Have you ever had a partner cheat on you?
Here’s my story:
Smoke curling from the ashtray. Half empty glass of red. Cold rain soaking the window sills. Wrapped in my cashmere blanket. Tears mingling with apricot lip gloss. David Gray’s “We’re Not Right”. Hands shaking. How could he? How could I not have known?
The cheap panties on the floor. Him, startled by my barging in. Her, soothing him with “it’s ok” and a smug smile that shined in the darkness. My pulling him into the bathroom, demanding what was going on. Him, “nothing”. My pulling at his boxers, looking for what? Any sort of evidence, I suppose. Him pulling away. Then walking away. Me following, “If you love me, you’ll come with me now.” His silence. Her soft laugh. Him walking toward her. My pulling his arm. Him pulling away. The stinging slap. Backing toward the door. Running down the stairs. Throwing up in the bushes.
I’ll never forget that night nor the hell I put myself through for 6 months after. Taking him back. The lies. The drama. The sleuthing. The abuse. The fear. The anger, sadness, embarrassment, pain. Drunken nights. And days. Endless cigarettes. The sickness. Convincing myself that he loved me. That it was my fault. That I would die without him. So I existed. I didn’t live. Or love. Or care. I existed. Wasting away, fueled by cigarettes, wine and caffeine. Indulging in promiscuity. Excusing the abuse. Drifting in and out of the reality I somehow allowed my pain to create.
But there was still hope.
The summer bloomed fresh and shiny that year. Glorious sunshine beamed into my room and woke me from fitful tossing and turning. Warm breeze whispered along my collarbone as I stood on the lawn. I had made it, somehow, through the winter.For the first time in a long time, I felt alive. It was fleeting, but it was real. And it gave me hope. It unclouded my vision. I was lucky to have the good fortune to move away, closer to my family, and start anew. The fresh and new start allowed me to regain the strength I had known as a little girl – the belief I could face anything. I began to nourish my body again with food. I quit smoking. I resumed yoga and meditation.I’d like to say I had an “ah-ha” moment, but I didn’t. Somehow, in my soul, I just knew. So I moved forward, slowly. In time, I healed.
I struggled, but eventually pulled myself out of it. I walked. He stalked. Flowers at my door. Incessant calls to my cell, my home, my office. Showing up unannounced. Changed my number. Moved. Finally, it stopped.
It’s been over 6 years. I thought I was over it. I know I’m over him, I was over him that night. It’s the fear. The distrust. It’s stayed and haunted me. Most days, I don’t even think about it. But it creeps its way in and invades my inner calm. It starts as a low rumble and slowly takes over and soon, I’m that shaking, scared girl again, believing I’m not good enough and the new guy will certainly cheat. He’ll walk – run – at any time. How do I keep him? What can I do to be the perfect one? Near desperation sets in – I’m never good enough.
Am I scarred forever? Will I never trust? Even with the man who’s given me nothing but love? Or will I always wonder?
I ask myself a lot of questions and, at some level, I know I won’t ever have all the answers. I am certain of a few things though:
- Loving yourself is the key to loving another – Never ever will you be able to fully open your heart until you can look inward and respect what you see. Spend some quality time with yourself. (You can start out with a trusted friend who knows the value of silence and work up to time alone if need be.) Figure out what makes you–just you–happy, excited, intrigued, and even sad. As you regain touch with yourself and discover that your emotions need not be controlled by others, the fear of connecting with a new person slowly fades.
- Get over one habit by getting under another – I know the original phrase is a bit lewd, but the updated version makes a lot of sense! Here’s how to do it: Choose something you’ve always thought about doing and use the shake-up in your life to inspire your dedication to the new habit. Get up early every morning, work out every day, (great for feeling better!) learn a new language or meet up with friends for dinner every Thursday. It’s up to you! If you need to start with something very simple (I know I did) try washing the dishes ever night before you go to bed. Waking to an empty sink is a small reminder that yes, you actually did something useful the previous day. It helps!
- Don’t expect everything to happen at once – Remember how quickly things fell together in your last relationship? Don’t expect such swift trust in the future. It’s okay to take time and really learn about others before you give them your trust. If your new man really wants to be with you, he’ll be okay with waiting for you to make certain that you want the relationship as well. The real keepers are good about waiting. =)
And what about forgiveness? Should I have simply forgiven and forgotten? That will have to wait for a future article.
Have you ever had a partner cheat on you? What was your response? Would you be willing to share one of the things you learned with me? I’d appreciate it!
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Note: Post updated 9.16.2009