I have always been that bright, happy girl who never let the sucker punches that often accompany unhealthy relationships leave a mark, but that all changed when my most recent, and most serious, relationship ended.
The break up came (mostly) as a shock, as is almost always the case when you are being dumped (because come on, who wouldn't want to date ME?) when my recently-long-distance boyfriend broke up with me over the phone.
It was one of those conversations where you know what is happening right before it does, and my heart sank after I heard him say, “Hi,” in that drippy voice that often accompanies breaking hearts. I don't remember much of what was said after he made the announcement that he was no longer interested in investing himself in our relationship, but I do remember what happened after I hung up.
Instead of dissolving into tears, I skipped all of my classes and spent the afternoon riding sketchy carnival attractions in a K-Mart parking lot with my best friend. Let me tell you, nothing is better than knowing that your ex is probably concerned over how you're taking the break up when you are gleefully riding a creaking tilt-a-whirl in a parking lot..
Unfortunately, outside of that one afternoon my behavior after being dumped was far from blithe. I couldn't eat for the first week after we broke up, I spent hours lying upside down on the couch crying at whoever happened to stop by and worried far too much about what and who my ex was doing.
The shock and grief was exacerbated by the discovery a few days after we had broken up that he had cheated on me during our relationship, and then just to rub it in he began dating a new girl (not even having the courtesy to choose the one he had cheated on me with) less than a week after he dumped me.
This was a guy that I had seriously seen a future with, who had mentioned his desire to marry me and whose family I had become close to after staying with them for six weeks in the summer.
In the time since our relationship has ended, I have dealt with a bevy of emotional responses in reaction to the lies that he told me, his behavior during and after our relationship and what it means that he cheated on me, as he wasn't the first.
I have been cheated on by my last 3 boyfriends. The first time was during what amounted to a summer fling, and due to the loose nature of our relationship I wasn't all that hot and bothered about it.
It was summer, we were young and hardly even “official”, so the whole affair, while difficult, was more dramatic than painful. I thought of it as an unfortunate experience, one that I was unlikely to have to deal with again.
I was wrong however, and my first serious boyfriend became my second cheating beau. We had been dating for over a year, and he cheated on me while I was away visiting my parents in Germany. I didn't find out until months later, on the same day that I attended my best friends funeral. Talk about a difficult day.
Despite the profound combination of grief I experienced that day, I eventually picked myself up and wandered off to fall in love with my most recent ex. He proved himself to be as unoriginal as the guy before him, and cheated on me while I was once again away in Germany (perhaps I should stop visiting?).
It had never occurred to me that he would betray me, just as it had never occurred to me with my two cheating exes. I trusted him as I had trusted the others, and allowed myself to be blissfully in love without concerns about fidelity. He never confessed his infidelity, naturally, and it only came to light after we had broken up.
I will be honest in saying that I am not proud of the way that I discovered his unfaithfulness, and that we were both at fault in creating an unhealthy relationship, but that does not justify his betrayal.
The first couple of times that my trust was abused I was distraught, but eventually found myself eyeing new guys and developing promising crushes a few months after the inevitable post-cheating break up. This time around however, I just can't seem to get back to that place.
Perhaps it was because I thought I had finally found a loving relationship with someone who respected and cared for me in a concrete way. I had doubts, naturally, but I wanted so badly to believe that he was better than infidelity, that he truly loved me, and there was no need to question his commitment.
I hate to say that I was too trusting –- because isn't that the point of falling in love? Being able to make yourself vulnerable to someone and trust them to not abuse that?
It has been more than an appropriate amount of time since we broke up for me to have moved on, but I've lost that careless and excited involvement that accompanies meeting and dating new guys. Instead of treating guys I would usually be attracted to as exciting potential relationships I assess them bitterly -- “Oh, he seems nice, but he's probably a narcissist and will break my heart.”
This caustic attitude is also transferable to all sweet and gushy couples that I see being generally happy in love. If an adorable pair holding hands and sharing ice cream wander out of their personal romantic comedy and into my path, I muse on the knowledge that he is probably cheating on her (and also on why anyone would ever choose to share ice cream).
I am jaded, and I know it. I hope that eventually I will be able to stop projecting my insecurities about fidelity on to everyone around me, but after being cheated on 3 times it just seems like I can't trust anyone to be authentic.
Am I being overdramatic, or have cheaters burned you too? Do you also think snarky depressing things about lovers who come into your vicinity? Lets discuss.