Cheating is a pretty uncomfortable topic and many people tiptoe around this conversation, which I get. This is a highly emotional subject with many feelings of hurt. The act of cheating is already so secretive so I think a lot of people who’ve been cheated on stick with this trend and keep it a secret. For me and my personality, that wasn’t an option. I’ve been cheated on and the only way I’ve healed, and continue to heal, is through sharing my feelings and experiences with others. So I thought I should talk about my experience and what I’ve learned and hope that it helps others who have walked this unfortunately common path.
From my point of view, I’ve seen every spectrum on the scale of cheating. I know people who’ve been cheated on and people who’ve cheated. When I realized that I was being cheated on, I paused, and did an intake of the closest people in my life and realized they’ve all been cheated on. All of my closest girlfriends and many family members. This has even happened for some in multiple relationships. I couldn’t think of one person who hadn’t been cheated on. And that completely freaked me out. Was this a new trend in relationships? Had cheating always been this bad? Were all millennials cheating? Was cheating something I would have to accept in future relationships? In those moments of devastation, those thoughts all flashed through my head.
Most people, but especially people with anxiety, want to feel in control. You want answers to questions. And this is a topic where there aren’t a lot of answers. I don’t want to get into the nitty gritty of my past relationship but if I’m being really real, I’ve never felt pain and heartbreak like I felt thanks to cheating. It’s such a mind game. First, your gut tells you something is wrong and you immediately trust it. I started to look for clues any chance I could. If he would get up to go to the bathroom, I would grab his phone and search until I couldn’t find anything. You would think not finding anything was a good sign, but it just made me spiral further.
I didn’t feel validated when I wouldn’t find anything. It actually made me more mad. Something was tugging so hard at me that he was cheating and that feeling didn’t go away until I found the proof. I became obsessed with finding out the answers, because when I asked straight up I was always told I was crazy. Told it was all in my head. Which is the typical response so many people hear. While all this was happening, it felt like my brain was on a constant ferris wheel of emotions. One day the thoughts would silence and I would believe him. The next day I wouldn’t hear from him for hours and the assumptions would start to creep in. This war in my head of feeling okay and secure in my relationship and then feeling completely vulnerable and unsure of my future went back and forth, all day every day.
Also just a tip. There is no way, at least that I’ve found, to hack someone’s social media. Trust me, I tried so many different ways. So many Google searches. I even ended up paying for 6 months of Hooked on Phonics (which I didn’t realize until my parents started getting packages in the mail teaching five year olds how to read) because I put my debit card into so many sites that promised to get me the answers I was looking for. I tried to hack his email and when I couldn’t figure it out, I thought about calling Google. How crazy is that? I was desperate. This was my breaking point.
Once the relationship finally ended, I went through and am quite honestly still going through the healing process. The past year and a half have been a roller coaster. I’ve felt angry and sad and everything in between those feelings. I’ve found moments of healing thanks to my friends and family. Friends who are patient when I bring up how I’m feeling. Family who understands that I’ve been on a rocky journey. And lately I’ve started a new healing chapter: forgiveness.
In my opinion, there can be a lot of judgement around someone who chooses to stay with their significant other after they’ve learned they cheated. As women, a lot of times we view other women as weak for staying. I’ve been guilty of doing this. I would see a women who stayed with someone who cheated and would think, “where is their self-respect?” And others would say that to me, not in those exact words, but something along those lines when I told them my story. “You have to leave, you can’t stay with someone like that.” And for me, leaving was the right decision. But it was a decision only I could make. No one else could. I think we do a disservice to other women when we put this pressure on them. And maybe pressure isn’t the right word. Because the motives behind telling other women to get out of a relationship are mostly pure and done out of love. Cheating causes so much hurt and you want to help others alleviate that.
If I’m being even more honest, I very recently was in a pretty low slump and I started to question my own decisions a year ago. Should I have left? Was that the right decision? What if I stayed and tried to make it work? What would my life look like now? I didn’t know how to navigate those thoughts. Anxiety is an endless game of what ifs and all these scenarios in my head were on steroids. I went to my appointment with my therapist and word vomited all the what ifs I kept replaying in my head. I said to her, “should I have forgiven him and tried to make it work?”
As I talked through this with her, I quickly started to realize how powerful forgiveness is. I think anytime you have an option to forgive, that’s the right option. But something new that I learned through this conversation is forgiveness doesn’t equal sacrificing your well being. For me, there was no option to stay and work through our relationship. There was too much history and too much hurt. But forgiveness was still an option. And this was something I’ve never realized before. She presented the analogy of me holding onto this pain because I haven’t forgiven him. I was carrying around a hot coal that was only hurting myself. I needed to forgive and move past this period of my life.
My sister, Chels told me something that really stuck with me. “Forgiveness is powerful and always the harder route.” What I once viewed as a form of weakness now had so much power in it. I hope more than anything that I never have to go through what I went through again. That’s a huge fear of mine to be honest. But I’m learning to find peace in this and take note of the lessons I am learning. Forgiveness is really hard. I said to my therapist, “how do I even start to forgive him?” I didn’t know where to start and still don’t. But I’m trying. And I’m trying only for me. I’m praying about it. I’m journaling. I’m meditating. And it’s hard work. But I know I’m going to get there and all this work will be worth it.
My perspective has shifted. While I am still scared to fully trust someone again, I have the faith in myself to get there and be ready to dive into a relationship again. And I’ve also learned about having faith in others. My perspective on cheating has changed because of what I’ve gone through. I know the pain and the heartbreak it causes. And if you are someone who has gone through this or is going through it right now, I support you and am here for you. It can feel super lonely but you have to make the decision that is best for you. And never forget the power of forgiveness, whether that is through staying or ending that chapter. I believe people can change. I believe God heals all. But above all, I believe that you come first. So honor yourself and what is best for you.