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.
So I found out that Fred cheated on me during those two years we were together. Needless to say, I told him to never speak to me again. And you know what? Life is actually going alright. Not much has changed, really. I still go to my classes, I go to work, I hang out at home with my roommates, I sit outside and listen to music in between classes. I’m thinking about creative projects I could start and homework I should probably be catching up on instead. I’m planning my tattoo. Life goes on.
That’s not to say that I didn’t call him Monday night after a week of silence and scream and cry at him over the phone. After all, he deserved to hear how much he hurt me. But it’s all really for the best—it’s useless to fight for a person who lied to you and betrayed your trust. So I am happily embracing life—because my life is mine now. No more trying to plan a future around Fred or his failed attempts at finishing his degree. No more boundaries around when I can go travel (well, except money…:/), no more trips home unless I actually want to drive those two hours.
As if that wasn’t enough, I came out to my dad earlier that Monday. He was lecturing me about having lesbian friends and straight up asked if I’m interested in girls or guys. After a long pause I finally said, “Both”. It went better than I expected. Naturally, there was yelling and I almost walked out on him, not to mention him subtly threatening not to pay for my college anymore, but by the end of the conversation I said, “Love you Dad” and he said “Love you too.”
Another part of this honesty project I’ve got going on was admitting to my ex-girlfriend that I cheated on her with Fred. It was the worst mistake of my life, and I told her she could punch me in the face, but she didn’t. “I still love you,” she told me. “I knew you cheated on me, but what hurt was that you wouldn’t admit it to me.” So, amazingly enough, this incredibly kind, caring person forgave me for being an absolute dick. Just like that, I felt myself become a better person for admitting my mistakes. After all, I don’t want to be Fred, and use people at my leisure.
Another thing. I’ve been seeing this guy. Now I know I don’t need anymore drama in my life at this point, but that’s the great part about him—he doesn’t stress me out. It’s very casual, and he’s a really nice person. We only see each other about once a week and we don’t have to constantly text or commit to any labels. Basically, we’ve just been getting to know each other. (Although for me that means omitting all of the current events on Fred and my ex-girlfriend….we’ll see if I get there with this guy.) But I’m really happy with it. Sometimes it’s nice to surround yourself with new people when your life is becoming a whole new experience.
I wasted years of my life loving someone who put in minimal effort and didn’t show me respect. It’s time to just figure out what I want my life to look like, and go with the flow.
I’m pissed off.
I’m pissed off that I work five days a week and have negative two dollars in my bank account. I’m pissed off that I get yelled at for getting home past curfew because I was crying in a parking lot to my boyfriend, while my brother can have his girlfriend spend the night at our house and have her up in his room with the door closed (did I mention that my room is next door and the walls are thin? Yeah. And meanwhile, my boyfriend can’t set one foot in my room without me getting screamed at). I’m pissed off that it’s been a week of working at my crappy job and the one day where all I want to do is be alone and relax while playing this computer game “Civilization” (my boyfriend got me addicted to it to the point where I want to play it everyday for hours), I don’t have enough money to buy it (or gas, for that matter. Or the spending tickets I’ve acquired. Or the lawyer for the speeding tickets). I’m pissed off that all I ever do is screw up and get yelled at for it. I’m pissed off that I have less than a month left before I leave this place and my boyfriend. I’m pissed off that I have to start taking meds again when all I want is to be normal and stay there. I’m pissed off that this stupid blog is FOR NOTHING, that my friends don’t bother reading it, or anyone else for that matter. Am I helping anyone, or being helped myself? NO. IT’S ALL FOR NOTHING. I hate it. I hate my life right now. I hate that no one in my family wants to spend time with me without criticizing me. I hate that all my friends are busy. I hate that college is starting. I hate it all. I hate that my boyfriend has had a lot more relationships than I have had, and has slept with more people than I have had, and they’ve all been good and fine and all of my past relationships remind me why I suck and deserved to be treated that way. I hate that I’m thinking all of this and writing all of this, when no one wants to hear it–people want to hear about how being positive is easy and life isn’t scary and that once you have found love it all works out and that confidence will never fail you and your friends from high school will stick by you and won’t end up doing heroin.
And I can’t write about any of that, because I know none of it.
Sometimes, when people look at my scars where I’ve cut myself they joke around and ask things like, “So why’d you carve a giant swastika into your arm?” (which it isn’t, and is offensive), I think, “You’ve never hated yourself like I have, have you? And you’ll never know how sad you can feel inside when you look at your scars and not regret it. Because deep down somewhere I know I took it easy on myself, and if I truly were honest when I had that knife in my hand I wouldn’t be here right now. So go ahead, look concerned or laugh. If you knew what this was like you wouldn’t say a word.” That’s how I feel writing in this blog sometimes. I feel like I’ve put my scars out there in these posts, and in response all people want to do is judge rather than understand.
I don’t need advice and I don’t need sympathy. I need support, I need to know you people are actually there.
(If you even are.)
It takes a significant amount of courage to say your true feelings–the real, real true ones. The ones you keep locked in your heart forever and just can’t seem to let go of. You get my point. People never say those things, and usually that’s okay. But sometimes it eats away at you, because you see what you can’t say when you look into someone’s eyes. Reflected in that warm amber is the heart you have, that no one seems to know anything about. Except you. And you can’t help but want to cry as you stare into their eyes, because it would be so much easier if they could see your heart too.
So, you may just find yourself running breathlessly to their front door and knocking on it. And they may open the door eating a ham sandwich. And you’ll stammer, “Hi.” Then they will invite you in and you’ll sit on the back porch and they’ll tell you a story. And after a few minutes of freaking out you will feel your knees quake as you open your mouth to tell them what you need to say. And you’ll finally feel better as you say exactly what you mean.
And then almost two weeks later you’ll be sitting in your room wondering if anything will ever work out for you. Because apparently, you’re being naïve and stupid to believe that a person could ever care about you. And even saying that to yourself, you don’t want to believe it.
But it could be true, and that’s scary.
Because you want to be able to care about people; you don’t want to be stone forever.
Can’t life just have a reverse button and we can go back to that moment, that Tuesday, when I knew exactly what was going on?
What do you do after you put yourself out there and you are getting multiple answers? Some may say its perfect, some may say it’s trouble, and you are stuck there saying, “WHY?!?”
Is it just the male species that’s so confusing? Because something tells me I am being just as confusing and vague as the male counterpart in this situation. But then I was told I was being too obvious as well. Which definitely gets me all bristly. I HATE neediness and vulnerability. I AM NOT needy.
At least I try not to be. Every person is needy to a certain degree, but I overcompensate for that by being cold to people. And I don’t want to go backwards and be so frozen over I can’t see the goodness in the people around me. But I don’t want to be needy, either.
So I’m stuck. And I hate being stuck.
I don’t know if I should open up or “leave him alone”. I don’t know if I’m pulling away or pushing him into something. I don’t know what the hell I’m doing.
Maybe when you’re about to leap into your feelings there are no facts. There’s just what is, and what isn’t.
I guess time will tell.
I’m getting awfully sick of telling myself that, though.
I’m getting awfully sick of this situation, too.
I don’t know what is fact or fiction anymore.
I just know what I feel. And I sort of wish I didn’t.
Originally written: 10/22/11