Saturday, 15 September 2018

You Got Cheated On, Now What?



When you discover your partner’s been unfaithful, most of us want to know why. What if the way you handle more important?

The old desk pocked with holes and chips received the brunt of my anger as I slammed my Motorola Razor down. Moving away from the cell phone, I paced back and forth between the TV and a black leather couch. Overhead, my startled roommate climbed out of his bunk and descended the ladder leading to the ground in our 300 square foot room.

“I thought you had plans tonight?”
Fuming, I managed a reply through gritted teeth. “So… Did… I…”

Raising an inquisitive eyebrow, my roommate said no more and slung a weathered backpack over his shoulder. He walked a few more steps to the door which lead to the interior of our fraternity house before pausing with a hand on the door handle.

“I’m off to the library. Big test tomorrow.” His attempt at sympathy was sincere, but awkward nonetheless. “Call me if you… uh.. need something, okay?”

After closing the door to our room, I eyed the ratty desk once more. Next to my cell phone, I saw another opportunity that might prove fruitful. I could call from our landline phone. She didn’t know that number.

Breath held and praying to a God I wasn’t sure existed at the time, I dialed — and thanks be to heaven, Shiva, Buddha, or all the other gods I was learning about in my art history classes — she picked up.

“Hey! It’s me… been worried sick. We’re going to miss our reservations for dinner tonight. Can you be ready soon?”

The silence on the other end started to once more form the knot in my gut I’d been trying to quell for the last hour.

    “Hello?”

The other end remained noiseless until I heard giggling, presumably from her roommates. “Yeah, this just isn’t going to work out, Ben. I’m real sorry and I know we had plans, but don’t call me anymore, okay?”

The click of someone hanging up was audible, but I stayed on the other end anyway until the odd wah wah wah siren of a disconnected phone played in my ears. Pulling the phone away from my face I stared at the receiver in disbelief. Then I lost all composure. I slammed the phone over and over into the desk adding more dents to the surface. Once that lost its luster, I slung the phone across the room. The wah wah wah drone continued unabated as I slumped into the leather sofa and buried my face in my hands.

What the hell was going on? We were fine yesterday. Plans were set. Romantic dinner on the lake. How did I screw this up?

Sitting in my anguish and replaying conversations from the day before, a little voice then whispered something I’d been feeling.

Was she… cheating?

With that thought in mind, I rose and walked out the door, heading straight to the nearest bar.
Cheater, Cheater Pumpkin Eater

The truth came out eventually. She got drunk at a college party and hooked up with some guy she’d been crushing on. Wanting to prove she wasn’t a booty call, when he asked her out for Valentine’s Day she agreed. The most devastating part of getting that proverbial check in the mail came when I found out her friends encouraged the behavior.

When I confronted her, it became a game of proving I was paranoid and insecure, which I almost believed. Maybe I was being crazy? Then again, what about all these rumors I kept hearing? Was I inventing a cheating scenario in my head because I couldn’t deal with a break-up? My brother was the one who caught her in the lie and phoned me, ending the charade. However, I was already in a full blown melt down and the truth added fuel to a burning fire.

One evening, after listening to Oleander’s “I Walk Alone” on repeat for several hours, I ended up at a bar giving a drunken rant to local patrons that my fraternity brothers would come to label the “I Suck” speech. That night, I stole a mic from a band and launched into a tirade about sucking so bad you get cheated on. The band and patrons were so amused they let me continue my escapade for twenty minutes before I dropped the mic and walked out.

For the next few weeks, I continued listening to mopey, emo music (I remember a lot of Dashboard Confessional), drinking, and sleeping. The whole aftermath of my actions was about the least mature — let alone responsible — decision I could have made, but I was hurting I rationalized.
I wanted to pull a “Tears Don’t Fall” scenario from the iconic music video by Bullet For My Valentine

Now some 15 years removed from that event, I can see how my response emulated hers. The way we both acted out was emotionally immature because neither of us understood how to communicate our emotions or the issues in our relationship.
But Whhhhyyyyyyy (commence sobbing into a bowl of Cheerios)

One of the first things anyone wants to know when they get cheated on — whether dating or in a marriage — is why? You’ll go through a million scenarios, perhaps even justifying why a partner cheated. Those questions always end up the mental equivalent of Armageddon for the mind, which only leads to dark places. You imagine the other person hooking up. During their sexual encounter they hold up a middle finger and curse your name followed by diabolical laughter. It can get bleak the more you want to know the why, how, when, or details. What I’ve realized is that instead of needing an answer, the answer is in the act of the cheating.

The reason they cheated could range from selfishness, an addiction, a dead end relationship, or not knowing how to responsibly exit (so they chose the scorched earth tactic instead). Instead, realize this — they weren’t emotionally mature enough to have hard conversations that addressed unmet needs and expectations. They didn’t know how to communicate, and regardless of who they date in the future, a lack of communication will be something that plagues any romantic relationship. In a break-up, consider it a blessing in disguise. At least you got out before you got married because that’s something you do not want to deal with long term.

This is something I’ve dealt with first-hand because I cheated once.

During a long term relationship, I cheated because I felt I couldn’t talk to my significant other. So I buried my emotions until they boiled over and found myself rationalizing how another girl made me feel more loved and accepted. I wasn’t mature enough to confront the glaring issues we had in our relationships and we both pretended everything would work out. Then she ended up cheating too. Takes one to know one, right?
Recovery Advice 101: Don’t Go All Taylor Swift

While I may be a Metalhead who loves artists that scream-sing like they plan to tear off a tiger’s head, I’ll be the first to admit I dig Taylor Swift. Even my two-year-old daughter loves metal and Taylor Swift, but really loved her music videos even more. As we traveled down the YouTube rabbit hole of Swift videos, I noticed how all Taylor’s relationships seemed to implode. Once they imploded, golf clubs got brought out, her mascara ran everywhere, or she was blowing shit up with her friends. Everything screamed, “When in pain, act out!” It reminded me of how I handled my break-up with the girl who cheated: self-destructive.
ALWAYS a bad idea | Blank Space by Taylor Swift

After any traumatic emotional injury, there will be seasons of depression and mourning. Just because you’re depressed doesn’t mean it has to last forever. You ultimately decide when you’re going to move on. You hold that power, not the other person. The temptation during this season of mourning and pain will be to cope through destructive tendencies. That could be random hook-ups, drinking, gossip, or — if you go too far — destruction of private property alá Taylor Swift.

While tempting, none of those coping mechanisms help long term and often lead to a person spiraling. What does help, however, are meaningful connections.

What finally pulled me out of my dark hole after learning my girlfriend cheated me on was the love and support of my fraternity brothers and friends. Processing what happened and talking through it — even laughing — helped me mend. Going to the bar and yelling into a microphone did not.

It wouldn’t be until years later though that I learned how to cope properly amid traumatic events. What I discovered was that when I engaged in new hobbies, relied on my friends and family, or made new connections that inspired hope and faith, I bounced back. I also learned to up my standards. I was a shallow boy in college who just wanted to date pretty girls that often had character equivalent to a box of crayons. I learned to look to the interior as opposed to exterior of a woman.

While you may never get a good answer why your significant other cheated, don’t write off the rest of humanity. One emotionally insecure man or woman doesn’t mean the whole lot is defective. Keep your head up and your standards high. Learn to communicate in your dating relationships or marriage. There are men and women out there who value authenticity and fidelity. Don’t settle. Don’t believe lies about your self worth because your partner cheated. Chose to grow from the event and examine areas in your life where you can become stronger and work towards healthier communication and boundaries in future relationships.

When life hands you lemons, don’t set them on fire or soak them in booze. See it as a challenge instead to make something sweet from the sour.

source: medium

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