I first met Jen* one summer when a mutual friend brought her to a party at my boyfriend Jordan’s* house. I couldn’t pinpoint why, but I thought there was something a little weird about her.
Boy, was I right.
Jordan and I had been together for three years, and that summer was a rough one. We’d been having major disagreements on an important personal issue, which caused a lot of tension between us. When we couldn’t come to an agreement, we eventually decided to call it an impasse and try to move on.
That autumn, we moved in together — a decision that was, in retrospect, pretty stupid given the state of our relationship. Still, I was proud of myself for finding us a perfect little love-nest of an apartment, and I put our problems in the past. Living together would be a fresh start.
It wasn’t easy, though. There was a big emotional gap between us and we were going through the motions. It was starting to get cold, so I attributed it to general weather-based depression.
Around the same time, Jen began dating Henry*, who was Jordan’s best friend. The four of us began to hang out regularly, though I still couldn’t quite connect with Jen. She seemed to keep me at arm’s length, which made our gatherings a little uncomfortable — but when I learned that other friends had similar experiences with her, I decided it probably wasn’t personal.
A few months later, my relationship with Jordan seemed to be back on track — or so I thought. In December, days before my 23rd birthday, he said those dreaded words: “We need to talk.” He felt like our relationship was “dying,” he said, but he wanted to make things work. I was crushed; this seemed completely out of left field! As we talked, though, Jordan did a 180, chalking up his worries to our summer disagreement, the weather, and his ongoing fear of living together.
Yet again, we set our problems aside. Yet again, we tried to move on.
For the most part, it worked — or, again, so I thought. The next year, Jordan and I celebrated our four-year anniversary with a quiet meal at a restaurant, then headed home to relax. Sitting together in the living room as he watched basketball, I opened our shared laptop — and time stood still.
There it was, proof that my boyfriend had been having an affair with Jen before she began dating Henry. As I read through their emails, it all started to make sense: why he’d thought our relationship was “dying,” why she would randomly show up at the bar where he worked, why he didn’t come home one night and returned in the middle of the afternoon the next day, saying he was with his guy friends and that everyone’s phone had died. (Yes, I seriously believed that.)
I went through every email, read every detail, and saw every naked picture. And then I exploded, screaming and demanding that Jordan tell me everything. It took him three hours to own up to it all, from “We just kissed,” to “We were seeing each other for a while,” to finally “We were sleeping together for months.” He told me it happened because she understood him during our rough patch.
I was furious. Instead of lashing out at Jordan, though, I focused all my anger at Jen, blackballing her from our group of friends. Henry broke up with her. I was out for blood.
My relationship over, I moved two hours away to give myself space to nurse my wounds and mend my broken heart. My anger continued to consume me, though, and I didn’t see an end in sight.
That began to change during one visit home, when I met up with Henry. He had been devastated by his breakup with Jen; I knew he loved her. I told him that if he wanted to be with her — which he did — then he shouldn’t hold back on my account. When they got back together, I wasn’t sure if I’d ever see my good friend again.
I was still angry at Jen, but I knew that if I wanted Henry in my life, I would have to forgive her. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that Jordan must have hurt her, too. He had promised her so much; she thought he would leave me for her. I knew that the only way I’d feel better was with some closure.
And so I extended an olive branch to Jen via email, apologizing for all the nasty things I had said and done. When she replied with an apology of her own, the weight lifted. That night, I slept soundly for the first time since finding out about the affair.
My first face-to-face interaction with Jen didn’t come until a year later at a mutual friend’s wedding. It was incredibly awkward, but that’s all it was — just awkward. I was relieved to find that I felt no hatred or anger toward her.
After that, things started to become more comfortable between us. When our paths crossed in group settings, we talked, laughed, joked. We even exchanged phone numbers, and eventually, I was texting with her more often than with Henry. I was genuinely interested in her life — and when Henry asked her to marry him, I was genuinely happy for them.
Jordan and I were both guests at their wedding last summer, which marked the first time I’d seen him in three years. At the reception, when he sat down beside me to apologize, I asked him to stop. I didn’t want to think about him or the past.
I wasn’t at the wedding for him; I was there for Henry and Jen. I was there for my friends — both of them.
*Names have been changed