I am ambivalent on the whole notion of fidelity in relationships, because I have always felt that physical infidelity is not as bad as emotional cheating. My relationships have always been high on the sharing factor, especially the last one.
Having said that, I don’t think cheating is excusable. I have been guilty of it twice, wrongfully accused of it once, and it took me ages to get over the trauma of feeling like a piece of crap stuck to the bottom of a pig’s hoof. I think I will get those stories out of the way first, as catharsis, and then get on to the real point of this post: being the ‘other woman’.
The first time I was “cheating” was not really a cheating scenario, although my boyfriend of the time made it seem like that. I sort of fell into a relationship with a bloke in college, and we dated for a few months, till I ditched him for someone who was a friend and way more understanding (or so I thought). I was a firm believer in the concept of romantic, ever-after love, and I moulded my reality many times to fit this ideal. Of course, it didn’t work. I broke up with the other guy within a month, because we were severely incompatible with each other.
All this wasn’t too bad, and I didn’t snog one while technically being with the other. But I did get back together with the first guy after the stint with the second. We dated for 3 years after that, and he never let me forget it. It was exhausting and demoralizing, and he forevermore believed that I was going to cheat on him at some point. I didn’t, for the record.
The next time, 3 years on, I was breaking up with this same dude. Every. Single. Day. And then getting back together with him in the morning, because he behaved like a twerp. It was a self-destruct cycle that lasted for months I think, and I was a ruined husk of a person at the end of it. During this insane phase, one chap at my post graduate college and I became friends. He was my shoulder to cry on, and of course I mistook all the affection I had for this one ray of light in my otherwise dark world as my knight in shining armour. And one evening we kissed. In retrospect, it shouldn’t have taken me by surprise at all, because the writing was on the wall. But yes, that proved to be the point at which I stamped my foot down, and say no firmly to parasitic boyfriend number 1.
We didn’t actually start dating, but we kind of made out a few times. He had a job off-campus and I barely saw him at all. When I did, we hid our not-quite-a-relationship. It was surreal. In the interim, I met the ex a few times, and he generally prevailed over me to take him back. I said no multiple times, but I lacked the force of conviction, and honestly a bad relationship is like addiction: you get used to the familiarity of being with a parasite who is sucking out all your life force.
Finally, the ex moved off to his placement, and the replacement was off-campus too. I was finally free. However, by this time, I was alone on the inside. I didn’t have any friends because of this ongoing saga. It had sapped so much of my will to live that I didn’t have any energy to pour into forging new friendships and associations.
Except one friendship. We started talking. Talking a lot. He had just gone through his own breakup where his girlfriend had unceremoniously dumped him for another guy, who she had been with for at least 3 months before this guy. [She later slept with this guy a few more times, while dating THAT guy. And finally married the other dude. And I thought I was confused.]
We started going out together. Coffee, dinner, movies. Because of my highly restrictive first college relationship, I demanded the replacement be very OK with any number of male friends. Or bugger off. His choice.
Of course, we eventually developed feelings for each other, and one night it culminated in a smouldering kiss. The next morning, well a few hours later, I called it off with the replacement. He was, not pleased. And went about the college explaining what a harlot I was. Because of a kiss, mind you. Oh and he didn’t hesitate to throw it back it my face that it didn’t surprise him, because after all I had kissed him while being with someone else.
True enough. While at the time, the negative attention nearly sent me to an early grave, in retrospect it wasn’t so bad. I have lived to learn that I am entitled to change my mind; I need to have more impulse control; I need to be more firm; and that there is no such thing as the perfect romantic ever-after – that shit can just go die. A perfect relationship needs commitment and work, and emotional fidelity.
Ultimately, for me at least, it wasn’t the stray kissing that broke the camel’s back, it was the need to be understood and cared for. The desire to have succour and a safe haven from the strife in life, and the other person being that haven.
I also broke up with the last guy in this story, and I fell headlong in love a few years later with my French Student.
I’m cutting this post in half, because my catharsis took almost a 1000 words to expiate. Part two coming up shortly.
The other stories have become a series in their own right. Good grief.