Taking Back A ‘Cheater’
Our society has many rules of dating, some of which make sense, and others not so much. For instance, there’s the common rule not to sleep with someone on the first date. Or the rule that says you have to wait a certain amount of days before calling or texting someone who just gave you their phone number. Personally, I think these dating rules are best when they are broken—after all, not every situation is the same and not every person is the same. So why should we all play by the same rules?
While I have broken many of the dating rules out there (starting with my first date, when I didn’t order the lady-like and easy-to-eat salad and instead opted for hot wings, fries, and cheeseburger pizza….also I was wearing old, ratty jeans and a T-shirt that belonged to my brother), one of the big rules I have broken is taking back my boyfriend Fred after he cheated on me. Before I go any further though, I should explain one thing: I have been a cheater myself, and taken back myself. So yes, I know both sides of the experience.
I never thought I would cheat on someone. It seemed like something that was obviously fundamentally wrong, and how could I ever do something like that to someone I cared about/loved? Why not just break up if I wanted someone else? But life happened, and I jumped into a relationship right after ending one that lasted 2 years. I never processed the breakup, and I ended up dealing with those feelings in a really awful way, by cheating with my ex. It was the biggest and worst mistake I’ve ever made, and while I have forgiven myself I will never forget it. Long story short, both the relationship and the cheating blew up in my face and left me miserable and alone. But months later, that same person I cheated on took me back.
I was incredulous that this person would want to be with me again, let alone not hate my guts. After all, I had broken their trust and not owned up to it until much later. I lied again and again…so why take me back? Well, I think it had a lot to do with the fact that in-between these two relationships I found out that I had been cheated on in the 2 years I spent with the very person I cheated with. It was then that I owned up to my own cheating, and realized just how badly I had hurt the person I cheated on. As silly as it sounds, you just can’t realize the pain cheating causes until it happens to you.
So let’s jump forward onto the timeline to this past March, when I officially took back Fred, aka Mr.2 years. After yelling at him again and again, and then not speaking to him, I had realized I still had feelings for him, and he still had feelings for me. So we decided to explore them, and see if we still could get along and function together on the regular. But then we realized we both wanted to make it official—neither one of us wanted to see other people. So we called it a relationship, and here we are months later.
How do I trust him? How do I not worry about repeating the same mistakes? Well, it’s not easy. If I didn’t believe that this person wasn’t worth spending the rest of my life with, I wouldn’t be with him. If he hadn’t changed his behavior and started being honest and open, I wouldn’t be with him. If I hadn’t learned to deal with the insecurity and mistrust the cheating instilled in me, I wouldn’t be with him. A lot of work has gone into repairing the damage, and a lot of serious talks between us had to happen before I felt like we both knew exactly what we were signing up for again. And even now, it is still a process. Honestly is something that has to constantly maintained, and that will never change. We both have promised to keep each other in the loop, to talk about whether or not we are happy, if we are feeling tempted by someone else, or if we are doing something (or in the position to do something) that might upset the other person. He works on not sugar-coating the truth or hiding things, and I work on actually speaking up when I’m upset or feel insecure. By dealing with the hard stuff directly, we are able to have room to truly enjoy the happy, easy things.
All in all, the cheating made our relationship stronger, opened both of our eyes to the ugly parts of each other, and forced us to grow up a bit and realize what we want. But other people don’t always understand that part of the story…when you tell your friends and family that you took back the person who cheated on you, there tends to be some judgement. Luckily, everyone I’ve told has been supportive and happy for me, but I still feel the need to justify my decision when I talk about how my relationship is going.
See, it’s really easy to say, “Don’t ever take back a cheater!” when you’ve never been in the middle of cheating. It’s not as black and white as you would think—yes, it is wrong, no doubt about it. But the person who did it still may be a good person. If I hadn’t cheated myself, I probably couldn’t have forgiven Fred. But after my own experience, while very different, I saw how confusing and trapped someone can feel in that situation. When I cheated, guilt swallowed up my entire life and ended up destroying my relationship. I couldn’t take it back, no matter how much I wished I could, and I couldn’t seem to convey how deeply I loved the person despite cheating on them. But people hated me and judged me for cheating anyway, and while I understood that I wished they realized that I was still the same person, just one that made a very terrible mistake.
So that’s why I’m breaking the rule. Ultimately, I am in charge of my life and my happiness, which I don’t have to explain to anyone. Fred makes me happy, and I make him happy, so we are working hard to make sure that we maintain our relationship and prevent any cheating. The bottom line is: you can’t change the past, but you should give people the opportunity to learn from it. I’m not saying that everyone in every circumstance should take back their ex who cheated, just that people are more than ‘cheaters’ and more than ‘cheated on’. We are human, we make mistakes and hurt others, but that doesn’t mean we can’t change or that we don’t deserve love.