Was it Cheating?
I’ve never been a relationship person. The idea of devoting yourself and “belonging” to someone else never really appealed to me. In fact, it scared the bejeezus out of me. I watched my friends get in “long-lasting, loving” relationships, and then watched them get burned to an everlasting crisp at the end of them. Bearing witness to the drama, the emotional roller coasters, and the heartache, I NEVER wanted that for myself. The feeling of being independent and having complete control of my emotions and time ultimately made me feel safe. And if being attached to someone was doing to threaten that, I’d sooner die alone.
But when he came into my life, that all changed. Yeah, it sounds so cliche to say that he made me want that hopeless romantic kind of relationship. But he made me want to try. We took baby steps and settled on “dating exclusively.” My definition was to be seeing only each other, but not be in a committed monogamous relationship. Does that make sense? Basically, it was a way to have all the wonderful perks of a relationship without any of the responsibility. Making that arrangement with him, I honestly thought of only myself.
So when he and I had tension (as couples naturally do) at times, I reverted back to my old self. That meant being back on the dating apps, flipping though nameless faces. We weren’t in a committed relationship, so I thought it was okay. But most importantly, I felt in control of my feelings again. Swiping was harmless, but when an old flame asked me out to a bar I questioned myself, "Would it be wrong of me to say yes? Is this cheating?"
Desperate to cling on to the last drop of my singledom, I told the old flame yes. I had a pretty good time. This guy was the total opposite of who I was actually dating and had everything that was missing from the relationship I was in. And the entire night, I continued to justify the outing in my mind by reminding myself that I was not in a committed relationship. But when I went home that night and heard from him, I felt like the dried up gunk you scrape off of the bottom of dumpsters.
I look back at that situation at the beginning our of relationship and I recognize that, yeah, it was cheating. We had an agreement to see only each other, and I was in violation if that. Although I never kissed that guy, I was giving away a part of myself that I only reserve for him. If the situation was turned around, I would be crushed. In that moment, I was the person and reason I never wanted to be in a relationship.
I know now that I went out with that guy not because I wanted to keep my freedom, but out of a fear of being emotionally hurt by someone else. I didn’t want to end up like my friends. So if that meant hurting him before I thought he could hurt me, I was going to do that. It was an insecurity that I never talked about with anyone. And now I was forced to have that hard talk with myself. If I wanted to make it work with him, if I cared about his feelings, and if I wanted to finally allow myself to be in healthy relationship that meant something, I had to deal with that insecurity.
People usually assume it’s men who cheat in relationships, but yes, women do it too. It may be a topic that gets swept under the rug, but it happens more than you think. Emotional cheating is a real thing, and it can hurt someone just as much as, if not more than, physically cheating. He never found out about that outing I had with that guy. And I would never want him to. As far as my fear of being hurt, it no longer has control over me and how I behave in my relationship. I think that acknowledging those fears creates the space you need for that other person in your life where you can both feel safe and loved together.
Feature photo by Toa Heftiba via Unsplash