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.