Quicker than I would have liked he slammed his hand over his phone screen; but I didn’t need for him to try to hide her name. I already knew who it was. Her name was Sarah, and it was the girl my boyfriend was cheating on me with.
They had met in a journalism class. She was pretty (if that means anything) and nice, but nothing special. I wanted her to be a former supermodel with hair that blew gloriously in the wind. I wanted her to be on a full-ride academic scholarship. Maybe then I could understand why he chose to have the relationship with her he should have been having with me.
The thing was, and I can’t be one hundred percent sure of this, but I am pretty confident I am, they didn’t have sex. They never even kissed. But they texted every single day, throughout the day. Her name would randomly pop up in the middle of a conversation he and I were having. He would comment on every single one of her photos on Facebook. He would offer to help her with any work she was having trouble with. I am sure my boyfriend, Chris at the time, didn’t realize everything he was doing was so transparent to me, but the second I saw him cover her name on his phone was the second I knew that this was no longer just a “friendship that meant a great deal to him.”
Chris was emotionally cheating on me with Sarah for months, but because they hadn’t done more than lingering hugs he could still look himself in the mirror the next day and call himself a great boyfriend.
He could also call me paranoid if I ever had the guts to bring it up to him (which of course I never did until a particularly heated fight.)
Then there was Bryant, the boyfriend after Chris. He too was a cheater except he did it the old-fashioned way. I discovered there was another girl in the picture when she found me on social media.
She let me know that the days he was not in bed with me, he was in bed with her. Not only that, we found out together he had been having sex with other people when he couldn’t reach either of us. I was so angry I sometimes compliment myself from the restraint it took to slash his tires. But I was also beyond embarrassed by the man I told everyone was “perfect.”
How could I defend this man now as I had before? Short answer: I couldn’t. But in my head I tried telling myself that maybe he was a man who didn’t ever really care about my feelings, I was simply something to use. He was a good liar. Or maybe it was a moment of weakness. If you gave him a few drinks and showed him enough leg he was going to be the type of guy to sleep with you. He was unshamelessly into sex and into whatever associated with it for most of our relationship, so this logic made sense.
Of course some men, far too many, fall into that grey area of both emotionally and physically cheating. But usually men liked Bryant, I’ve come to discover, just want the physical pleasure from whoever they are with at that moment. They can’t resist anyone physically throwing themselves at them. They aren’t looking for cuddling partners. Their validation only comes from how many times they can get off.
It was Chris though, and guys like him, which concern me the most. Because to be in a relationship is to make yourself committed to one person.
To be tempted by a gorgeous girl is one thing, but to be tempted by her personality and her proximity to your heart is a whole other.
It would have been different if Chris really did love Sarah more than me, but the reality of the situation is that he continued this path before and after my relationship with him with hardly any remorse.
When I confronted Bryant about having sex with another girl he tried to deny it, failed, and then ultimately told me that he never really wanted to do it, it just sort of happened in the heat of the moment. Chris was different. He never saw anything wrong with his inappropriate relationship with Sarah. He saw something more concerning with my accusatory tone of him. As his girlfriend I was supposed to trust him and not “over-react” when there were no reasons to. I was supposed to remain the “cool girl” I had been.
When a man says something along these lines to you, about how you need to be “cool” with his questionable relationship with another woman, trust your instinct and run for the hills. A real man never has to remind you that you are the one he truly wants, he will show you.
You might think that your partner having actual sex with someone else is worse, and I get it I do. I don’t know a woman who does not want to be the only one to turn-on a man, the only woman he ever lays eyes on. But there is nothing more heart-breaking than knowing your boyfriend has cute nicknames and flirty inside jokes with a woman that is not you. To know some part of his ego needs to be stroked by attention from others.
It’s a real crappy feeling to find yourself doing the one thing you swore you would never do – looking through his social media accounts because he left them open on your computer, and then finding a list of more than fifty messages back and forth to each other about their favorite food, hobbies, TV shows, and available times so that they can both Skype each other again soon “because it’s been too long.”
Both emotional and physical cheating destroys the trust built up in any relationship, and there is probably nothing worse to have to overcome as a couple, but I’ll always be on the lookout for a man who feels he needs to be told by three women that they love him so he can continue his relationship with one person.
Yes, most of the time if someone physically cheats it will only be a matter of time before they give in again, but having a slip one night is a lot different than making the constant decision day after day to stop emotionally investing in your relationship. It takes way more work to plan cute dates you disguise as “hang-outs” than it does to have a sloppy make out at a bar.
The basis of a good relationship is sex, but the basis of a real relationship is understanding that you made a decision to truly be completely present with one person.
It’s not that my future boyfriend will never be allowed to have female friends. How fair would that be when some of the people I am closest to are my guy friends? It’s just that there should never be a woman in his life who is able to fill all the emotional functions that as a girlfriend or wife I can’t provide. Otherwise why is my man in a relationship with me in the first place?