I have been with my SO—let’s call him Justin— for nearly three years. We met during my college Orientation. I was immediately attracted to him—his high cheekbones, piercing green eyes, sandy blond hair, and dazzling smile of perfectly aligned white teeth made it hard not to be. We really hit it off from the get-go, and we started “Facebook-official”-ly dating a few weeks into my first year of college. He is my best friend and confidant, my cheerleader, and who I can picture spending the rest of my life with. And I am only able to say the previous sentence with confidence because I have recently cheated on him.
I never planned to cheat on Justin. It’s not like we ever hit a point in our relationship where I was miserable and didn’t see a way out. We have always been happy and have always been on the same page with each other. I wasn’t falling out of love with Justin, either. He still gives me that “glittery” feeling when I see him or when his name pops up on my phone. We take the time to go out on dates and get ready for each other—it’s almost like every date is our first date. I never checked off any of the points in those “Signs You’re Falling Out Of Love” articles on Thought Catalog. I also wasn’t bored—emotionally or physically—with Justin. Our sex life was, and is, very active and satisfying for both of us.
I think part of the reason I cheated on Justin was because prior to meeting him I had just ended a five-year relationship with someone else. So eight years of my life have been spent in committed, long-term relationships, with a very short break in between. That wasn’t planned either—I just fell head over heels for Justin once I arrived on campus. In addition, the friends that I have met in college are very much into the hook-up culture. Every time we chill they have new frat DFMO stories to tell, new sexcapades to explain, new boys to evaluate. I can only ever smile or laugh (or cringe) along with their stories, and sprinkle in advice whenever they ask for it. Their stories made me curious, though, about what this type of life was like. This was an option that I had never explored—never even thought about—because for the past eight years I was solely committed to my long-term relationships. That “what if” started to linger in the back of my mind.
I cheated on Justin with someone I met in one of my classes. He is charming, intelligent, funny, and really, really hot (like, I-don’t-comprehend-what-you-say-when-you-talk-to-me-because-I’m-hardcore-staring hot). It was difficult not to be attracted to him as well. After getting to know him better, I started having sexual feelings toward him, and my curiosity grew. There was a clear sexual tension between us—a mutual desire I would venture to say. He knew that I was dating Justin, and he was respectful of that boundary. But it was me who crossed the line: I asked him to hangout at my apartment and had very clear intentions. That “what if” in the back of my mind took over. And the sex was fantastic. We didn’t make love, but we fucked. Hard. Three times in a row.
I sometimes ask myself why I don’t feel guilty about cheating on Justin with my classmate, or why I don’t feel guilty for enjoying the sex so much. My answer is always the same: because it was something that I needed to do for me. I am definitely a feminist, but this had nothing to do with expressing my freedom as a woman, or general human being for that matter, or anything along those lines. I am not a bad person without morals. I am not a “slut”. I did not grow up in a troubled home where my parents cheated on each other, which in turn never taught me how to love (they are very much in love–have been since their high school days). I am not emotionally unavailable or numb. I simply just needed to explore an option that was always on that metaphorical table; I just never realized it because of eight years of monogamy. After I cheated on Justin I realized that the hook-up culture is not for me, and never will be. I can see why people like it—the rush, the emotional detachment, the fun and casual sex—but I will not pursue it again. That “what if” has disappeared from my conscience. Cheating also opened up my eyes to how much I truly love Justin. I could not picture myself dating or becoming seriously involved with my classmate (someone who I admire and have an attraction towards) —a clear sign to me that I will not see myself with anyone other than Justin.
Yes, I told Justin about the cheating. I sat him down and told him everything, from the nagging “what if” to the act itself. I left out the name of my classmate, though, because at the end of the day it doesn’t matter who he is, and Justin did not want to know, either. I did not cry or beg Justin to stay with me, because I wasn’t exactly sorry. I would have understood if he got up and left me. That was the farthest thing from what I wanted, but it was a possibility that I walked into the situation knowing could happen. He didn’t get up and storm out. He didn’t break up with me. Sure, he was angry, but he forgave me. Not in the “I’ve-secretly-cheated-on-you-too-so-that’s-why-I-forgive-you” way, but in a genuine understanding of why I needed to do it. Justin hasn’t even lost his trust in me because he knows that I did not cheat on him because of anything he did wrong, or because I stopped loving him. Some will probably be shocked when I say this, but I truly think this has made our relationship stronger. We already had a great connection, but now we are even more open, affectionate, and communicative. Our relationship hasn’t suffered, nor do we still talk about the incident. We laugh a lot, we watch a lot of awful TV shows on Netflix, and we bake a lot of cookies. We talk about a future together—a happy one. When I take a step back and look at our relationship, I wouldn’t change anything, and most importantly, I am at peace with satisfying my curiosity and putting it to rest.