You always half-heartedly joke about your significant other cheating on you.
You never thought it could be true. Or was it just a matter of time?

"You know that thing your were worried about?"
... You mean the thing that I think about all day while you are in your dorm with other guys? Alone?
"Well it finally happened. We didn't go far, I swear."

Dropping.
Down.
Down.

Down.
Further.
Further.
All the way!

I need a cigarette. I have to have a cigarette. Why do I feel this way? I knew it was going to happen...

"Three questions. One, are you mad?"
No.
"Two, Is this going to change us?"
Maybe.
"Three, do you still love me?"
Yes.

Still dropping. I can feel my heart in my toes. My teeth are clinched. This feels unreal. Is there a camera around? This feels like a movie. I can't move. I am frozen.

Cold.
Cold.
Cold.

"What are you thinking?"
Did you go further than you are telling me? How would you feel if I did this to you? Huh? How could this happen? Why... Why? Huh? Why? My hands feel numb. My toes feel numb. I feel numb. Where did I put those cigarettes!?

"Are you there? What are you thinking?"
I feel like I'm in a book. There are no words for what I feel. I can try, but it always comes out as some kind of metaphor about an arrow piercing my heart. Shock has distraught my mind. I can't speak.

I can't go on.
It hurts too bad.
My heart aches.
My body aches.
I must move on, or I might do something I regret. Hmm.


Well, now I know how it feels. Now when I look at happy couples I wonder, will they know this feeling?


Update: Seven days later she leaves you because she is attracted that other person.
Ouch.

Well, now I know how it feels. Now when I look at happy couples I wonder, will they know this feeling?

In a word, yes. They tend to stop being so happy after that. Obviously, I know this because I used to be half of one of those obnoxiously cute and lovey-dovey couples that you want to toss a molotov cocktail at that was destroyed by the distrust that inevitably follows infidelity. I probably should have seen it coming from miles away. When someone says something like that, it's typically followed by some angsty statement to the effect of "whenever I get a little bit of happiness, God comes and takes it away from me! I should have known, waaaaah!"

I will admit that this was my initial reaction. Hey, you're a lanky teenager who's found true love for the first time; it's a fairly natural reaction. But looking back at it all now, the reason I should have forseen this eventuality is a simple one: you see, I was dating a nymphomaniac.

Generally speaking, this is a 17 year old male's dream. It was mine at that age. Hell, it's every male's dream at some point. After all, what overly horny guy doesn't want to get some of that hellacious lovin'? I'm talking about marathon sessions that last for hours at a time. I'm talking about spending two or three class periods in the backseat of a Honda. Every day. I'm talking about sex in a dressing room at Dillards. Sure, it's fun. But let me explain the mechanics of this to you: there is, in fact, a point at which you just have to say "babe, I'm exhausted." She will not like this. Here's what our good friend the Dictionary says about nymphomania:

A disorder in which a woman exhibits extreme or obsessive desire for sexual stimulation or gratification.*

What will she do if you've left her unfulfilled? You guessed it: she'll look somewhere else. If there had been absolutely no emotional component, I guess I'd have felt a little miffed and perhaps a little deprived, but not crushed. As it was, however, there was a very significant emotional component involved and it left me devastated. Utterly ruined. I'd had girlfriends before, certainly, but none that I cared about to such a degree and none that I happened to be...yecch...in love with. This was my first really serious relationship. By that, I mean it was the first one that I took seriously. We'd been dating for a while and we had often talked about The Future. We were two of a kind; I understood her in ways that nobody else did and vice versa. Though we're not what you might call exceptionally close now (and by that I mean I haven't spoken to her for more than a year), to this day she has no problem telling people that I saved her life. Even as I write this, I admit that I feel a little wistful and I know that I've lost something that can never be recaptured.

It started when school let out for the summer that year. We had been very happy up until that point and we had looked forward to spending the next few months together. Our plans were dealt a serious blow when her mother informed her that she would be getting a job or she would be moving out. I suppose it's worth pointing out here that she did not have the world's best relationship with her mother and that this fact caused her no small amount of personal grief. She hated it and I hated it right along with her. But she figured that working would be better than being kicked out, so she got a job. After all, what she did have to lose? She'd get some money of her own, finally, and she'd be able to pay for car insurance. I guess it's also worth pointing out here that neither of us could drive at this point: I didn't have a license and after she got a ticket, her parents could no longer afford to pay for her insurance. We also lived 20 minutes apart.

I knew something was wrong when she told me about a new "friend" she had made that she met at work. I was especially worried because this new friend was a "he." Apparently they had great fun together. Then she let it slip out to me that she had been making out with him. I sat silently on the phone with her and finally said (rather than asked) "is that all." She promptly burst into tears and hung up on me. I called her back and asked her what her problem was. She told me that she was drunk. I looked at my clock and noted that it was 10:30 in the morning. I asked why she had been drinking so early. She sobbed "he came over around 8:00 and...and...and..." and she started blubbering again. I demanded to know what she had done. She insisted that they hadn't had sex, but I wasn't born yesterday. I told her to figure out what sort of relationship she wanted and to call me back. I hung up on her. She wouldn't call me back for the rest of the day.

I did not sleep at all that night. In a very surreal point in my life, I spent the whole night alternating between playing Tetris and reading Mein Kampf while listening to new wave music. I called her the next day and she told me that she wanted to be with me. I told her I loved her and she said she loved me too. I was sad because I could hear the hesitation in her voice and because I knew it was the beginning of the end.

Within three days, she would admit everything to me. I already knew it all anyway, but I hadn't wanted to really believe any of it. The human capacity for self-deception is amazing to me sometimes, and at no time was it more amazing when I lied to myself about what I knew to be true. For two weeks, I would hang on pathetically, telling her I needed her and guilting her into speaking to me. Any time that we were together, though, I couldn't touch her or look at her. She didn't seem to care, which made it even worse. Eventually I would tell her that she was right and that she could do whatever she wanted. I apologized for being childish. I told her that I wanted to make her happy, but that I obviously couldn't at that point. She apologized for hurting me. I have lost count of the times she has repeated those words to me.

I was brought up to believe by my mother that showing too much emotion was a sign of weakness. By that criterion, I was a very weak man that day. We cried. I held her and she held me. I wanted to kiss her one last time, but I knew she didn't want that. Later that day, she said that she wanted to go home. I told her to wait a while. She said she was uncomfortable and that she wanted to go. I snapped at her "shut the fuck up, this is the last time you'll ever have to see me, so just fucking deal with it for a little while longer." She said my name in a quivering voice and reached out to touch me. I turned away from her and she missed. I confuse myself sometimes; all I had wanted was for her to touch me and when she tried, I wanted no part of it. Was it Kane who only wanted love on his own terms? That's how I felt.

As we got to her house, we stopped short of the door. I drew her to me and hugged her. I whispered to her "I once heard that if you love something, you should let it go. They say that if it doesn't come back, it was never yours in the first place. I don't want that to be true." She stepped back and looked at me with tears in her eyes and just said "no." When we let go for the final time, something inside me died. When I turned my back, she was still looking at me. As I walked away, I heard a door open, but I never heard it close.


*: http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=nymphomania

If there's a worse feeling than being with someone who cheats on you it might be knowing that you are the cheater. This goes way back, but I recently found these writeups again and felt like I could share my experiences with infidelity. I tell people I'm a lover not a fighter, usually that's a joke, but it's not really true or at least it didn't used to be. I'm not sure I've ever really been in love. I say the words, but deep down inside of me is a cold dead place that I'm not sure anyone can touch because of the walls I've built around myself. I'll let people use my body, in the past I prided myself on my emotional unavailability, now I deeply regret being the woman I was.

I married young and foolishly. I didn't love him and I knew it. Marriage was an escape a way out. I thought I could help him, I saw him as needing me in his life, I think he did, but the way we went about things was unhealthy to say the least. I grew up in a home where two people lived parallel lives. My mom worked on and off during my childhood. I can remember being in grade school and walking into the kitchen. My mom was crying so I asked what was wrong. For a house that held seven it was unusually quiet. My dad had taken off and left the two of us at home. Neither of us knew where my dad and my siblings were or when they would be home. 

When I was in college I would come home late at night, or more precisely, early in the morning. Sometimes my mom would come home after I did. Both of my parents are workaholics without the financial rewards associated with the quality. I married someone who loved work more than they loved me, that's how I felt. I screamed. I raged, I seethed, I tried to do what I could to please him. My first year of marriage was a hideous shock and it got a lot worse before it ever got better. My first job out of college was working for a publicly traded brokerage firm. I was young, I was thin, I was smart, I was overworked and underpaid which is the same story a lot of college graduates can tell.

My first experience with extramarital affairs came when an attorney who worked in the suite next to the one I worked at met up with me and another girl who was very prettty, and not that bright. The attorney and I were alone for some reason when he kissed me. Not knowing what else to do I kissed him back. I was trying to find another job, I went out to eat with him since I didn't see the harm in it back then although I can see it much more clearly now. He took me through his house. I saw the bathroom where his wife got ready in the morning, back then I didn't know that I was encouraging him unwittingly. He had told me his marriage was rocky, I was in the same position, I thought he was more of a friend than he really was.

For a brief period of time I worked at an accounting firm. From there I went to a rental car company that's still around. I worked with a woman who was slightly older than I was until I was transferred to a much larger office that was further from home. By this time I knew that getting married had been a dreadful mistake, but I wasn't really sure what to do with my ruined relationship. I worked so hard at that company. I've worked hard at almost every job I've had, slaving away in the hopes that one day I would be recognized and promoted. Since oil changes and maintenance were my thing I was given two interns to supervise. My instructions were to show them the ropes and turn them into mini selling machines who sold and cared like I did.

After a fight where my ex threw a phone at the wall I was scared. I knew the guy who washed cars and did other odd jobs for another guy who worked at a body shop. There's a story I wrote here that's loosely based on my experiences with the men I worked with and met at the body shops. I was fun, I was cute, I was the good time girl in the rainbow shirts, we were given a clothing allowance and every day I wore a different color of Oxford shirt to go with my black dress pants since I had to wash cars for a living and I hated dressing up in suits that the company demanded we wear. Nobody made too big of a deal about me shirking the dress code, I produced and that was what mattered.

I slept with the car wash guy after I drove out to meet him. I slept with a guy I worked with, and then I ended up in bed with one of the interns. I really liked him, but I didn't respect myself so he didn't return my love. I didn't ever try to hide the fact that I was screwing other men, my ex would call me at work, he tried talking to people in my family. I was out of control, eating little, drinking a lot, trying to numb myself from the alienation, abandonment, and neglect I suffered with at home. For many years I felt really bad about what I did. I slept with another guy who really wanted me, finally I couldn't think of a good enough reason to say no so I slept with him too. 

What I didn't understand until very recently is the concept of boundaries. Healthy boundaries weren't modeled for me. I had no idea that hanging out with a married attorney was a recipe for marital disaster. I was very young, very naive, and very fortunate to have escaped relatively unscathed, but plenty embarrassed after the intern I slept with told everyone we worked with about the encounter. A really stupid thing you can do when your marriage is failing is to try and get pregnant. I quit working for the rental car company and went to another job knowing that I was carrying my oldest daughter. I had a miscarriage the month before I conceived her. It was brutal, heartbreaking, and remains one of the worst days of my life.

It wasn't until I started seeing the therapist that I have now that I learned about non-sexual affairs which is what my ex had been conducting the entire time we were together. Women were his friends like men were mine. He took them out to lunch, shared his feelings with them, told them about our relationship, all the while denying me these things. He worked with a woman that I thought was a total bitch, complete cunt would probably be closer to how I felt about her when he announced that he had invited her to meet us at the bagel shop. She was very pretty, shallow, and was tired of her husband for no good reason that I could see. I met him at a party later and was deliberately nice to him to try and help him see that not all women were like the one he had married. 

Before I got divorced I made the mistake of telling my ex that in my mind we were divorced. We had been legally separated since 2009. That didn't really help or change anything and I would advise anyone who is contemplating a separation to get real and get working on the relationship, or to get out. That's my two cents of course, for a while we went on as we had been except with separate checking accounts. I didn't think I had enough money to move out. That was when I had a full time job, but I had small children and I knew what daycare cost since I helped pay that bill. My ex either couldn't or wouldn't fill my emotional needs so I went elsewhere, blindly searching for a way out of the mess I had created for myself.

My therapist questioned my ex thoroughly when we were in a session together. It was then that she asked if I needed to go to a place. She said she had never seen me this bad. I felt as if I was already dead, but I agreed to keep going to counseling to try and work things out. It was a Saturday when my ex said that he needed to go to Milwaukee to get his stud finder. When I said that I would go with he told me I didn't have to, I said I knew that but I didn't mind. I pressed the issue and finally he admitted he was seeing another woman for coffee. This was after he told my therapist that he was committed to trying to make his marriage work during a session where he denied having other women on the side. 

The day that I learned that he had never given me the kind of support I deserved as his wife and that he had undermined our marriage by sharing intimate conversations and moments with other women was like having scales fall from my eyes. His dad had cheated on his third wife with his brother's girlfriend. It was an ugly mess, but I was going to try and make it better by getting my ex to talk to his dad when he wasn't speaking to him. Anyone who cheats with you will cheat on you. I was in a very brief odd relationship with a guy who was quite a bit younger than I was. He was texting me about a woman who ended up sitting on his lap at a bar. That should have been my clue that he had serious boundary issues, but it took me a while to see that for what it was probably because I really liked him which didn't make that okay. 

Periodically I'll get messages from men I know on Twitter or other places. I deleted my SnapChat account when a married man kept sending me baseball related snaps. There wasn't anything inappropriate about the exchange, but I knew that he was married and there was no reason for him to be sending me anything. Other times guys will share things that could be stated publicly or ask for my opinion privately. One guy I have to tell you about asked which team he should be rooting for after his team failed to make the postseason. That was such a douche move I laughed about it. Later on I learned that he wasn't single. He gave me an odd vibe from the beginning. I should have trusted my guy on him although I didn't do anything other than interview him and he's lucky he got that out of me.

Cheating is a terrible thing to do to yourself. It's not very nice to do to another person, but the real damage from my point of view is the lack of self respect it involves. I hate having to admit that I was a cheater. It's something I have to live with, it happened before I had children, but after that I crossed lines that I should not have. Now that I'm divorced I can look back at things I did, things he did, or didn't do, and the culture we created at home that made living here intolerable that fostered addictions and feelings that we don't ever really talk about. Now it's in the past, I'm sad that I can't go back and redo it, but at least now I'm better prepared for whatever my future brings as far as the dating scene goes.  

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