Things had been growing more and more tense in my relationship with my boyfriend. I was becoming someone I didn't like: That woman who constantly starts caring about what the "next steps" will be.
He was also becoming someone I didn't like: That man who actually thinks in terms of being "trapped" or "caught" by a potential girlfriend and forced into marriage.
I suppose the relationship was doomed from the start in this way. I had once jokingly called him a "perpetual bachelor," and he scoffed at the title because he said this was absolutely not the case. He would occasionally sprinkle into our conversation or our weekend getaways the idea of what it would be like "when we were married" or "when we had kids." But every time one of these mentions was made, my entire body tensed up, and I knew not to say anything else, lest the moment disappear entirely. It was like his hints at matrimonial commitment was a delicate house of cards and one faulty breath from me would lead the entire thing to collapse.
After about two years of this nonsense, I went out to a party to hang with some of my closest girlfriends. I had one martini. Then I had two. You know that old Dorothy Parker expression: "I like to have a martini. Two at the very most. After three I'm under the table. After four I'm under the host"?
I made the critical mistake: A third martini.
Suddenly I was taking all sorts of pictures with my girlfriends and immediately uploading them onto Facebook with suggestive tags as if a full-fledged Sapphic orgy were moments away. "Tasty drink." "Fun with girlfriends!" "Temptation..."
What did I expect? I think I thought my boyfriend would suddenly call me and be concerned I was going to go wild and stray from our relationship. Then, in my drunken logic, I figured he would finally see how afraid he was of losing me, and what? Propose? Obviously the plan was not very well thought out.
Of course, no phone call came. Nor did any text. My boyfriend and I didn't have any plans that night, but he normally called to check in on me when I was going out for a night on the town like this -- to see if I wanted to come over or ask if I was having a good time. Something. Instead, I heard crickets.
"Go over and surprise him," my girlfriend suggested, and I shook my head at the idea. Somehow I figured that I needed to play hard to get for this elusive marriage proposal which especially consumed my thoughts when I was drunk, and which I wasn't even sure I truly wanted anymore.
Instead of following her good advice, I decided to walk the few blocks to my home where I could pass out and start again tomorrow. As I was strolling to my apartment, however, my brilliant plan was thrown a very sexy curveball.
There lingering before me, was a man who looked like a dead ringer for Gerard Butler. He was extremely handsome in an expensive suit and smoking a cigarette outside a hotel near my house. I couldn't resist. I figured I would bum a smoke, and who knows? Maybe I would tell my boyfriend later about this flirtation, and this would be the final pang of jealousy that drove him over the edge to ask me to be his forever woman.
"Do you have one of those for me?" I asked the mystery man, somehow finding myself speaking in movie cliche language. Who talked like that?
"Yes, in fact, I do," he said, and when he lit my cigarette slowly and provocatively, somehow I knew right then and there that all bets were off.
"You're gorgeous," I blurted out. "I wish I was single."
"You're the one who's gorgeous," he said smoothly, as we stood outside his hotel. "What could I do to make you single?"
My heart started beating incredibly fast, and I could feel my face flush.
It was at that moment that every fight, every conversation, every broken promise I had with my boyfriend flashed before my eyes, and I realized that my fantasy of our perfect married life together was never going to happen. I might as well be single for how well the entire relationship was going.
I found myself leaning forward, grabbing the back of this hot stranger's neck and kissing him with a passion I hadn't felt in a long time.
He took my hand, led me up to his hotel room, and in that one instant, I stopped being the good girl I had always been in relationships up until that point.
After an hour of the best sex of my life, I left his room, and what I had done came crashing down on me like a pile of bricks. Was it worth it? Should I lie? What was going to happen now?
"I cheated on you," I told my boyfriend when I called him on the phone the next morning. I knew I had to tell him immediately. I may be a cheater, but at least I'm not a liar.
"What?" he asked, not seeming to believe that I would throw our relationship away like this.
"This isn't working out," I said. "We both know it."
"But why did you have to end it this way?" he said. "Why?"
I didn't know. Maybe I was angrier than I thought? Maybe I was even more tempted than I realized? All I knew was that in the moment, everything seemed like the perfect mess of a solution: I would end the relationship in a way that would make a reconciliation impossible, and I would never let myself lay stagnant in a bad relationship again.
I've kept true to that promise, too. Every relationship since has been more honest and less game-playing.
Maybe that's why -- or maybe it's just the still-fresh memory of that awful feeling when I left the stranger's hotel room -- I have also never been unfaithful again.