We’d been together for about 18 months and had our share of ups and downs. I thought that was pretty normal, that my guy was a solid one and the good outweighed the bad… until I got a phone call that changed the course of our relationship. My boyfriend cheated on me.
I believe that everyone deserves a second chance, even cheaters. I hear it from my BFFs all the time: if a guy was to cheat on them, he’d get his balls chopped off and they’d be done. I never felt that strong of a conviction to throw it all away. I’m a thinker, a planner, and I like to examine all possibilities. To me, circumstances mean a lot when deciding if you should cut a guy loose if he cheats. In this case, I chose to give him another chance.
He admitted what he’d done. He called me immediately and owned up to his mistake. He didn’t wait for me to find out on my own and didn’t send me a lame text message. He acted like the mature man that he was and said he messed up. That was so important to me. Did my trust shatter immediately? Yes, but I also knew we could potentially rebuild it because he was honest right away.
We looked at the circumstances surrounding his betrayal. Two weeks before it happened, we were both traveling for work. The week it happened, I was still traveling and he was alone in our shared house and had to evacuate due to Hurricane Matthew. We both had a lot going on, a lot of stress, and a lot of negativity. He didn’t handle those situations well, decided to use alcohol to cope and ended up with someone who wasn’t me.
I made him work for forgiveness. There was no kissing, no cuddling, no sex for at least a month. He slept on the couch. He decided to tell me where he was going every time he went somewhere. He messed up and I made sure he knew it.
He made big changes to his daily life. Gone were the days of drinking four to five beers a night and wanting to go out every weekend. We were adults with full-time jobs, not college students. He made it a habit to talk about his feelings more often, which is something he never did before. More importantly, he made an effort to be more present in our relationship. All the little things we did when we first started dating—notes, compliments, flowers—started happening again after he put them in motion.
I made some changes in my own behavior as well. I stopped doing things that made me not trust him even more. I stopped snooping through his phone when he left it out. I realized I couldn’t forgive him if I wasn’t going to make an attempt to trust him again. Playing detective made me continue to doubt him unnecessarily. I also stopped basing my self-worth off him. I learned that if he’s going to love me and stay faithful, it’s going to be because he loves all parts of me. He doesn’t hold the key to my happiness, I do.
My outlook on love evolved. I’m a romantic and have always been waiting for a fairytale love story. Maybe some people have that type of relationship but not me. Some days it’s magical and other times it’s messy. Knights fall off their horses and princesses aren’t always perfect. I stopped expecting him to be someone he wasn’t and started expecting what I knew he was capable of. He loved my flaws and imperfections as much as my great qualities. I learned to slowly trust him again. Love in our relationship was about accepting the bad and making them good.
The decision to stay wasn’t one I took lightly but it’s one I made alone. It took about five months before I felt comfortable in our relationship again. It took almost a year for full trust to return. We spent many nights going through the “stay or go” scenario. Even though I was vindicated in my desire to leave, I also felt like he deserved another chance. I included him in what I was feeling when I could’ve shut him off and built walls up high. There are two of us in the relationship and an important decision after that much hard work was meant for two people, not one.
If he ever cheats again, I’m gone. I’m not someone who will dish out a third and fourth chance. I’ve learned through this experience what I’m capable of and willing to put up with and I won’t jeopardize that for him. While I’m glad I stayed and worked through it this time, there won’t be a next time.
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