Our contributor, who wishes to remain anonymous, has a confession to make.
I always thought cheating was a deal-breaker. I imagined if my boyfriend so much as kissed another girl, I would dump him without an ounce of regret. There would be no “get out of jail free” card for my boyfriend or giving him the benefit of a doubt. It would be, “Sayonara sucker. You just ruined the best thing in your life.” I always thought I would stick to my guns if he cheated.
And then he did. And I didn’t. Because it turns out it was so much more complicated than I had imagined.
I’d had my suspicions for a while, and I finally confronted my boyfriend, telling him that if he loved and respected me at all then he would admit to his infidelities. I told him I needed the truth because I wasn’t able to live with the insecurities my suspicions had created. And he told me he had slept with four girls over the past two years of our relationship.
I spent hours struggling to come up with a solution. Do I dump him like I always promised myself I would, or do I give him another chance? Part of me believed cheaters didn’t deserve second chances. Once a cheater, always a cheater, right? But when I put myself in his, the cheater’s shoes, I realized that I would want a second chance too, a chance to prove that I could change. And the chance to change, I thought, is something everyone deserves.
It definitely helped that I didn’t find out about the cheating by walking in on him and another girl in the act. Call me crazy, but I admired him for coming clean even when he knew it might jeopardize the future of our relationship. I could tell as he talked that he felt terrible.
Still, I was extremely confused by how understanding and empathetic I felt toward him. I felt that my love for him rendered me weak, and a strong woman wouldn’t think twice about kicking such an insensitive jerk like him to the curb. And my empathy certainly didn’t derive from similar experiences — I had never cheated on him nor had I ever been tempted.
Unable to understand what felt like an irrational response, I looked to my relationship with someone I love deeply: my mom. For years I lied to her — about everything from money to my whereabouts — knowing that it broke her heart. But instead of giving up on me she tried even harder to help me understand that lying is a terrible quality for someone to possess.
I still lie from time to time, but when I do I am now able to take responsibility for my lies and admit the truth. I feel guilt and remorse when I lie. I didn’t before. By not giving up on me she taught me what unconditional love really is. She was able to overcome her anger in order to help me. And now I wanted to help my boyfriend.
The following weeks were difficult. To be honest, three months later, it still is. On a daily basis he told me how sorry he was, how he wished he could take it back, how much he loved me and despite what he did, always has, and how he would do anything to prove to me he was changing. I told him I didn’t want to hear it until we got an STD and HIV test. We did and thankfully everything came back negative. After that, I felt a lot better. We hung our test results on the fridge and spent a lot of time discussing how he was going to change.
The more we talked, the more I felt confident about my decision to give him another chance. But I couldn’t help but ask questions like, “What were their names? Where did it take place? Did you enjoy it? Did you orgasm?” And of course, there was always the, “Why?” In retrospect, none of the details mattered. Hearing his answers just made it more painful. The more details I received, the more elaborate my visions of him with the other girls became. Our sex life was quickly affected and ceased to exist at one point. It felt meaningless now, knowing he had been equally intimate with other girls.
There was something missing and I soon realized it was trust. The funny thing was, I still loved him, just not like I used to. I didn’t trust him anymore, and trust is such a large part of love. I was terrified we would never be able to get back what we had, no matter how much effort he put forth to show me he was changing.
I finally decided we would not be able to mend what he had broken on our own. We needed help — professional help. I gave him an ultimatum after a month of crying spells and mild depression: He was to see a therapist on his own to discuss his compulsive lying and cheating or we were done. On top of that, I demanded that we see a couples’ counselor together. He agreed.
If he does cheat again, I am confident that I will be able to walk away from this relationship with my dignity intact, knowing that I gave this relationship everything I could. Despite the criticism I have received from family and friends, I know in my heart I have made the right decision…I am doing what’s best for me, and as far as I am concerned, that is the only thing that matters.
I’ve watched too many of my friends run away from relationships because they were hurt by their significant other. I’ve listened to too many of their significant others, also my friends, yearn for a second chance. They’re all victims of the belief that if a relationship isn’t perfect then it isn’t worth being in. Well, I’m not ready to run away, and I refuse to force myself to fall out of love just yet. Relationships take real effort, and I’m ready to get to work.
Tune in two weeks from now to find out how the couples counseling goes…