Lesson Learned Series: Cheating

Some people view love and romance as a sacred bond between two individuals. Other people see love as a game, where the goal is to manipulate another individual and gain emotional power over a partner. People who view love as a game are much more likely to have multiple love interest; cheating is just another way to gain control over one’s partner.

—David Reeves

Cheating sounds like an ordinary everyday occurrence, until it happens to you. As someone with depression and anxiety disorder, the heartbreak that comes with discovering that my partner has cheated on me is gut-wrenching. The combined sense of dread, hopelessness, cold sweats, nausea, and heart palpitations could make even the strongest person fall to their knees. Nights are restless, and the days are even more painful.

we had an “open relationship”

The first time I learned that Anthony* my then-boyfriend had cheated on me with an ex-girlfriend, I cried for a week straight. School and work were meaningless. I felt I was lacking as a woman. But I stayed with him, mostly due to my need to be with someone, and because I wanted to get back at him. So I cheated on him, too, but it didn’t exactly pan out as I had expected. Sure, Anthony was pissed, as I had hoped, but from then on we had an “open relationship” that was filled with resentment and dishonesty. We never told each other “I love you” for two years until I decided to end things with him once and for all. His first and last “I love you” was a lifesaver tossed out at sea after a drowned swimmer.

his “ex-girlfriend” was pregnant with their child

Charles* was a player through and through, and I was too stubborn to see it. He shrouded himself in mystery, refusing to show me where he lived and what he did after work. He refused to commit, so our relationship ended after six months. I was so paranoid about what he was doing when he wasn’t with me, because not only was he secretive, but he was also defensive about his online presence. He was opposed to adding me on Facebook, and when he did, he would unfriend me in less than 24 hours. I was not used to this kind of secrecy and lack of trust, and my gut feeling told me he was doing something shady on the side. So I bought a tracker online, which I stuck to the bottom of his car. The tracker recorded his travels, and I figured out the next day that he had gone downtown the same time he was texting me that he was staying at home. The kicker was when he left his Facebook logged in my laptop, which he used to play online poker. Charles, being the stupid idiot that he was, did not know that his iPhone photos automatically backed up to a private album on Facebook. There I saw that he was still seeing his so-called ex-girlfriend, who was pregnant with their child. That relationship ended faster than Iggy Azalea’s music career.

he was FB-sexting a woman in another state for 7 years

Ben*, just like Charles, conducted his infidelities on Facebook. And just like Charles, he was largely opposed to having me on his social media because in his words, “I don’t even use them as much as you think I do.” Spoiler alert: LIES. He hated every time I asked him to add me, and even went so far as to accuse me of cheating on him with my ex. Ben was constantly on Facebook Messenger, flirting with a woman from Minnesota. They had met on Twitter about 7 years ago, and had an on-off sexting relationship throughout the years. Even though she knew about me, the shameless whore kept sending him nudes, and Ben welcomed it happily. Even though he never physically cheated, he was did emotionally. Ben was dismissed immediately.

he was a dick

Meanwhile, Dick* was another sort of scumbag, but a scumbag all the same. While I was busy working to support both of us, he decided one day that instead of applying for jobs, he would take my car to the river to hook up with his ex-girlfriend. He brazenly sent me a picture of his feet at the river, captioning it “wish u were here. pick u up after work.” He got upset every time I would get a chat notification from anyone, because in his mind, it meant I was talking to someone else that wasn’t him. Even if that chat came from a gay friend from high school asking for confirmation that I’d attend our reunion. He got upset that I wasn’t chatting with him 24/7 while I was in another country, even though I explained to him that I wouldn’t have a smartphone while I was there. He was needy and suspicious, and he didn’t confess his cheating ways until after we broke up. Sort of a “ha ha got you!” kind of way. He was a dick.

choice theory

The first axiom of Glasser’s choice theory states that “the only person whose behavior we can control is our own.” The second axiom states that “all we can give another person is information.” In the case of all my failed relationships, I learned that no matter what I do and how exemplary I make myself, it is always my partner’s choice to stay loyal and true. I can never control their actions. I can give them all of me, I can be honest and straightforward, but their actions are and always will be their choice. And it’s time I stop beating myself up for their fuck ups. No one asks to be cheated on, and certainly no one deserves it.

Love is not a game. There are people who proudly call themselves “players”, and that’s fine. But they should keep “love” out of their lips. Anthony thought he had the balls to be a player, but I outplayed him and he resented me for it. Charles and Ben thought keeping me out of their social media would protect their right to cheat, but I found ways around that thanks to their stupidity. Dick was just an idiot, and I’m glad I didn’t waste a year of my life on that needy child. Every time I found out I was cheated on, I had a full on anxiety attack, which is never fun because it’s painful and physically and emotionally.

Cheating is terrible. I would know. I’ve played both sides in the past, and have learned my lesson. Just remember: you always have a choice. Cheat or don’t cheat. Stay or don’t stay.

* Some names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.