It is hard to get over a cheater because when you leave the relationship, there are two people you must mourn. One is the asshole who cheated on you, in all their flawed, unfaithful glory. This is the person it is easy to get mad at, the person it is easy to cut off contact with, the person it is easy to talk shit about while you’re out for cocktails with your girlfriends at night. It’s the person you are glad to be leaving because you know that you don’t deserve their bullshit in your life.
The other person you must get over is the person you thought they were. The relationship you thought you had. The trust you so carefully built, not knowing that the foundation was made up of quicksand. It’s not the cheater you are mourning at 4am when you come home from the bar alone and want to call them up to tell them they’re forgiven; it is their intangibly perfect alter-ego. The one you built a life with. The one you poured your trust into. The one you thought was always going to be there, until they weren’t. You hate the person they turned into, but love the person they were. Love the way things were. Love the memory of each blissfully ignorant day with them, so fiercely that it tears you to pieces.
It is hard to get over a cheater because you never get the closure you need. You cannot reason your way to the cause of the cheating — and I strongly encourage you not to try. The back of your mind will only make up reasons that scathe you: you weren’t funny enough or sexy enough or enticing enough. You didn’t pay enough attention. You didn’t make enough time. With every magazine title screaming “Ways to please your lover!” and “How to not scare the good ones away,” you begin to suspect that it was your fault they cheated, not theirs. You know logically this is not true, but it feels true. The harder you search for a reason, the more the truth evades you. A simple lapse in judgment doesn’t seem like an adequate explanation for the hell that you’ve been put through. So you search for a bigger, better reason that is not there.
It’s hard to get over a cheater because the only person you hate more than them is yourself. You hate yourself for falling for them. For investing in them. For turning a blind eye to every red flag that was a clue along the way. You scorn yourself for believing every lie they told, and letting it all come to fruition. You hate yourself for not putting together the puzzle pieces that you were never actually holding.
It is hard to get over a cheater because we are seldom given the chance to properly mourn them. We are encouraged to feel every scathing emotion we can muster toward our unfaithful lovers, but we’re told that we cannot still love them. Cannot miss them. Cannot mourn the loss of that love because we should be too angry to feel sadness. We are not given the chance to go through the regular process of grieving somebody who was once a major part of our lives. And because we try to deny ourselves this process, we exemplify the pain. We feel ashamed for still loving them. Ashamed for still needing to grieve. Ashamed of not being ready to start over right away, even though we know we deserve so much better. Ashamed because it must make us weak to feel anything other than hatred.
It is hard to get over a cheater because the real person we have to forgive at the end of the day is ourselves. We have to forgive ourselves for missing the signs that we couldn’t possibly have seen. For losing a game we never signed up to play. For having a perfectly natural connection with a person who turned out to not be who they said they were. We don’t want to accept that bad things can happen to us without precedence. That we can be fooled and treated unfairly and still end up the loser in the end. We want to believe in the eternal balance of the Universe, which suggests that when we are in pain we have done something wrong. It is hard to get over a cheater because it means accepting the bizarre notion that life can be unfair in the harshest sense of the word.
It is hard to get over a cheater because a betrayal of trust turns your world upside down. And the only way to flip it right-side up again is to give ourselves permission to work through it. To accept what happened. To mourn someone we hate. To grieve a relationship we walked away from. To work through every paradoxical situation we encounter, until we come through on the other side. The side with a clean slate. The side where we don’t just suspect that we deserve better — we know. And the side where we are proud of ourselves for never accepting any less.