter wasn’t cheating right? Taking extra time to look good before I saw him wasn’t cheating right? Hanging out as friends wasn’t cheating right? Maybe not, but by the end of the first week, we crossed a line. And this went on until the program ended.
I felt horrible, but didn’t know how to tell my boyfriend. I wondered if I should say nothing because telling him would hurt him too much, but I also realized that I was just protecting myself. I also knew that I didn’t cheat because something was wrong with him. He was still the guy I was attracted to on every level. I just wasn’t ready for a serious boyfriend, and I started to realize that after a few months of dating him, but was too unsure of myself and afraid of confrontation to say anything. It wasn’t planned, but cheating was my way out.
I’m ashamed to say I never told my boyfriend. I broke up with him when I got back, and told him the truth that I wasn’t ready for a serious relationship. But I never told the entire truth, so I live with a lot of guilt. What if my secret comes out one day? On the other hand, what if telling him relieves me of guilt but causes him pain for no reason, since we aren’t dating anymore anyway?
I hadn’t told anyone, until the day I told my friend. I wanted her to know that her boyfriend’s cheating had nothing to do with her. It was about him and it was 100% wrong, and he probably was just as afraid as I was to have the conversation we both should have had with the people we were dating before we cheated.
I know I’ll never cheat again. The guilt is horrible, and the idea of hurting someone I care about makes me nauseous even today. But what I’ve also learned from my experience is that someone else’s bad behavior is about them, not you. You’ll still feel hurt and betrayed if someone cheats on you, but it’s a little less painful to know that there’s nothing wrong with you at all. The other person just has some growing up to do.