Carly, the Perpetual Girlfriend, shares relationship advice as a ‘serious girlfriend’ with ten years — and some serious oversights — under her belt.
When I was a sophomore in High School I was dating an older guy. I was also still a virgin, dumbly holding out for a special moment, or perhaps just something like trust. As doozy and promiscuous as I’ve ever been, my virginity in those days held some strange significance, and I wasn’t exactly in a hurry to give it up.
About five months into our relationship that involved a lot, a lot of what my friend used to describe as ‘not so dry sex’, I found out that he was cheating on me. With a stripper.
I still feel bad for 15-year-old me, who was particularly damaged by the newfound understanding that sex was not necessarily about love and connection. I learned at this ripe, impressionable age that sex was about sex and if you won’t, someone else will. The saddest part of the story is after I found out, my then-boyfriend sobbed like a baby, begged my forgiveness, and a few weeks later I ended up losing my virginity to him.
Looking back, this was a momentous series of incidents in my development into an adult and one half of any relationship. I haven’t trusted a man since, and I also proceeded to cheat on every single boyfriend I’ve ever had. (Let’s hope this one is different.)
Cheating as a topic of discussion is at once completely obvious and horribly painful. It happens all the time and yet when it happens to you, it feels a little different than it did when Kelly hooked up with Dylan. Cheaters are people whose personal happiness is above all other concern. Businessmen, politicians, and me. And maybe you? In a world where everything in some way seems to revolve around finding and keeping an ideal mate that will complete your life, if you meet someone who seems that they could maybe be that, while you are with someone else that you previously thought could maybe be that, what to do? And what about the people you love that you hurt in the process?
People cheat because they are not getting something they want from the relationship they have. This is why some people go to prostitutes and request to be spanked while insulted. And thank god for that because think of all the jobs it creates! People cheat because they are cowards and are looking for a way out without having the courage to walk away. By not wanting to hurt someone by being honest, they hurt them worse by being dishonest. People cheat because they do not have faith in love. But how could we?
What can I say about people who confess to cheating other than, I want to kick those punks in their stupid face. Contrary to initial, uninformed belief, being honest about betrayal is a rookie mistake. It’s relationship suicide. Trust me, I’ve done it. The result is nothing like your dream of reaching a clear conscious, an ultimate understanding, a new beginning to an ailing relationship.
On the contrary, pack your bags before you tell the truth because you will likely be cast out of the relationship completely. Bed, house, life, whatever that means. If you ever gain re-entry, most of your time will be spent answering details like what make of car this other person drove and what her hair smelled like. (And the answer better be wet dog.) Because being betrayed creates a thirst for the knowledge of everything you missed. Then, expect to enter the period of enduring a slew of guilt-inducing and life-diminishing insults. Once you’ve cheated, you’ve kind of given up any claim to respect you once had. If your partner decides to forgive you, it will be a painful process.
Most people say they disagree with the old adage “What I don’t know can’t hurt me” because, well, people don’t want to know that they won’t know something. But, if you don’t know then you really don’t know! Know what I mean? If you’ve already hurt someone by cheating, isn’t it better not to hurt them by telling them about it? If any of my ex-boyfriend’s are reading this, they’re probably paying some girl $5 to slap me.
Ever been making out with some random only to have your S.O. walk by? Dummy. But yeah, it happened to me. Twice. Alright, so I may be like the worst girlfriend ever and also just a really lame cheater. Either way, getting caught cheating is probably the worst thing that can ever happen to anyone involved. If you’ve watched that gem of a show Cheaters, you already know this. (And should request a prescription to Ambien.) Being caught in the act typically causes the fight or flight response to kick in, so like a crazy chicken or a little birdie, with all that adrenaline swimming around an already stupid brain, shit will just be bad.
The correct thing to do, assuming you are aware you’re in the wrong, is to disengage (hands-off the other dude!) and show immediate remorse. Don’t let the anger and defensiveness at your privacy being violated (however accidental) disarm you, and please don’t insult anyone further by denying the obvious truth. Eat dirt and scrape your knees begging them to even listen to you for five minutes. And if they do, apologize, apologize, apologize!
People like to say things like, ‘Forget him!’ and ‘You can do better!’ And while I’m sure those are very good things to say and hear, I’m curious how often it’s actually the case. In my own experience and in witnessing the relationships of friends, most times cheating is not the end. People do forgive their partners for cheating on them, like when people visit their mother’s/daughter’s murderer in jail and end up crying and hugging. Maybe love really is that powerful?
When I cheated on my ex-boyfriend, it was really difficult to apologize. Partly because cheating is such a selfish act it’s difficult to see past yourself even after it’s over, and partly because I was foolish and didn’t even realize what I had gambled. But mostly because I didn’t know how. He pointed this out to me several times– that I had never apologized for it, never made up to him what I had done.
We had a friend in a band, the singer-songwriter-guitar player, and as we attended more and more of his shows, the lyrics in one of his songs became clear. It was about him cheating, and there was much discussion because he had had the same girlfriend for as long as we could remember. I mentioned this to my ex, kind of incredulous that he would write a song about it, and one that she would be forced to hear over and over again, night after night, like reliving the whole experience. My ex disagreed. He said he thought it was a really good apology. He was a wise man, my ex, a respectable man whose advice should be followed.
So, if you cheat, quickly yet expertly write an apology song. And then put it to music. And be sure to play it somewhere where it will be heard. I am truly sorry (and I’m singing this.)