The reasons for this epidemic are many. Everything from too much attention to not enough, from being repulsed to courting temptation. Some research even suggests cheating is in the DNA, while others blame upbringing. “There is also a gender bias,” says therapist, Femida Hirji, “Men tend to be more physically motivated while women look for emotional fulfillment. In my sessions, women often cite their lack of connection and inability to feel a sense of deep attachment as a prelude to feeling lost and unloved.”
Whatever the reason may be, being cheated on is heart breaking. “The one being cheated on feels a deep sense of betrayal and shame; wondering what they did wrong for the person they love to treat them so badly,” she adds, “It’s not unusual for patients who have been betrayed to feel that the whole relationship was a sham, even the pre-affair years. It can shatter their whole core and genuinely affects the fabric of self-esteem and self-confidence.”
Therapists believe that it takes deep reflection, a desire to move on and some guiding to accept and realize that the situation was not their fault.
Femina ME asked readers to send in their stories to find out how they picked themselves up from being cheated in relationships and moved on from them to emerge stronger
We had been together for two years. It was two weeks before my 18th birthday. He stopped talking to me. I found out he had been cheating on me for two months. The end. Not much of a story, is it? But behind every story told as a statement is a wealth of emotion and a lesson learnt. Here’s my lesson.
Hot guy meets shy girl and together they change the world. Typical isn’t it? How very Cinderella Story. So imagine my surprise when the hottest guy from my batch asked me out? We began our courtship the way any high school romance begins. Full of stolen moments and proclamations of eternity. Between school, extra classes, after school activities, parents and friends, we found a little nook for each other. A little bubble in which existed undying love and faith in each other. We pushed each other’s boundaries and supported each other through sickness and health.
And after a year of loving each other, I didn’t see it coming. Maybe it was age. Maybe it was naivety. Maybe I let my guard down. But I just didn’t spot the signs. It began a month before my birthday. I was turning 18 and was very excited about it. So, I asked him, “Hun, what are you getting me for my birthday?” To which he replied, “It’s a surprise!” And so there I was, eagerly awaiting my birthday surprise. And then two weeks before said birthday, on what I presumed to be a normal day, I called him and he didn’t pick up. So I waited a bit and called again. Still no answer. And then I waited some more and called again. There was still no answer! Three days passed this way. Me waiting some. Me calling him. Him not picking up. I finally got in touch with a common friend who happened to be with him when I called and I asked to give him the phone. What happened next shocked me. A five minute rant about not disturbing him while he is with friends had me reeling. I was just not equipped to deal with this. A few more days of silence and I did not know what to do.
It was a conversation with my father that finally had me coming to terms with what had happened. I had been dumped. And I had to get over it. So I cried. I cried for my lost first love. I cried to try to mend my broken heart. It was about six weeks after my birthday that news trickled down and reached my inconsolable ears. He had been cheating on me for the past two months. Lovely. Just when I thought
I couldn’t feel worse.
Fast forward through years of tears, miles of sad songs and gallons of ice cream later, it finally sank in. This was not my fault. I realised that loving a person with all my heart and soul was me and that was always going to be me.
Looking back, I realise that while the incident seemed devastating and life ending when it happened, it definitely wasn’t. Isn’t it funny how, at 18, everything slight seems like the end of the world? Since then, I’ve loved and lost many times but I let each experience give me the strength and courage I need to get up
and brush it off. And so, onto the
You got cheated on? Sigh. Didn’t see it coming? Hah! You, and every other ignoramus on the planet, my friend. Why, you ask? It’s because you weren’t bloody looking! That’s why. And therein lies the secret to the cheater’s success. It works because it relies on one partner playing the fantastic partner role and the other one playing the class idiot role with great aplomb.
This is the story of one such idiot. Me.
Well, there I was. All of 22. Crazy, driven, happy and ripe for the picking.
Enter X. Light-eyed, calm, beautiful.
I was wooed with the kind of gentleness that lulls one into a languorous calm; the kind of calm that comes before the storm. And what a storm it was! Perfect, really. With all the hallmarks that accompany one. The churning of the waters, the build-up of the swell, the shifting of the sands, the surge of the undercurrents, the thrill of anticipation, and all of this happening just under the surface, like the way the sea looks on the cusp of the first huge wave. That monstrous wave has spent weeks in the making and now raises its cheating fantastic head; proud, strong and defiant. Of course, if you are anything like me – the little person stringing daisy chains on the beach, the sight of one is enough to strike you dumb. Enter dumb.
My dumb moment started like every other evening in my suburban, X-obsessed life. I stalked the living room, biting my nails down to the quick, waiting for the phone to ring in its familiar manner; two rings-disconnect-ring again. My father on the couch watching the nine o’clock news, oblivious to the hormones polluting the air around him. My mother folding and re-folding bedsheets next to the phone, she’d gotten the hang of the two-ring code and didn’t speak privacy. The scene is set. The characters are in place. Curtains up.
The phone rings. My heart stops in her rapid track. The tongue sticks out to moisturize the lips that have gotten arid on the first ring. The legs, trembling with anticipation struggling to hold the body upright. The face composes itself into a cultivated look of nonchalance, which, I have since been told, resembles a deer in the headlights. My mother, with the same look of nonchalance, is also making her way to the phone. We are both on a collision course. My mother, who has distinctly lost the loving look in her eye, minces, “Could you please check if the rice has boiled over?” I narrow my eyes at her. She narrows back. While both of us are doing our Asian imitations, the phone rings. I elbow her politely out of the way and casually pick up the phone and turn to face the wall, which is the only way I can keep my mother out of the conversation, since she lip reads. Now, on any given night, this would follow a tried and tested pattern of me laughing at every word out of his mouth and applauding his very existence. But tonight, we were going extempore.
I started with a light, breezy and gay “Hello”. He followed with silence, a cough and silence. Just as I was about to turn into Nurse Jackie at his first cough, he mutters “It’s not working”. I rapidly check the phone and ask “Why? I can hear you perfectly”. He coughs again. I am now running through the cold medication list in my head. He freezes my thought process out with a simple “We’re not working. Not the phone. Us”. I combat this with silence, a cough and silence. In the interest of clarity and finality, he clarified “I’ve met someone else. I’m sorry”. On account of my heart having leapt right into my mouth, I found my jaw dropping to accommodate it. The look on my face was novel enough to make my bed-sheet-folding-mother slink away. By the time I could manifest any kind of sound, I found that I was talking to a blank line.
Dead. Disconnected. Over.
I did the only thing I could. I got onto the tried and tested rollercoaster, oscillating wildly between rabid venom, mafia tendencies, gut wrenching tears, smug superciliousness, obsession and grief. I stayed on the ride for two months.
Two fabulous things happened when I finally got off. First, I dropped about 10 kilos [clearly being dumped is akin to the first trimester – where, since you can’t keep anything in, you just quit eating]
And second – I lost the naiveté and can now spot a storm a mile away, long before it even begins its simmering upsurge below the surface. And that’s a good thing, because I no longer have to actually catch you cheating. I can see you doing it long before you know that you are.
This account is a little fresh. It’s only been a year since this happened. I am a 33 year old woman who, a month before tying the knot, found out that he was cheating on me. And whom was he cheating on me with? My best friend. The woman I had known since I was a 10. And how long had this been going on behind my unassuming back? About two years.
We met the way most do, through common friends. We were young souls of 25 and began our courtship at a snail’s pace. We took our own sweet time to get to know each other. Didn’t let the world or our families rush us. We figured it was better to know how each other ticked before we made a final commitment rather than encounter a nasty surprise later. Maybe that’s where the fault lay. Maybe we got to know each other too well. Maybe things got boring. Maybe we let our guard down.
I was 31 by the time he popped the question. He did the ‘correct’ thing by talking to my parents first and asking for their permission and blessings. And then he staged an elaborate proposal. From flowers and my favourite meal that he cooked to romantic music and him down on one knee, it was perfect and I couldn’t wait to live the rest of my life with him. The man I considered to be my soul mate and my best friend.
We began wedding preparations in full swing. The family had their abundant input. Everyone from the mother’s to the aunt’s second cousin’s daughter wanted to suggest something and I loved the entire process. I loved how involved everyone was in my big day and how much everyone wanted me to be happy.
So I didn’t find it weird that he was spending so much time with my best friend. I figured they were planning something special for the wedding. Well, that’s what they told me. And like a fool, I believed them. See, after knowing each other for six years, I really didn’t think I had anything to worry about with him. And she’d been my best friend since we were old enough to play ‘House’ and ‘Tea Party’. She was the person I confided in about everything. Every sorrow and joy, every success and failure, every single moment of our lives was something we celebrated together. And I thought we would be celebrating this together too.
But as the year progressed, they began distancing themselves from me. It was the small things. Things like not telling me what they were up to and then hearing about them hanging out through common friends. Or both of them disappearing at the same time. And no matter what they told me, my gut was telling me something else.
A month before we were to tie the knot, he told me that we had to talk. My stomach plummeted. I had a bad feeling and I just couldn’t shake it. So, I drove over to his place. Parked outside the garage was his car, his father’s car, his sister’s car and my best friend’s car. And that’s when I knew. I just knew that every sinking feeling and every punch in the gut was true. I knew that all the stories and all the lies that they promised were the truth were just that, lies.
They explained that they were in love and wanted to be together. They explained that they were sorry and that they didn’t mean to hurt me. They explained that true love comes from the unexpected places. All I heard was white noise. All I wanted to do was leave. So I did. And in one fell swoop I lost my best friend and my fiancé. How brilliant.
A year has passed since that fateful incident and I’ve used that time to figure out who I am on my own. I spent so much of myself as someone’s girlfriend and fiancé that I had to figure it out all over again. And I did. I realised that I love kickboxing and gory films. I love dipping French fries in vanilla ice cream before eating them. I love wearing the colour green. I do have moments when it comes back in a rush and I’m back in that house, losing the two most important people in my life. But they pass and I realise I have found more people who are important to me. Most of all, I have found I am important to myself. And that’s the best feeling ever!
We met when we were 23 and married by the time we were 26. Two decades and two children later, we’re both in our 40s and I thought we were living a pretty blissful married life. Clearly, I was the delusional one in this relationship because I didn’t see it coming. How did I find out? A message and a picture. Now, before you go accusing me of snooping, let me tell you the whole story because it wasn’t me sticking my nose in his business. It was fate nudging her noggin into ours.
I have to admit, the series of events were bizarre. He was in the shower. His phone beeped. Now, he was waiting on a go ahead for an important meeting and didn’t want to miss it so, after I informed him of said beep, he asked me to check incase it was the confirmation. What came next is the stuff fables are made of. It definitely was a work beep. You see, it was his ‘work’ friend confirming their rendezvous for the evening and attached was a photograph so explicit, it had me blushing right down to my roots.
So, what do you do when you find out that the father of your children has been breaking his marriage vows? You confront him, that’s what you do. And when he has the audacity to say that it’s your fault that he cheated in the first place because he wasn’t getting ’emotional and physical’ love from you, you slap him across the face. Hard. The whole concept is so done to death. Man and woman marry. Get busy with careers and children. He feels neglected and uncared for. He cheats on her. There’s so much pain and heartache involved in the inability to be accountable for actions. As expected. I lost it. I felt like the ground had opened to have me fall into an unending abyss of darkness and gloom.
Predictably, I went through the five stages of grief. Denial- “I can’t believe he did this, it couldn’t possibly be true!” Anger- “How dare he do this to me, we’ve been together for 20 years! And then he has the nerve to blame me for it?!” Bargaining- “Maybe, it was kind of my fault. Maybe I was the one who was emotionally and physically unavailable. Maybe we can work this out if we try.” Depression- “I’m 46! My life is over! My marriage is over. Who is going to want me now? This is the end for me. My worst fears have been realized! I’m going to die a bitter, old maid!” Acceptance- “It’s done. He cheated on me. The kids know. We’re getting divorced and I need to start my life again. I need to find myself once again.”
Getting to the acceptance part is, of course, the hardest. After indulging in many sessions of binge eating my emotions and having that heartbreaking conversation with the children about why their father was moving out, it was something a friend said to me that snapped me back to reality. You see, she was fed up with my moping around so, she sat me down, looked me in eyes and quoted Leonard Cohen to me. She said, “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
It was in that singular moment, while not immediately, of course, that I knew it was time to pack up the emotional saga and get on with life. Things needed to be done. My children needed to be looked after. My ‘ex’ husband needed to be dealt with and I needed to get my act together.
It has been three years since the incident occurred and I can proudly say that I am happy. It is that simple. I found happiness with my children, my friends and with being who I am. And while, at the time it happened, it felt like being cheated on was the end of my world, I realized it wasn’t. Making my way to that realization was tough but it was a road I had to travel to see the value in my children and myself.
We met on a train. From Jammu to Delhi. An overnight train that had us discussing everything from politics to pop culture through the night. She was in town for three months to backpack and explore a new country. I was travelling for work. She spoke Spanish with a smattering of English. I spoke English with no comprehension of Spanish.
What happened next was something out of fairy tales. She was smart, beautiful, well read and everything I wanted in a woman. I couldn’t get enough of her. For the next three months, we spent every waking moment together. At her insistence, we made our ‘relationship’ public knowledge. From changing statuses on social media to being introduced to the parents, it was like the relationship was on hyper-drive. She began discussing wedding plans, honeymoon trips, children’s names and everything that entailed building a future together. And like a fool, I got caught up in it all. Looking back, I probably wouldn’t have fallen as hard as I did if she wasn’t as insistent as she was. But anyway, three months flew by and we fell in love with each other hard. It got to the point where she almost missed her flight home because of all the tears, hugs and plans to meet again.
The next nine months we kept in touch all the time. We constantly chatted, emailed and messaged each other. She introduced me to her friends and family via Skype. We made plans to spend a month together at her home over Christmas. She told me how her father was so excited to finally meet me that he repainted the gate and rooftop so it would look nice. The way I saw it, if I was to build a life with her, I had to love and trust her unconditionally. And so I did.
But about a year into the relationship, certain instances stood out as odd. For example, if she introduced me to a family member or friend, I would ask her and then add that person on Facebook. But there was this one cousin. This one cousin that I had spoken to via Skype but could not find on social media. And if I asked her about the cousin, she would fly off the handle and throw a fit. So I decided to do something about it. I asked a friend to sign into his Facebook account and then searched for the cousin. Lo and behold! There she was! But this was when it all came crumbling down. This cousin’s profile picture was one of her and of my girl wrapped around another man in a very compromising position. Now, you know how you can tag a person’s account on a picture? Well, she was tagged but it wasn’t the account that I was ‘in a relationship’ with her. And that’s when I discovered her alternate life. Not only was she dating someone else, she had been doing so for the entire year that we were together.
A week after keeping an eye on the alternate account, I tried to get in touch with her to talk about everything I had discovered but with each mode of communication I used to get to get in touch with her, the less contact I had with her. I messaged and called her but the number was deactivated, I emailed her but they went unanswered, tried finding her on Skype only to discover that the account didn’t exist anymore. She even deactivated her Facebook account!
After a while, I stopped trying to contact her and came to terms with the level of deception I had faced. I never got to the bottom of why she did what she did but it doesn’t bother me anymore. I’m still going to keep my walls low and my arms open, waiting for the right woman to hold my hand and stroll through life. Also, the best thing that cam out of my relationship with her? I can fluently speak Spanish!