It’s been a while since my last post and it’s mostly because this one has been cooking for a while. November is always a difficult month for me as it has a lot of painful memories. The reason it took me forever to finally write this down is because I want to be careful about how I get this message across.
When it comes to romantic relationships, a lot of people have probably experienced infidelity. Either they have been cheated on or they have cheated. People have different standards of what cheating is. It can be as simple as a flirty text message, or as complicated as having another family hidden somewhere. Regardless, this post is about how one can deal with being cheated on.
To start things off, let me tell you about my story. I was in a relationship with a man who I thought was a decent guy. He talked about his mom a lot and he generally acted like a gentleman around all women. Unfortunately, I found out he was cheating on me less than a year into our relationship. That began five long years of repetitive arguments wherein I would catch him cheating, we would fight, he would apologize, and we would get back together.
At this point, most people would ask me, why the hell did I stay for half a decade? While initially I would answer because I love him, and for the longest time I believed that, I realized eventually that wasn’t true. I was in love with who I thought he was. And when I found out some six months into our relationship who he really was, I was angry with myself. I stayed in the relationship out of pride. I refused to accept that I was wrong in choosing him. I thought if I stayed and gave him everything, he would change and turn into the guy I hoped he would be.
I was wrong. After all those years of putting up with his lies, he broke up with me. He said he didn’t want to hurt me anymore. Less than 24 hours after breaking up with me, he announced his new girlfriend. She was one of his students, and was eight years younger than me.
This broke me. Even though I say I didn’t really love him, he broke me. The affair had been going on for months and everyone at our workplace knew except me. I had my suspicions but I thought it would just be another fling that he would get over. I was so humiliated and hurt that I couldn’t work. I spent all my vacation days to leave the country for a month. I went to Singapore and stayed in my room, crying the whole time.
When I returned, I threw myself into work. But I was angry. Angrier than I’ve ever been in my life. I was a supervisor and my team took the brunt of my fury. I was yelling at everyone for every little thing. I thank them that they understood what was happening to me during that time.
Now this is the part where people would ask me, what happened after that? I like to annoy them by saying we got back together, we’re married now, and have a baby on the way. 🙂
Yeah, I hear you.
So how did that happen? Well, after six months of crying and yelling at people, my sister who is a devout Christian invited me to go to church with her. I don’t see her much and thought I could sit through church for an hour and a half if that meant we can go hang out after. I was a non-practicing Catholic. I even almost cancelled that Sunday morning because I wanted to sleep in. When I was about to text her to cancel, she texted me first, saying she was waiting outside my apartment. So… LoL. Off to church we go.
I was not religious in any way. A lot of things have happened in my life and I ended up living some twenty years without entering a church. For some reason, though, I was invited to go to church on that exact day to hear this message,
“It is not a wife’s job to change her husband.”
If you’re not religious, you may call it serendipity or luck or just plain stupid. But at that moment, I came to realize something. I realized I spent the last five years being angry because I was trying to change a man and was failing miserably.
Now this post isn’t about how God magically healed me and changed my life. I know not everyone buys into that and I want everyone to understand that you don’t have to be the religious kind to deal with the pain the same way I did.
The key thing I want everyone to understand here is: Change Yourself. This is something that was very hard to swallow when I started out. I was a proud and independent woman who always, always followed the rules.
Why should I change? He’s the one who did something wrong!
That’s exactly the problem. Whether you are in a relationship, or just ended one, you should always focus on what you can do to improve. You are not doing this to please the other person, you are doing this for yourself. Do you know how exhausting it is to hold on to a grudge? You won’t know until you feel how light it is to let go.
For months, I focused on myself. I thought about all the things I did wrong in the relationship. The nagging, the yelling, and even throwing his past mistakes in his face during arguments. All those times, I could have just backed off and let things go. I thought about all the hurtful things I said whenever we argued. All those things I could have let slide. I saw how toxic our relationship was. I realized that’s not the kind of person I wanted to be. I had to change. Not to win him back, but to be better.
Several months after breaking up with me, he asked if we could talk. It turned out the little young thing he was with had gotten over dating older men and found something else to amuse her. He said he missed me and wanted to get back together. (Stop rolling your eyes, I see you!)
I wasn’t seeing anyone during that time and I did miss him. I said we can start over. I’m still not sure if I should have just moved on but the first few months back together were the hardest. I felt such a strong urge to make him suffer the way I did. I was still so pissed. Everything he did annoyed me. Every time he tried to do something nice, something cynical would pop in my head and it would take every ounce of willpower in me to hold my tongue. (We would be in the mall and he would point to a cute little girl in a fairy costume and all I could think of is, “Oh, maybe you’d like to date her, too?”)
It was hard as hell but you know what? It became less hard over time. Months went by and eventually the cynical remarks stopped popping into my head. I stopped clenching my fist whenever he would say he loves me. I stopped getting annoyed by the things he did. I just started being happy again.
This post isn’t meant to tell you to get back together with your cheating ex. By all means, leave his cheating behind and find someone better. This is meant to tell you that trying to change a person you can’t control will only make you frustrated and miserable. Focus on changing someone you can control – yourself.
Whether or not your current partner is meant to stay is beside the point. Try saying “good morning” or “I miss you” a bit more. Try ending arguments sooner. Try to not bring up past arguments when you’re upset. It would be hard, I know. But try it anyway. If your partner doesn’t respond to it, it doesn’t matter. You’ll feel better if you change to improve yourself, instead of changing to get a result from your partner.