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.
It’s cold, rainy days like these that I remember the old days. Days from my freshman year of high school when I’d walk home from the bus stop in the rain. Days where I’d stare out the window of my history class and wish I was outside, free to roam, rather than cramped up in some crappy building all day long. These are the days I would feel the most content or lonely by myself, the ones where I never put down my iPod, where I’d close my eyes to feel the wind on my skin. And today is no exception. It’s a day for thinking, writing, appreciating myself for all that I am and all that I’m not.
I’m not together. I’m very much the definition of an uncertain, frazzled college student. My major hangs around me like a bad smell, my love life is a mess, and my favorite parts of the day are when I’m either eating, napping, or walking. I’m not bubbly. I sit and ponder and make normal, everyday things part of a big philosophical discussion in my head, all with a sort of frown on my face. I am someone capable of affection, and am willing to give it constantly to those I wish to. I am someone searching for purpose and reasons to fight for happiness in life, for people to help, for things to improve (but also appreciate for what they are). I’m not good at planning things out, and am always running late. But I am usually up for anything, am willing to try new things, and make decisions spontaneously.
Why am I writing this? Well, in a lot of these posts I have some sort of dilemma I’m sorting out (like my stupid love life), and I’m getting pretty tired of it. I’m tired of putting myself on trial for making the decisions that I do, and analyzing the possible outcomes over and over. The thing is, you never really know what is going to make you happy in the future, just what will make you happy right now. So I’m done with this battle of, “Is this the right decision? Will I regret this next month? Next year? What if it goes all wrong eventually?” Screw it. I’m not going to live my life by rules I don’t have reasons for, and am going to cut myself some serious slack.
I can only be myself; I can’t be anyone else for anyone else.
What I don’t understand about relationships, about people, is the past tense part. How are you supposed to know? When to end it, when it is truly over, when you’ve had closure, when you’ve moved on? And furthermore, how do you know any of that about the person you are currently with? How do you know when they don’t give a hoot about their ex? But wait, is it possible to even stop caring completely about someone you were in a relationship with? See, there are so many ways to go about thinking these things over…and is the fact that I am even thinking them over something to consider?
My boyfriend’s birthday has recently past, and therefore I’ve been thinking about how glad I am that he exists and such. This is my longest relationship and it’s funny to think how one night turned into talking, which turned into seeing another and dating, which turned into a relationship, which turned into “I love you”. And it all comes from that one night. It feels a lot different than my past relationships. All of those had an awful buildup of insecurity and awkward flirting and confusion caked on top. But…I don’t know…I can’t help but think to myself how different being in love is between the past and now. This relationship I am in now doesn’t fit into “typical relationship” when compared with ever other experience I’ve had. All of that confusion, loneliness, longing never turned up. From the beginning I’ve always felt like we were on the same page, rather than trying to guess at what the other person had going on in their head. What happened–what changed? Did I do something different or was it my choice of people that made it so much easier this time?
It’s not like my first “I love you” boyfriend, Charles, was terrible. He wasn’t. I thought the world of him, and sometimes I really hate the fact that we parted on bad terms. I still absently wonder what he’s up to from time to time, but I’m always left with a sad feeling afterwords. In a way, we relied on each other like the air we breathed–to stop the unbearable loneliness that surrounded our lives wherever we went. When we broke it off (for good) I had someone else I could go to, but he didn’t. For many months afterward, I felt responsible for his sadness, but part of that came from his manipulation. Still, sometimes I get the urge to call him up so we could go on one of our old adventures like the old days, in blind hope that maybe, finally we could just be friends–the real, true type of friends we were meant to be. Then again, maybe we were never meant to be just friends, and so I’ll forget the thought of contacting him in disappointment. Unfortunately, our relationship poisoned our friendship to the point where we always end every conversation in argument.
Don’t you just hate that? I want to go back with Charles, with Landon, go back to the days of when we could stand to be in the same room–heck, even ENJOY each other’s presence. I want to erase the tainted memories, the failure. I want to be friends… Because even if it is wrong, even if it sounds like I don’t appreciate my current relationship (which I do!), I miss them. They were important people in my life, a best friend (though flighty), a new/old friend (though distant) that I spent time with.
I don’t know if they ever think any of this, but I guess it doesn’t matter. There is nothing left to repair.
And that’s the hard truth.
Many people like to compare life to a rollercoaster. You have your highs and your lows. It all goes by too fast, and you can freak the fuck out when it gets to dangerous—especially when you know you can’t get off the ride. So what’s to do? If life were an actual rollercoaster, would anyone really want to choose the timid, kiddy coasters in comparison to the thrilling, scary ones? Or the other way around, would anyone take the risk if they were exactly sure what it was?
Usually in the books and movies, main characters are hit upside the head with a moment of clarity at the climax of our story. Maybe someone tells them the truth, maybe their best friend gives them advice, maybe a lover pours out their heart, maybe they are standing out in the rain and a solution is suddenly pulled right out of their butt. Either way, they look back on their life and realize what is important. No one does it before the mistakes are made. No one figures it out before their lives are completely screwed up. People tend to know how to fix things after the fact, if they ever figure it out at all. That’s just how it usually goes. Hindsight can be life altering, but it can also seem like a pain in the ass—mocking you with the answer as soon as the test is over.
And as time goes on it changes. For instance, if you had an obsession with High School Musical when you were eleven. At twelve, you may shrug your shoulders at the thought of it. At thirteen, you may shiver. At fourteen, you may gag. At fifteen, you may deny it. At sixteen, you may not care the slightest bit. Time alters our perception, and even though the memories may not have changed, the way we look at them does.
So how are you supposed to know what the truth is? How are you supposed to know if you should admit to your boyfriend that you used to make out with your Zac Efron poster and sing “Get Your Head In The Game” in the shower?
Well, I’m not a geisha or anything, so I’d say the misconduct of Teen Bop Magazine and misuse of your shampoo bottle as a microphone is your own call. Personally, I’d laugh right along with him after I’d fessed up. But all I did was the poster mishandling.
Anyway, whether you believe in regrets or not, when we look back on the things we used to do, the people we used to know, the places we’ve been, and who we used to be, our reactions are almost never repeated. Take relationships—initially after a break-up, you may feel remorse or denial. Then you may feel anger. Resentment. Wistfulness. Next you’ll want to stop feeling anything and move on. After a nice rebound and recuperation, you may look back and be glad that it turned out that way. Or proud of how you handled it. On the flip side, you may be ashamed, but years later you may be glad you learned your lesson earlier. Our feelings go through a cycle about the same situation. The only thing that changes is us. That’s how we are able to get past the low points on the rollercoaster. We keep moving and climb up to the high ones. Once I mentioned to a friend that I had been better when she asked how I was. She said to me, “That just means there’s something better around the corner.” Sounds corny, I know, but I really appreciated it. Lows points are usually stumbles on a path that’s leading you somewhere good, as long as you keep believing that’s where you’re headed. So sometime when you’re looking back on a recent setback and are trying to figure out if the glass if half full or empty, stop. Remember that this moment is just that, a moment. How it all turned out doesn’t have to spin our whole perception of life, especially since your perception of that moment will change time and time again. It really can be as simple as what they say if you let it: sometimes you just gotta learn your lesson and then go learn some more.
Who needs that glass of Dr. Pepper when you have a bottle of Lipton Diet Green Tea, anyway?
Originally written: 3/28/11