I’ve been cheated on. Who hasn’t? I feel like this has to be some sort of twisted right of passing in your teens and 20s. But how do you not carry that hurt into your next relationship and ruin that one too? How do you trust again? Here’s my how-to.
First, we have to talk about that guy. You know the one I’m talking about. The bad guy we all date at one point (some of us date that guy a few times). Why we do it I don’t know but I think it has something to do with how they make us feel – cool, edgy, sexy, like a bad-ass.
My guy was BAD.
He was older, unemployed and junior college was just somewhere he went to avoid working. He spent his time drinking 40’s, smoking pot, playing dominos, video games and clubbing. His dad was a drug dealer and his mom was a single working mom who I realize now was just trying to keep her son out of trouble. She didn’t succeed.
I was 18, an honor student, and in my first year of college at UCSD.
But it was a very difficult time in my life. I had just lost my brother who was a year younger than me in a car accident and my parents were in the midst of a bitter divorce. My brother and sisters were devastated. My family life was never really stable, but at this time it was completely broken. Everyone was just trying to survive.
He followed me to college and we moved in together without my parents knowing.
While our relationship might have started because he was dangerous and it was exciting it lasted as long as it did because I was drowning. He was the only somewhat stable thing I had in my life and I needed someone.
Before the relationship was said and done, I had supported him emotionally and financially, I had seen him arrested after his friend threw something at a Foot Locker employee (for an outstanding warrant he had I didn’t know about), I had visited him in jail, I had lost friends, and in the end I found out he had been cheating on me our entire 3-year relationship and that he had robbed my house.
I feel like an idiot all over again just writing this but I want to give you the details so you understand why it was hard for me to trust again.
I didn’t just ignore the warning signs, I ignored the actual warnings. When we were first together a girl told me she was sleeping with him. But I didn’t believe her.
- In part because of ego (thinking I was better than her for whatever reason: she’s not as smart as me, she’s not as pretty as me, she’s not as cool as me or __________ insert any rationalization you can make up to convince yourself it isn’t true).
- In part because she said a few ridiculous things – like that she had proof they were sleeping together because she wrote it down in her calendar every time they had sex. Who does that in high school? And that’s not proof. I can write down whatever I want in my calendar?! I just wrote down that I had dinner with J-Wow from The Jersey Shore last weekend, lol.
- And in part because he denied it and all of his friends supported him. They all said she was “crazy”.
But mostly, I just didn’t want to believe it. I ignored my gut. Deep down I knew I couldn’t trust him.
3 years after the warning, my mom took a friend and me on a vacation to celebrate my 21st birthday. When I got back home my sister told me that he had called. She mentioned casually that he had called from a girl named Jennifer’s number. I had not heard that name in three years. When I re-dialed the number I heard a voice I had not forgotten, her voice, the same girl from 3 years ago. He had called me from her house.
The next time I spoke to him, I told him it was over. I actually lied and told him that I had met someone new and that I was cheating on him. I don’t think he believed me but I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of knowing how much he had hurt me (I had known we weren’t going to be together forever but I had thought we were at least friends). I never spoke to him again.
After that relationship, here’s what I decided:
- I would always listen to my gut.
- I would always listen to “crazy” girls.
- I was worthy of a great relationship.
But I had a very difficult time trusting again. I spent that summer in Washington DC, working, hanging out with amazing friends, laughing, dancing, healing. In the Fall I went back to school. It was my senior year of college and I was breezing through at this point.
I met a guy who would change my life, Louie.
Louie was kind. He was funny. Everybody and I do mean everybody loved him. I loved him. It was really impossible not to. But it took a solid year at least for me to trust him. He gave me absolutely no reason not to trust him. I mean there were few times he didn’t call when he was supposed to or he stayed out late with friends etc., but all minor stuff and if I had been more secure, more confident at the time, it would have been no big deal.
But how do you trust? How do you listen to your gut if you’ve been cheated on again-and-again and now you’re paranoid about everyone? In my opinion, the answer is you can’t.
I remember thinking (purposefully) that Louie was probably cheating and also knowing that those thoughts were 100% irrational. It was easier for me to just believe he was cheating then risk being blindsided again. I never shared my thoughts with Louie. I never said, “I think you’re cheating.” I kept those thoughts to myself because I knew they were crazy, I knew they were based on the past.
I think that was the way to go too. If I had said something it would have hurt our relationship. These were not his issues, these were mine to work through.
Little by little, I let my guard down. Little by little, I learned to trust again.
Louie didn’t end up being my forever, but that relationship changed me for the better. It restored my faith in relationships, restored my belief that there are great men out there. In part because of that relationship when I met my husband I was confident, I was trusting, I was strong. I don’t keep in touch with any of my exes but if I saw Louie again I would say thank you and I think my husband would too.