Moving Past Infidelity
Why and how I stayed with my cheating boyfriend.
By Jessica Peña, University of Texas at San Antonio
I am twenty years old and I’ve only ever had one boyfriend in my entire life.
We’ve been together since the eighth grade—that’s nearly six and a half years now. So cute, right? It was. Until the night after my birthday when he got drunk and high and cheated on me with a girl whose name he didn’t even know.
Allow me to give you a little background information here. We moved to San Antonio together two years ago for college, but went back home to the Rio Grande Valley one weekend for me to spend my twentieth birthday with my family. That was Friday. Saturday night, my genius boyfriend had the brilliant idea to go out partying with all his old, single high school buddies.
Of course, I was the only one who could see such a plan was a recipe for disaster. My inner green-eyed monster that I usually do a pretty decent job of keeping locked up broke out and wreaked havoc. I replied to his attempts at peace with “K” and said good night long before I ever intended to go to sleep. If he was going out against my wishes, then I wasn’t going to grace him with the honor of my texts.
That was my mistake. His came a few hours later.
By the wee hours of the morning (I was actually asleep by then), my boyfriend found himself extremely intoxicated, quite under the influence of marijuana and hurt by my lack of understanding and trust. It was under these circumstances that he made the poor decision of allowing some drunk girl he’d never met before to stick her tongue down his throat. But after sucking face for about a minute, he realized what he was doing and walked away.
I saw the shameful hickey on his neck the next morning during our four-hour drive back up to our apartment in San Antonio, but he claimed it was a casualty from shaving. I knew he was lying. He knew that I knew he was lying. He continued to lie for an entire week. I asked and he lied and we fought. Finally, guilt got the better of him and he told me the truth.
It felt like my heart sank into my stomach and then someone punched me in the gut.
I yelled like a maniac in a strait jacket at an insane asylum. I ripped the photos of us dating all the way back to 2009 from the wall. I stormed out of our apartment and went to stay at a friend’s place.
Two hours later he asked me to please come home and I did.
I let him hold me in the bed he always complained was too small for the both of us. He wasn’t complaining this time. He held me and we cried together. He’d been unfaithful but I let him wrap his arms around me. He’d betrayed me but I rested my face on his chest as the hot tears streamed down my cheeks. He’d disrespected our relationship but I forgave him. He’d cheated on me but I still loved him.
He made a mistake. Just like we all do. Who was I to deem him an unfit boyfriend? Who was I to say he was unworthy of compassion and forgiveness?
I have to be honest. I’d been drunk at parties before where the really cute guy hanging out by the beer pong table was a little more tempting than I’d like to admit. Maybe with a shot or two more in me I’d have gone for it, too. I’m only human. We all are.
So the truth was out. It might have taken him a week, but he valued me and everything we have together enough to be honest with me and face the hardships to come. Now, it’s been about two months and we’re in a better place than we’ve ever been before. He held me when I was emotional. He gave me space when I needed it. He answered my questions and shared his feelings. We got through it. Together.
I stayed because I wanted to. Yes, cheating is bad. But there was just so much more good that wasn’t worth losing over a stupid, drunken hook up that didn’t even mean anything. He wasn’t talking to someone from one of his classes behind my back. He wasn’t secretly seeing a coworker when he was supposed to be studying at the library. No, it wasn’t like that at all. He didn’t even know the girl’s name. I didn’t have to worry about him SnapChatting her low key or hitting her up for seconds on Facebook. It was a onetime thing that wasn’t as hard as you’d think to simply put behind us and move on.
Whether we like to admit it or not, getting drunk and hooking up with strangers is a pretty big part of what our generation likes to do on the weekends. In no way does that make cheating okay, but it does make it easier to forgive. How harshly can we really judge a twenty-year old guy who has only ever been with one person his entire life for kissing a pretty girl while he was drunk at a party?
It was fairly easy to forgive my boyfriend for what he did. One mistake couldn’t change how I felt about him. Putting myself in his shoes, I could understand and only hoped he would have shown me the same sympathy had it been the other way around. Making the decision to stay and work it out was a no brainer. The difficult part came when the actual working out started.
How do you go on after an infidelity? From my experience, I’d say the most important part is to let go. Once you decide to stay, you have to let it go. You’ll want to use it against your SO every time they tick you off.
“Did you eat the last cookie?”
“Why? You knew I wanted it.”
“I was hungry.”
“But you CHEATED on me!”
You’ll want to rub their nose in it like a misbehaved dog.
“Babe, do you remember where I left my keys?”
“No. Do you remember when you CHEATED on me?!”
It seems a little ridiculous but it happens. I had to just let it go. It was the only way we could both be happy again.
If you find yourself in this situation, you’re going to think you want to hear every R-rated detail of your partner’s romp, but trust me, you don’t. Don’t ask anything that you don’t really need to know. Learning whether or not they used protection if it went that far is important for your own safety. Asking for a detailed play by play of when he slid into which base will only make you sick to your stomach and enraged all over again. The person you love with someone else is not an image you want stuck in your head, believe me.
After an indiscretion of this nature, it’s only natural for trust to take a dive, but you can’t punish your lover forever. Sure, I didn’t want him to get drunk without me at a party again for a while (him even asking would have been grounds for murder).
But I also realized I couldn’t lock him up and throw away the key or put a leather choker and leash on him either. The only way to re-establish trust was to let him prove himself again. If he was going to go hang out with the guys, we would text the whole time. If he gave me his word to be home by one a.m., I had to believe that he was going to keep it. He may have cheated, but he also chose to stay with me, too.
Pain and sadness are inevitable feelings that come along with being cheated on but that won’t get you anywhere. I had to choose to be happy. It’s easy to lie in bed crying into a tub of ice cream and I allowed myself a day of that (“Grey’s Anatomy” binge and Rocky Road). Just one. Okay, maybe one and a half. After that, being happy in spite of my broken heart was difficult, but it made moving forward so much easier.
Only you can decide whether or not it’s worth it to forgive, but forgiveness does not equal weakness. Quite the contrary, it took strength I never imagined I had. I honestly believe breaking up would have been easier, but I would have missed out on so much. I learned it’s okay to stay. Moving past infidelity is a journey, a crazy rollercoaster of emotions. I’m just glad we had the love it takes to stay.