Friday, June 5, 2009

Cheater, Cheater

Years ago, I got cheated on by a boyfriend. I look back on it now as a gift from God, a true blessing. We were incredibly wrong for each other and he did me such a huge favour. Before he cheated, we could well have been on the path to marrying each other because nobody better was available. There's no denying that, for me, this was a very lucky escape.

In talking to people lately, it has occurred to me that this really isn't that uncommon a problem. In the 90's, every other episode of Jerry Springer and Jenny Jones, and every mindless talk show in between, showcased mullet-headed, toothless guys in ripped jeans and wife-beater tank tops "revealing" their infidelities to women who would never have the brainpower to come to the conclusion on their own, and would still never leave this paragon of male excellence because she "loved him". Then the other woman would come out, and a brawl would ensue, complete with post-production "bleeps" every three seconds. Ah, the golden age of television...

Not that I was much better. When it happened to me, I was about 20 years old, and pretty darned clueless. While the guy wasn't really a terrible boyfriend (you know, until he stuck his you-know-what, who-knows-where), I wasn't so crazy about him that I'd have put up with what he did based on some skewed perception of what constituted "love". But these things are never that cut-and-dried, and I did attempt to stick it out for a few months afterwards. My reason? I didn't want his parents, or mine, to be mad at me for dumping him. Boy, oh boy.

Now, you might ask why on earth I wasn't shouting what he did from the rooftops and making sure all the parents were well aware that a nice, loud breakup was completely justified. That's the other complex part. And I'd be very, very interested to know if anyone else has ever experienced this, so do let me know.

When I got cheated on, I knew logically that this was not my fault. It was entirely down to the person who did the cheating. And it didn't even devastate me to have to end the mediocre relationship. But almost immediately, this nagging little voice appeared inside my head. It started making some pretty preposterous, but totally convincing arguments. He cheated because I was somehow not good enough. I wasn't able to keep him faithful. Everyone will hear this news and know that something is wrong with ME!

So I kept quiet and stuck things out until they became unbearable and I no longer cared who was mad at me. Eventually, the whole pathetic thing fizzled out like a flat glass of generic brand diet cola.

But that obnoxious, insulting voice remained.

It's one thing to have a negative little murmur like that present itself. It's quite another to shut it up. And unlike other doubts I've heard in my head from time to time, this one stuck around for years. I think I can honestly say that it took me 5 years to beat that rotten, lousy, destructive suggestion to its eventual death. That was more than twice what the relationship itself even lasted, and was way past the point where I was over the guy and onto far more profitable pursuits.

So, for the benefit of anyone who has ever been treated to a healthy dose of infidelity at the hands of someone who probably didn't deserve them, I'd like to state what I eventually came to accept and believe about this subject. If you take only one thing from this post, let it be this.

Cheaters cheat because they are cheaters. No matter how lousy a relationship is, cheating is something that people do when they don't have the coping skills to deal with their problems appropriately. It is a reflection of their own issues, and has nothing to do with the cheat-ee.

When we're young, I think we have this notion that if we can be just the right person and do just the right things, we can keep people from straying. It just doesn't work that way. And after this experience, hoping to make something positive out of all that time I wasted on him, I reflected hard on what I was looking for in a life partner. In the end, I realized that I wasn't looking for someone who wouldn't cheat on me. I was looking for someone who wouldn't cheat on anyone. And once I figured that out, that "someone" wasn't too hard to find.

And while he may not be keeping things exciting by ambushing me on Jerry Springer, I like him just fine.

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