By Iolee Anagnostopoulou
Of all relationship topics, few are as shrouded in stigma and question marks as cheating. The ultimate relationship violation and killer. You know that crossing that threshold means things will never, like ever, be the same again…and some do it.
Why? Why did I do it? Despite what the title might suggest, I’m not a terrible human being. I had never cheated before, and I don’t think I ever want to again. It’s just too much fuss and complications for the low-maintenance kind of life I want to lead.
I made a mistake, and I’m not proud of it. BUT do I regret it? Absolutely and unapologetically not.
Where Does Cheating Begin?
First of all, let’s define its starting point. Does it start in the bedroom or in our brains? You could be sitting right next to your boo, casually watching Netflix and having wild fantasies about your co-worker.
Isn’t that cheating too?
You are replacing your partner in a way. Sometimes, it’s only a matter of time before this infatuation physically manifests those thoughts. My point is; that cheating is often not directly the reason to ruin a relationship. It’s a symptom of an underlying cause, something you’re missing in yourself or your partner, a need that needs to be satisfied.
So, where does cheating begin?
Well, for me, it began in Scotland! (Traditional Scottish bagpipes in the background) And no, it wasn’t with a Scottish lad; that would’ve been too predictable.
Intending to permanently emigrate abroad, I’d gotten a seasonal job at a hotel resort in the Highlands. Anyone who’s worked a seasonal job in Hospitality knows how intense things get when you live, work and have fun with the same people for months!
Anyhow, I quickly found myself a French boyfriend, let’s call him François. He was a few years younger than me and an artist – just the type I usually attracted. However, this was different. I wouldn’t be lying if I said he was the first man I really opened up to and connected with on another level.
He was a proper gentleman, made me laugh, and the sex was great. We fell in love; we really did. And we spent about four months together creating beautiful – and sometimes intense – memories worthy of a Grease sequel.
And Then Autumn Came
Ah, the party pooper that puts an end to summer romance. François had to return to France to continue his studies – younger, remember? – while I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life except see new places and meet new people. I was 28, and it was my time, perhaps even my last chance to actually live before settling down somewhere.
So when he asked me to go live with him in France…I stupidly said yes. He would leave a month earlier for his classes, and I would join him after the end of my contract. In fear of losing the first intense feeling of love I’d found, I’d completely overlooked the future of this relationship and how it would serve both our life goals.
I heard somewhere that our brain is wired to seek comfort while our soul is wired for growth. So I believe I clung to this security – staying close to that special someone that made me feel unconditionally loved and perhaps building a life together in France. It didn’t seem so bad.
Until I Met HIM
He was this good-looking fella I’d seen once or twice, let’s call him K. He also happened to live right across from my room in the employee dorms. But since he was working nights and I was working days, we didn’t properly meet – for a while. He was on leave during my last few weeks at the resort, so we chatted a few times, and he seemed like a really good guy. He invited me and a friend for drinks in his room, and well, I was hooked!
My friend felt so awkward by our instant connection that she made up an excuse to leave, which led to us having late-night conversations of all sorts and genuinely laughing our hearts out. Our thoughts, sense of humour, taste in music, cultures, and sex preferences…they just synced!
Experiencing such a strong connection again so close to the first one was naturally confusing. I couldn’t help but compare and think about how my life would unfold if I stayed with this person instead. He’s slightly older than me, has his shit together, is super resourceful and ready to leave this place in search of something new.
Could this be a better match for me?
He certainly thought so and didn’t try to hide his feelings! He even came to see me in Edinburgh before I flew to France and told me that he would wait for me to make a decision.
And Now What?
I wish choosing between two incredible people was as easy as comparing pros and cons – but it isn’t. It’s an excruciating process where your selfishness clashes against your selflessness. You must choose whose heart you will break. And yours suffers in either case.
I went to France as planned since I hated the thought of discussing such things over the phone. From the day I arrived, I knew this wasn’t the place for me. And neither was the person.
Although we had lived together before, seeing him in his environment, with his real companions, his actual day-to-day life…I just didn’t fit in there. And receiving regular text messages and phone calls from K saying how he missed and loved me didn’t make things any easier.
Before I had the chance to come clean, things turned into a romantic drama movie script. François saw one of those love messages on my phone while I was in the shower and went batshit crazy. Like, smashing-glass-on-the-wall kind of crazy. It was heartbreaking to watch, and I really felt like the worst, lowest person on Earth. I had hurt a person I cared for so much, and his self-esteem was now crumbling in front of my eyes.
What had I done?
But the craziest thing is, he offered me a second chance! He said he’d be happy to give us another shot IF ‘the old me’ was back, and we would rebuild our relationship ‘brick by brick, stone by stone.’
I had cheated on such a wonderful person who truly loved me, and deep down, I knew I would carry that guilt eternally. Could we really move past this? Or would it be like this toxic shadow over our relationship waiting to be spat out during an argument?
On the other end, this great guy was also crazy in love with me, waiting for me to just say the word and embark on a new adventure together…
I did what most girls do in these situations.
The Flight Of Shame
Drunk and mentally exhausted from talking and crying, I packed my stuff that evening and booked the first flight home. I needed to take a step back and reevaluate things before making a decision. And what safer place to do that than in my mum’s non-judgemental arms? But it was during the good ol’ emergency meeting with the girls when a friend told me the sanest thing (I still thank her for this piece of advice):
“You know,” she said, “we’re great people too, but you still left us! You left your home, family, and friends because you wanted to travel, go places, start new adventures…You can easily settle in France and enjoy fresh baguettes and croissants every day or you can go explore the world with someone that’s looking toward the same direction in life.”
She was right. I would never ask anyone to leave their studies and come follow me into the unknown – even though he was willing to do so. But nor was I ready to give up on my dreams for a comfortable choice, as tempting and beautiful as it may seem.
A Fairytale Ending…
Four years later, K and I are happily engaged and planning on starting a family soon. We have lived together since day one and have travelled, worked, and emigrated together. We have tested our relationship on almost every level…and you know what?
The thought of cheating hasn’t even crossed my mind.
Not even once. And I don’t think it will.
Although under not the best of circumstances, I found my soulmate. The person I want to spend my life with and father my children. Like all couples, we’ve had our rough patches, and I personally carried the guilt of cheating with me for a long time. But we’ve forgiven ourselves and built our future on a clean slate while growing together and leaving behind whatever no longer serves us.
I often think of François and everything I could have said or handled better. I considered reaching out to check on him…but none of it matters at this point. It’s not fair to ask for forgiveness, and I’ve no right to mess with that person’s life again after so long. Besides, I now understand that it wouldn’t have worked between us anyway, for multiple reasons, and that he deserved to find somebody much better for him.
Knowing how it feels to be with your soulmate, I genuinely wish everyone the same. Staying with the wrong person due to some sense of commitment will only prevent you both from finding true happiness. I don’t necessarily mean you should cheat, of course, especially when children are in the equation. But sometimes, simply observing your relationship and determining whether you meet each other’s needs and life goals can help you find clarity.
Just because feelings of love are real doesn’t mean it’s always right. And just because cheating is wrong doesn’t mean that it doesn’t ultimately work out for the better sometimes, like in my case.
So do I regret doing it? No. But would I do it again? Heck no!
As tempting as having an affair may sound to some, finding that partner with whom you can be 100% yourself and work together to make each other happy on every level is far better.
No need for cheating. No need for lying. No need for hiding. You know what that’s called? Freedom.
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