I love that moment before you fully wake up. You don’t know who you are or (better yet) what you’re capable of doing. I was basking in this exact moment before opening my eyes to the stubbly, cover-of-GQ face of my ex-boyfriend, lying next to me on the bed. Shit.
There had been a lot of texts.
Somewhere among the witty one-liners, relevant .gifs, and my apartment’s broken thermostat, we became co-conspirators in infidelity. We had been broken up for over a year, and he had just celebrated his one-year anniversary with his new girlfriend. We were distant friends, still floating in the same circles. I lived with one of his old roommates, so it was hard to entirely avoid each other when it came time to decide with whom to share bottomless mimosas (who better to be drunk at noon with than your ex?).
I think it’s important to mention that I was also friends with his girlfriend. She was always unfalteringly nice to me. It would have been very, very easy to hate her, but I had decided, upon our first meeting, that any animosity towards her was impossible. Everybody loved her. I have a special kind of admiration for anyone who has perfect brows. We were also eerily similar — a fact that she confessed to me made her nervous about the longevity of her relationship. She was worried that because my ex had broken up with me, he would eventually break up with her too. It wouldn’t be the similarities between she and I that ended her relationship, though. She would probably never do what I eventually did.
A few weeks prior, my ex and I had hooked up under the influence of potent Halloween-themed cocktails. No one knew about it and we had decided it didn’t mean anything. But after Thanksgiving, we could count phone sex as another indiscretion on our mounting tab. Though, to be fair, Justin Bieber’s “Sorry” and a few gin and tonics are partially to blame for this.
That’s when the incessant texting began and, it should be noted, never ended. The days passed in text-back tempo. He was thoroughly part of my day so when my heat broke, he knew about it. He offered to sleep on the couch if I wanted to come over to his house and get warm. I said no a few times before I said yes (I say this more to my own credit than for the story’s factual validity). But I ultimately said yes.
He picked me up in his car, drove me to his house, helped me carry my bag up the stairs, and then helped me out of my clothes. NEWSFLASH: He had no intention of sleeping on the couch. The sex was rough, dirty, raw, and totally hot. It felt like having sex with a different person, not the same three familiar (but great) positions I was used to. He reminded me pretty quickly why he was the best shag of my life.
The weirdest thing about it was that he wanted to talk about it as soon as he wiped the sweat from his forehead. He wasn’t a “feelings” guy, as my dad once had said. He avoided emotion like Bush Jr. avoided common sense. He told me he wasn’t ready to break up with his girlfriend because he was “happy.”
He also told me he wanted this to happen again.
I didn’t know what to say. I had spent the first six months after our breakup desperately wanting him back and the latter six months proudly going on first dates, convincing myself I was better off without him. Finding myself between his sheets inevitably complicated matters. I wasn’t the first girl he’d cheated with either. Thanks to Tinder, he’d hooked up with another girl a few months earlier, but it had ended there. Knowing this didn’t make me feel better per se, but it did contribute to my mounting suspicions about him.
Over the next couple of weeks, we texted every day. We shared our secret sexual fantasies, wondering why we hadn’t explored them more when we were together. We both came clean about times we had cheated during our year-and-a-half long relationship. We didn’t talk about why it ultimately ended. We slept together again. Then, something rather remarkable happened.
He told me he wanted to have a threesome. He had already been doing research on possible third partners. I could tell he had put a nontrivial amount of thought into cheating even before we slept together. In fact, he was acting like a sociopath.
A light bulb went off.
This wasn’t about me. He didn’t want to get back together with me. He liked the novelty of cheating. He enjoyed the emotional closeness afforded by a relationship coupled with the sexual adventure inherent in sleeping around. I was his flesh-colored ticket into Erotic Paradise.
This information made me feel like I had just taken my bra off after a long, sweltering summer day. Here was this guy I had been Jack-and-Rose in love with who was actively searching for ways to cheat on his current girlfriend. I didn’t love this guy.
Hell, I didn’t even like him.
It was this realization that freed me. No more would I be jealous of his “committed” relationship while I flirted my way through one-night stands. Even better, I was wielding significant power. I could “blow up” his life, as he put it, over a variety of different platforms (thanks, 21 century!). But I wouldn’t. Because I was classy, as Greg Behrendt of He’s Just Not That Into You would say. I’m certainly not espousing cheating, but in this highly anecdotal case, I got rare insight into the deeply flawed psyche of my ex. Even though my thermostat is now fixed, I feel confident that I can stave off any future cold nights with this new armor around my heart.