What Does Cheating Feel Like: My Breakup Story
The truth is breakups are tough, no matter what. Sometimes, they can be a lot more painful than others. Cheating makes them so much more complicated, hurtful and raw. I chose to finally share my story (one year later) because I needed to give myself time to gather my thoughts. I didn't want to write this post in anger. It is not my intention to share personal details for financial gain or validation. But after sharing that I was going through a breakup in January 2019 (without any details), and being vulnerable about that, I received so many messages from people. Even months after it, I had people reaching out to me asking for advice getting over a breakup as they were going through one. So, I have chosen to share more and I remain committed to bringing awareness to subjects that usually don't get talked about. For me, cheating was one of those topics. What does cheating feel like exactly? Read on to find out...
What Does Cheating Feel Like?
Cheating sucks. And if you've experienced it, I am sorry. If you haven't, it is my hope to open up the conversation a little bit. What does cheating feel like to the person who was cheated on? Well, that's why I want to share this story because I truly feel that there is so much shame and embarrassment surrounding infidelity. The person who was cheated on is often times led to believe that their partner straying was somehow their fault. And the shame that they feel about it is only made worse by not talking about it. So, I decided to say 'fuck it' and share with you my story.
So here it goes...
Although we broke up in December of 2018, we were still in contact as we lived together (and I had NO IDEA about the cheating). I very much wanted to be the bigger person despite being deeply sad and upset about the breakup (which was his doing, not mine). So, I continued to do nice things for him (like cook dinner and share it with him) and tried to be amicable. People told me, I was too nice but I didn't agree. I thought that by doing this he would be reminded of the kind person I am and at the time, I wanted to remain friends with him. Even on Christmas, our first time spending it apart, I received a text from him telling me how much he missed me and how hard this time of the year was for him too. In the back of my mind, I thought that meant we were going to get back together.
My 35th Birthday
Then in early January, my birthday to be exact, I woke up and decided to make myself breakfast. Although, I didn't feel like celebrating my birthday, I decided I would at least try. We talked that morning and he confirmed to me that this was over and he wasn't interested in trying. This came a day after he told me he missed me and "couldn't do this anymore..." i.e. go through with the breakup. I was crushed... yet again. Every time I got my hopes up, they came crashing down. Unfortunately, this would only be one of many cries I had that day.
How I found out, Because Everyone Always Wants to Know...
There is probably no good way to find out about cheating, but finding out on your birthday has got to be one of the worst ways. As much as I am not a big birthday person, it is the one day that is supposed to be all about YOU.
After he headed out for some errands, I decided to get out of bed from crying. I had a strong gut feeling to look through his stuff. I had no idea what I would find, and I thought I had gone completely mad. So I went to his laptop bag and searched it. I thought maybe I'd find some receipts or something. I took out everything I could find. And then, there it was, a hand drawn card. I didn't know what it was when I first looked at it, but I opened it up and it confirmed everything. A card written from the other woman, detailing every part of their relationship over the past few months. It was basically a love letter to him. As I read it, I thought my heart was going to explode, it was beating so fast. My hands started shaking and I started crying/yelling. I was freaking out and having my first full on panic attack.
What I Did Next
I did what any other woman would do... I called my best friends. To be honest, I have no idea how they understood what I was saying, I was hysterical and panicking. But the words came out "he's been cheating on me..." and the feeling I felt in that moment is still so strong that even as I type this, I get emotional. That feeling of being betrayed and lied to from the one person who is supposed to love and care about you is unlike anything I've ever experienced.
My friends were shocked. They told me to start packing up his things and when he returned to tell him to leave. Thank God they were around and they could tell me what to do because my mind was going a million miles an hour. I'll be honest, in that moment, I wanted to go full Beyoncé (circa Lemonade) and smash everything he owned.
When he got home, I had his things packed up (whatever I could find) and I told myself not to cry in front of him. He had seen me cry enough and I didn't want to give him the satisfaction of seeing me cry anymore. I left the letter she had written him on top of his luggage. And I sat in the bedroom and waited. As he approached, he saw it, and his face said it all. He told me "I never wanted you to find out this way." And all I said was "you never wanted me to find out at all." I told him to pack his stuff and get out. He did.
I left the condo while he packed and spent the next two hours at a park near my house in the freezing cold. I cried and cried and called my aunt to tell her what had happened. In that moment, I wanted nothing more than for my mom to be there with me.
How I spent my Birthday
I spent the rest of the night with two of my best friends and a couple bottles of wine in my condo. So what does cheating feel like in those first 24 hours of discovering it? At first, I felt nothing, I was numb. It all seemed like a really bad dream and things didn't hit me until the next day. I didn't cry anymore that night, I was in shock. And then the next few days, all the feelings started coming in.
What Does Cheating Feel Like?
If you're wondering what does cheating feel like, it feels like a million different things all at once. And I wanted to share the feelings I felt with you, because I felt so alone when I was dealing with this. None of my friends (thankfully) had ever experienced the pain of being cheated on and I thought I was going crazy at times. Overall these were the feelings I felt most often throughout the first few months.
Why is this happening to me and how did I not see it coming. What was I going to do now? How would my life look? What would happen to the condo we owned? A million thoughts (all very rational and logical) were going through my mind on top of being depressed, angry and sad. I had no clue who I was without him being in my life, as we were together for 14 years. And I was confused as to how he lied to my face every day, slept in our bed with me and more so, how he looked at himself in the mirror everyday.
I felt embarrassed for myself (and him) every time I had to explain what had happened. As if somehow, I did something to feel embarrassed about. I felt like the whole situation was so cliché. Here I was, a woman who just turned 35 and her long-term boyfriend cheated on her with someone 10 years younger.
I felt really naïve for believing him all along. For never doubting him and defending him and his actions (before finding out about the infidelity) to family and friends. This was an overwhelming feeling for me. No one wants to feel stupid, and I felt like the dumbest person on earth at the time. I felt as if he must have been laughing about me behind my back about how oblivious I was to everything. The scenarios of him and her played out in my mind daily and it was made easier by knowing exactly when they had been together, thanks to her card. I felt as if they both were laughing at me and how dumb I must have been to have not seen it coming. Yes, she knew everything about me and that we were in a relationship (and even continuously watched my Instagram stories months after I moved out of our condo, until I was finally able to block her). Yup, good luck to them both...
I felt that other people judged me for his actions. I thought they judged me for not seeing that our relationship must not have been all that great and that of course he would cheat on me. And I felt judged that I couldn't "keep my man happy" and that was the reason he cheated. Of course, I realize this was all in my head and no one judged me for his actions, but at the time, I sure did.
Oh BOY! This was the biggest and strongest emotion for quite a while. I don't think I have ever been so angry with anyone EVER before in my life. If people could be arrested for their thoughts, I'd be in jail. The anger was probably the longest running emotion I felt. Truthfully, it still pops up from time to time although not nearly as intense as it was.
I grieved for a relationship that ended. A relationship that I had envisioned other things for. And that made me incredibly sad. I felt sad that it had to end this way and that we couldn't remain friends. I felt sad that after 14 years together, he somehow felt that what he did was ok (on some level, yes he had to have been able to justify his decisions). And I felt sad that he couldn't be honest with me about his actions. Even when I asked him early on in our breakup if there was someone else, he looked me right in the eyes and said no. I never asked again, or even questioned it (until my birthday). Cue more feelings of being dumb and naïve...
I felt less than in every way possible. Once I found out who the other woman was, I compared myself to her. It must be because she is skinnier than me, prettier than me, younger than me... all of those thoughts made me feel like there was something wrong with me. Self confidence hasn't always been my strength, this amplified it. My self confidence took a big tumble and it would take months (and lots of therapy) to get it back.
This was in actuality what happened and I had every right to feel this way. I was lied to for a long time and treated as if my feelings and my heart didn't matter. I was disrespected in so many ways, in ways I won't even go into detail. Ultimately, this made me realize how much better I deserve to be treated.
My Intentions in Sharing This
I didn't go into this post wanting to vilify anyone. This is strictly how things went down and it is my story and my perspective and I have every right to share it. But I will say this, the moment he decided it was ok to bring her into our shared condo (both when we were still together and after when I begged him not to), he lost all of my respect. I never asked for any of this and a lot of it could have been avoided had there been open communication, honesty and respect. I shared this post, 'what does cheating feel like' because this is what it felt like for me and as difficult of a subject as it is, it deserves to be discussed.
My Thoughts on Cheating
Cheating and infidelity can be avoided. It isn't something that just happens accidentally. If there are problems in the relationship, try and work on them, or if you don't want to, then end it. At one point, you cared deeply for that person, so take a minute to consider their feelings.
At the end of all of this, each and every emotion you go through after being cheated on is valid. The feelings that come from betrayal, lying and dishonesty are some of the worst feelings I've ever felt.
But please know, there is nothing you did that made this person cheat. Them cheating has everything to do with them and nothing to do with you. And you don't deserve to feel like you did something wrong. You deserve SO much better. And there is better out there. Whether that is with a new person, or by yourself.
My Journey Since January 2019
I was so scared to be alone after being with him for so long. But the journey I have went on since the breakup has offered up so many insights. I now realize what I want (and what I don't), and I am not afraid of asking for it. One day, I am sure I will fall in love again, I can't be scared to do that given how everything happened. I have to live my life without fear of being hurt again (because I will- it's inevitable), or fear of being cheated on.
If you want to read more about how I got through my breakup and focused on self-care, you can check out this post.
My eyes are wide open though and the trust I give to another has to be earned. I can't say for sure what I'll be like in a new romantic relationship, but I hope that I haven't lost my trusting nature and good heart.
Let's Keep the Conversation Going
If you've ever experienced cheating, and you'd like to share, I'd love to hear from you. I want to know, what did cheating feel like for you? I know that I don't speak for everyone that has ever been cheated on, this is simply my truth. But, I truly believe that by being open about these things we can learn so much more.
Please note this was by far the HARDEST thing I've ever shared online. I was completely terrified to post this and I had numerous close friends and family read it before publishing to make sure it was ok to share. The thing is, all the fear around posting it, showed me that I did in fact need to share.