From Our Readers
August 27, 2015 10:25 am

I’m a grad student who joins too many organizations and clubs. I love watching video game play commentary videos on YouTube, drinking coffee, sitting in my office late at night to search for new Pinterest crafting ideas, and I love to hike and run with my buddies.

I was also cheated on.

I think of myself as a fairly open-minded person. I believe that not every relationship has to be monogamous to work. I know people in polyamorous relationships who are perfectly happy, and some of my friends have relationships with open arrangements. I’m super supportive, and I think it’s a great thing for people to be able to look past the one-person-for-life model. I even believe that sometimes, in some cases, cheating isn’t a complete dealbreaker. (If we’re in a relationship for 10 years and they slip up once? I think I could forgive that under certain circumstances.)But all of that didn’t stop it from stinging when I found out my ex-partner was sleeping with my friend.

The worst part really is the lying

It’s an old cliche, but it happens to be true: What hurts the most isn’t the idea of my partner with someone else (though that wasn’t great), it was the tangled web of lies that they had to use to shield me from that fact. That’s the difference between an open arrangement and cheating, right? What my partner did violated our mutual terms of relationship agreement. I thought we were monogamous. They…didn’t. I felt like an idiot for not seeing what was happening sooner, and it made me retrace every single interacting I’d had with my ex, and with my friend. It meant that every time I had just sent back an “OK :)” when they said they were going to be working late, or out with friends, or doing something else, I had to wonder if they were lying to me. Even the good times I had seemed undermined.

It’s not your fault

Even though, in my head, I know that cheating doesn’t happen because that other person is prettier or smarter or more something than you, it’s hard not to compare yourself, and to feel like it’s somehow your fault. I spent a lot of time feeling like there was something really wrong with me, that the person I totally loved and felt completely committed to would hurt me like that. It’s not true. People and relationships with people are complicated.

Even good people can do hurtful things

I don’t think my ex or my friend are bad people. I think they did something pretty lame, that hurt me a lot. I think that for my own emotional wellbeing, I can’t be friends with either of them. And, sure, at first I did a lot of yelling and cursing at them in my head, and a lot of crying into glasses at wine with my friends. But now that I’m a little older and maybe a little wiser, I realize that relationships aren’t as neat as they look like on TV. They get messy and weird and hard, and they end in messy ways. In order for me to move on, I had to cut off contact with people I really cared about. But in order to really feel better, I had to stop thinking about them as monsters. They’re just people who made a decision.

You’re going to be OK, really

I wish I could go back to me in those first weeks after when I found out and tell her that things are going to get better. You think that you’re never going to trust someone again? It’ll take time, but you will. You think that no one else knows what you’re going through? You’ll find, in time, that there are people who have had really similar experiences. You’re going to find a partner who’s way better for you than the last one, and friends who are supportive and sweet. Your experience having your heartbroken will mean that you’re wiser going into relationships, and that you talk about what would happen if one of you ends up cheating. Like so many things in life, those scars will make your life more interesting, even if it’s really awful right now. It’ll mend in time.

Lily Fisher is a grad student in the United States who loves coffee, re-reading Tina Fey’s books, and marathoning Gilmore Girls

[Image via iStock]

Related:

I cheated on my partner—here’s what happened

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