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What I’ve Realized Since Being Cheated On

“Sometimes walking away is the only option because you finally respect yourself enough to know that you deserve better.” ~Unknown

When I was cheated on, I was hit by an ongoing blizzard of conflicting emotions.

There were the initial tears that I failed to hide from anyone. There was a cold ruthlessness as I told her that I couldn’t be with her after what she did. There was a wave of misery, there was a wave of anger, and all of it was dotted with periodic moments of calm and even gratitude that she was finally out of my life.

There were also random spikes in my productivity as I sought to get on with my life, followed by horrifying loneliness, feelings of betrayal, doubting my own self-worth, and the inevitable relapse back into misery at the discovery that she had hooked up with the guy she had cheated on me with less than twenty-four hours after I had ended our relationship.

Grief, I learned, is non-linear. It will go, and it will come back. Sometimes I’ll be perfectly happy doing the food shopping, and get depressed over a memory of us doing it together. There’s no predicting when this will happen.

It was an ongoing spiral, as we had a number of mutual friends, and on top of that, two of our mutual friends lived right below me, and she would visit them often. So she was sticking to my life like gum in hair. There was no escape.

It wasn’t the first time that she had cheated on me. On the first occasion, the man in question told me that my girlfriend had justified her actions by saying that I had hit her.

This allegation swept me off my feet. In fact, I was speechless. I mean, it’s one thing to be cheated on, but to have the person I am in love with say a lie like that, something potentially so damaging, it actually broke my heart more than the act of cheating.

I broke up with her then, and she burst into tears. Her tears were so genuine, the pain of losing me was so obvious, but at the same time contradicted by what she had done.

The following day she begged me to take her back, and with tears streaming down her face she told me that she had been manipulated, and that the other man had made up all that stuff about me hitting her just to split us up. And she seemed so genuine. I took her back.

Things proceeded as they had before, both of us determined to put this into the past and move on together, into a bright future. We got a place together, and poured all of our efforts into making it our dream home.

At some point she lost her job, but I told her to leave the rent to me, since we were partners and money shouldn’t come between us. And during the months that I was supporting us both financially, she cheated on me again, this time with a guy who she insisted was just a friend.

In the past I had noticed a lot of flirting between them, but she had always told me that I was being paranoid, and hanging on to what had happened in the past. It was like my memory of the first guy had been weaponized to use against me if I dared mention that she was making me uncomfortable with her flirtatious behaviour toward her new guy.

When it came to light that there was more between them than she was letting on, I ended things, and instantly fell down this well of despair.

Several of our friends had given me plenty of emotional validation in the sense that I had treated her perfectly, and that anyone in their right mind would be appreciative. But at the initial time of heartbreak, such words do little to stand against the relationship grieving process.

Our mutual friends informed me that she was officially dating this guy less than twenty-four hours after I ended the relationship. That was expected but painful. What wasn’t expected was the revelation that there was a third occasion where she cheated, in the months in between the two that I knew about.

This was with a friend who she had mysteriously fallen out with, and urged me not to speak to. We had mutual friends who knew about this third occurrence, but had kept silent in the hopes that my girlfriend would tell me.

When this all came out, I did speak to this mysterious third person, and found out the horrifying realization that my girlfriend had also told this person that I had hit her. What a coincidence.

This statement not only hurt, but it unravelled all of the trust she’d rebuilt with me when she convinced me that the first guy was lying and had manipulated her. Now it not only hurt to have my partner lie about me, but I learned that she was lying to me, too.

Her mysterious fall out with her friend was caused by her refusal to leave me, her friend feeling led on, and when confronted by why she wouldn’t leave me, giving the explanation that as long as she stayed with me she could live somewhere rent-free.

Cue emotional tidal wave. I mean, this is a lot to process. It was as if the person I had spent every day with was suddenly a completely different person. I had been lying in bed next to a stranger. Behind every “I love you” had been a hidden smirk. I felt like the punchline to a colossal joke that everyone knew about except me.

I coped badly at first, ending the relationship but being unable to embrace the sudden void of free time, which would otherwise have been spent on her. And in the free time, my mind wandered back to the good times, unable to match the person I had fallen for with the person who I had just broken up with. I couldn’t quite believe that they were the same person.

I sought out moments where she could have changed, and wondered what had changed her. Had she been manipulated by the people she cheated on me with? I grasped at a lot of straws in a vain attempt at thinking that maybe this relationship was fixable.

The apartment we had moved into together was our creation, having decorated and furnished it together. It was our dream home. Now it was just mine alone, but haunted by my memory of her presence. And at the core of all of this was my own self-doubt. Had I done enough? Why was I so easy to just casually hurt? Is she evil? Am I just undeserving of love?

But all of my time wallowing in our apartment alone did give me time to think, and I came to the conclusion that all I had to do was think differently.

A lot of my trains of thought had elements of truth, but were completely lacking in logic. Here are the things that I told myself in order to move forward.

Firstly, what was my ideal scenario?

I was mourning the relationship, but what did I hope to happen as an alternative to what was actually happening? In my head I said, “I would love to have her back, having decided that this guy she’s with isn’t actually that great.” Or better yet, “I would love it if she’d never met him.”

But you see, even if she had never met him, she’d still be capable of doing what she did. In fact, her repeat offences were proof enough that this was a very real side of her, and I needed to acknowledge that.

If she’d never met this guy, she would have met another guy. So really what I’m ultimately saying to myself is “I would love it if she was the person I thought she was, and not who she actually is.”

This can be simplified and translated to “I’m wishing for a different person. A better, more suitable partner, that isn’t her.” This thought came as a shock because at the time I didn’t want to accept it, but it’s the truth—she isn’t suitable for me.

So secondly, what did I actually lose?

On the surface, it’s easy to say that I lost my girlfriend to another man. This isn’t the case. All I lost is time out of my life that I had spent committed to the wrong person. I didn’t lose the relationship because it was a lie. And I was losing more time out of my life by fixating on it. Again, it’s a harsh truth but one I had to accept.

So thirdly, it was time to address my own thoughts of self-doubt.

Was there self-esteem to be recovered?

I told myself repeatedly that I’d failed her, and that I wasn’t enough, while those who had seen our relationship grow and collapse had reassured me that I had done all that I could. How does one get out of this rut of self-doubt?

A friend pointed out that the questions I was asking myself, such as “Did I do enough?” in spite of its negative tone, revealed a strong commitment to my relationship. When we were together I was doing my best out of fear of not doing enough. My doubts about this now were the exact same caring, positive characteristics that I was proud of when we were together. I had nothing to be ashamed of.

So my fourth train of thought: Is she evil?

It’s a perfectly rational conclusion to come to. Logic would say that if the blame isn’t on me then it must be on her. At first it feels great to say that she’s evil. Misery transformed into anger works, for a little while. But it isn’t productive, nor is it healthy. And I had to come to the hard conclusion that no, she wasn’t evil. In fact, when I last met her, she was downright miserable.

I asked her, “Why aren’t you happy? You got everything you wanted. You got the guy you wanted, you got rid of the guy you didn’t want. You still have your family and your friends. I just get to live alone in the home we decorated together, with all of our memories.”

Okay, so I was slightly bitter when I said those things, but one look at my former partner revealed that in spite of everything, she wasn’t happy. Nor was she prepared or willing to make amends. She just shook her head sadly and said that she still felt empty. And that’s when I realised that she was very lost too.

Her cheating on me was not a reflection on me as a person not good enough for her. It was a reflection on her insecurities.

She was trying to fill a void in her life, and she was making the classic mistake of looking for the answers in other people, but being unsatisfied because the problem was in her. I was just unfortunate to fall into her destructive path, a path that was just as destructive to herself long term as it would be for her short-term partners.

Maybe she’ll continue this cycle. Maybe her current boyfriend is the one that will snap her out of it. But in that moment I just felt sorry for her.

I told her goodbye when she confessed that even though I dumped her, she was planning on leaving me for this guy anyway. I may feel sympathy, but I don’t think a sympathetic side should mean that I’ll let her insult me.

I still know my worth. Many would say that letting her back after the first time was me being a doormat, but I wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt. I never lost sight of my own worth.

I think it’s worth pointing out that even though I’m lessening the pain with these lessons, it’s also important to still let myself feel things. Sometimes I’ll be so sure of myself, and then walk past the place where we first met, or something will remind me of her, often something odd and obscure, and tears will form in my eyes. And that’s okay. It’s not the end of the world. The trick is to let myself feel it without letting it hinder my own productivity.

An important lesson is that it’s okay to be sad.

It’s hard to display emotions when people throw out phrases like “Man up” and “Get over it.” Phrases like that invalidate emotions that are perfectly valid. Why should I hide my emotions? Something bad happened to me, I sometimes feel sad as a result, and that is 100 percent okay.

A friend told me recently, don’t bury it alive. Deconstruct your relationship, through communication and letting your emotions breathe. Give the relationship a metaphorical autopsy. Do not bury it alive, or it will come back to bite.

The things I tell myself have aided the healing process. They won’t erase the sadness completely, but nor should they. Our emotions are good for us.

On a final note, one of my areas of concern is my trust issues. I have yet to encounter them because I haven’t yet attempted to get close to someone else, but I know that they’re waiting to pounce on me.

After what I endured, it would be crazy to assume otherwise. But does this mean I’ll be avoiding relationships altogether? No, it doesn’t. I’m re-writing my train of thought, and as far as I’m concerned, my trust issues are just another part of the screening process. I know what to look out for. I know my worth. I will not be hurt like this again.

About Chris Schurke

Chris Schurke is an adventure blogger in the Shropshire area of England, writing the unconventional but popular blog "Shrewsbury from where you are not," which documents forgotten and secret areas of his local area, with a narrative that promotes doing what you love, enjoying life without necessarily needing material or financial wealth to do so, and the overall triumph of the human spirit.

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  • Barry M

    Excellent piece Chris. Thanks for this! Tiny Buddha can have a very strong tendency towards the female perspective so Im glad to see an articulate, emotional and honest piece from a “dude”! Yes, guys hurt too… Your article was great in that it walks the reader through the grieving process and makes us question the self-doubt and insecurities that we face. Im still in the process of grieving a lost relationship (over a year ago) but am learning to look at the mistakes I had made, not beat myself up too much, and most importantly, give as much time is necessary as to navigate this painful but enlightening process!! Keep trudging dude and thanks for taking the time to share with us!!

  • john smith

    “with a guy who she insisted was just a friend.

    In the past I had noticed a lot of flirting between them, but she had always told me that I was being paranoid, and hanging on to what had happened in the past. It was like my memory of the first guy had been weaponized to use against me if I dared mention that she was making me uncomfortable with her flirtatious behaviour toward her new guy.

    When it came to light that there was more between them than she was letting on, I ended things, and instantly fell down this well of despair.”

    this has happend to me before, a number of times..classic..will never fall for it again…I hope

  • Thank you, thank you for this. I am still in it and deciding whether to fight for the relationship or to walk away. It is so incredibly hard. I am not thinking about the good times, they are tainted by this woman. My dust has settled so now in therapy 1x a week. Hopefully this will help move me in the right direction.

    Thank you for your emotion and hope for the future.

  • john smith

    if a bloke was doing this, ” shes just a friend”, you girlfriend would be all over it and telling you its her or me….but when a woman wants to do it…a different logic comes in to play and somehow its acceptable and worst her friends cant see or don’t want to see it.

  • Dom

    You did the right thing dumping her. But doing the wrong thing by still allowing it to get under your skin by reflecting back on shared memories and allowing it to make you sad, angry, miserable, lonely, etc…. I have one thing to say about that. Don’t give away your power. It’s okay to lament, but don’t stay there too long. It was just a life lesson. You have so many more lessons to go. Do you boo. As for myself I started out young in life with liars, cheaters and manipulators and losing my ability to trust anyone. To moving on through my 20’s becoming the cheater and being the other woman to avoid getting hurt. No commitments, no expectations… I thought that would make me stronger and happier. Now I’m in my late 30’s and having so much heartbreak on both sides behind me I’ve come to realize that the only lesson worth learning is Self Love. Self Love despite your faults, imperfections and mistakes and to just be. I’m okay with being alone, if love finds me again, then so be it…I know exactly what I want now. Someone who is secure in themselves. Not jealous, possessive or co-dependent. Someone who is intelligent, compassionate, considerate, altruistic and humble. Sometimes you have to kiss a lot of frogs to get your prince or princess. So enjoy the journey. “To live is the rarest thing in the world, most people exist that is all” ~ Oscar Wilde

  • NogsViking

    Chris, thank you for your wonderful piece. As other comments have also mentioned, it’s great to get a male perspective on break-up and heartbreak. You describe the emotions better than almost anything else I have read. I suffered a devastating break-up in March of this year and I’m still struggling to get over it.

    My girlfriend of 18 months, and the person I had thought was the love of my life, broke up with me by e-message, in which she told me she had been dating other guys for over a month. She refused to see me again, just saying that she wanted to ‘move on’. I have not seen her since (bar an e-mail asking if we could be friends, which I politely and regretfully declined). I became clinically depressed in the months afterwards, something that was exacerbated by the recent failure of my business and the death of my father. I am somewhat older and was less experienced in relationship terms, so perhaps more vulnerable and less wise about how to deal with all.

    I devoured every piece of online and published material I could get my hands on in order to make sense of what happened, but you really hit the nail on the head. The framework you lay out for thinking about what happened is very helpful indeed, and has offered me something I have not found elsewhere. Thank you!
    I also allowed myself to be sad, and I think this is important in dealing with any grief. You have to walk through it, you can’t go around it.
    I was scared of the reactions of friends but I was open with them and to a person they were all sympathetic and supportive. I came to realise that my friendships were strong than I’d given them credit for.
    I wish you luck in your continuing recovery, and the best for your future.

  • Keith Stevens

    Excellent piece of expression! I went through similar experiences with my wife, sandwiched around kids and me taking care of her through a year of cancer treatment. Now 3 1/2 years later I am in love again with someone that absolutely treats me with respect and kindness. It took a tremendous amount of pain to learn what my worth was, but I’m grateful I know.

  • Andy

    Hi Chris, I read your article and it’s exactly the same as mine just with mine there is a child involved so I couldn’t erase her entirely. I feel your pain man but all you can do is to work on yourself and your emotions. I’ve been working on myself for 3 years now and me and other people see the effects 🙂 they are actually visible, my outlook on life changed and I changed. At the same time ex jumped straight in to another relationship and didn’t do anything and the void in her started surfacing again, I just pity the guy that invested in her as he is actually a good guy.

  • Andy

    Just to add I was with my ex 16 years 🙂

  • Andy

    Rhonda Life is too short to waste it on people that don’t love you.

  • Anna Strong

    Hi Rhonda, just wanted to show my support in whatever your decision is. I saw a comment telling you not to waste your time with a cheater – EVERY situation is different. In mine, the relationship was not worth saving. I do not believe this is true in all situations. I think it’s important to evaluate your own circumstances and YOUR truth. The article writer was definitely right to leave his relationship but yours and everyone else commenting is different. Therapy is the number 1 thing that will help you figure out yourself and what is right. Best of luck.

  • You are both right. A bad relationship isn’t worth being in and every situation is different! Therapy is helping.

    I don’t really want to know details but I do because good times over the last 6 years are tainted not knowing if she was involved in him being happy or was he talking to her while we were laughing and having fun? It’s been a strained relationship for years but I have made myself believe we are meant to be together. I can’t imagine life without him. Well lately I have been, it’s not good.

  • Lorraine

    I have been feeling quite sad today, for my own reasons but when I read about your experiences I felt close to tears. I wish wonderful things for you! I hope whom ever you meet (I’m actually crying right now) treats you so wonderfully and the same for Chris. I haven’t dated a man for a very long time, believing that nobody could ever love me enough to stay with me. i have always used the excuse that I’m not dating because I’m not attractive enough, but others say that’s not true. I think it has been a habit for me to be alone all the time and I don’t know how to change that. It has really helped to hear a man’s perspective of how they also hurt. And just as deeply.

  • NogsViking

    Lorraine, thank you for your message and thank you for all your kind wishes. I hope so too! I’m sorry you’ve been alone for a long time – it was painful to hear that. Before my relationship I also had been out of the dating game for a long time and I understand your ‘habit-forming’ comment. One adopts defensive coping mechanisms which after a while can be hard to escape. When I met her I thought all those lonely days had gone, and for 18 months you’d have been hard-pressed to find a happier guy anywhere. Then…bang! Balloon bursts and I’m back to the place I’ve spent so much time before.
    The good news is that I beat the depression (for now, anyway) without taking meds, and I’m beginning to feel inside the first signs of hope for the future again. Being middle-aged, I’m aware I don’t have all the time in the world left to me but I do believe now that there is a chance I may find someone who is right for me.
    I wish you the very best for your future.

  • What a brilliant and enlightening piece of writing.

  • Anna Strong

    It’s difficult. It doesn’t feel fair and a lot of times you have to fight feeling like a “victim” and wondering why you now have to suffer and fight through this. But no matter what happens, it does get better. Stay strong!

  • Teresa Munoz

    Brought tears to my eyes. I needed to read this. thank you <3

  • Chris Schurke

    NogsViking, I’m glad this has helped you. It must be awful to have a relationship end that way, and had that happened to me I’m honestly not sure how I would react. But you are right, we do have to go through it, and wipe our feet when we get to the other side.
    Loraine, I don’t believe anyone is too unattractive to be loved, because everybody is someones type. I wish you the best of luck on finding love, if that is indeed what you want to do. Don’t forget, being alone doesn’t necessarily mean being lonely.

  • Chris Schurke

    Knowing your worth is challenging but once you’re there it’s a beautiful mindset to be in. I’m glad you’ve found love.

  • Chris Schurke

    I absolutely agree! I’m very lucky, I think, because I do a lot of what I love, regardless of my relationship status. A relationship should be a bonus to an already excellent life, rather than the cause for a life being excellent, in my opinion.
    To know yourself, and be happy alone are amazing mindsets to reach, and I honestly think it can intimidate potential partners who aren’t there themselves yet. In hindsight with a clearer head, I definitely think my ex felt afraid because it meant that I didn’t need her in the same way she needed me, and the cheating happened due to her trying to get to that point where she didn’t need me. But it’s as you say, love yourself, live life, and if love happens then it happens.

  • Chris Schurke

    Thank you! I will admit, the driving force behind me writing was the fact that I was searching for a relatable male perspective, and on struggling to find it I thought “Well, if people are looking for it, but there’s not a lot out there, perhaps I should provide it.” There does seem to be a heavy misconception that men showing emotion are weak, and we’re frequently told to “man up” if we do voice sadness. But I’ve gone down the road of suffering silently and it’s not a pleasant one. I’m much happier now that I’ve reached a point where I am comfortable talking about something. This is the first time I’ve ever broadcast it out to the world like this, so it’s great to see so much warm feedback.

  • Chris Schurke

    I hope whatever you eventually decide is the right thing for you.

  • Chris Schurke

    Thank you!

  • Chris Schurke

    Yikes! That sort of timespan would probably emotionally cripple me.

  • Chris Schurke

    Thank you!

  • Chris Schurke

    Well the main thing to remember is that there’s a very fine line between not being a doormat, and being controlling. I never want to get to the point where I have to tell a partner that she can’t see someone. But at the same time, if there’s flirting going on, say something. It’s a tricky balance to get right.

  • Beth Tucker

    Excellent article. I just went thru similar ordeal. Thanks for your insight!!