How to Be...A Cheater Part II

546e4803490835cf92c33d4c9195f1d3I love The Weepies. I’ve loved The Weepies ever since my ex-husband first introduced them to me years ago, on a mix CD he gave me very early on in our relationship. “Gotta Have You” was my anthem the first year we were together. At that point, The Weepies represented everything that was good between us. But four years ago I realized The Weepies were inaugurating another relationship that would ultimately end my marriage. I stopped listening to The Weepies.

I genuinely, stupidly thought it was over. I thought we’d bridged a path towards friendship. Thought we were the example that people would look to and say, “hey, there’s a relationship that recovered from divorce and shifted to friendship after the tears and hurt had dried up.” I was proud to call him my friend: proud to claim that we had enough regard for the love that we once shared to pave a way to a new relationship. A healthy relationship—perhaps the one we were always meant to have—friendship.

For almost a year we did. For almost a year he was one of my closest friends: someone who knew me intimately, knew my family and idiosyncrasies and insecurities and the right things to say when I was lost in my life. For a year he was, for all intents and purposes, one of my best friends.

And then, three months ago, I got a message from him: “Hey. If I told you I wanted to come clean about something, would you even want to hear it anymore?” I didn’t respond. I looked at that text for hours. I’d been here before. The last time, it resulted in me driving too fast over the Pali Highway at midnight on a January night in Honolulu, thinking for the first time in my life that if I happened to lose control of the wheel, if I happened to careen off the side of the mountain, it couldn’t possibly hurt as much as the pain I felt in that moment. 

So I stared at the text. And the energetic umbilical cord that’d kept me connected to this man—this man who was so obviously dangerous to my being—tugged and I was right back in his game. Another text came through: “I fucked up bad Lou. Probably the stupidest thing I’ve done since cheating on you.”And just like that, I was hooked again. I was back, and wanted to know, needed to know, what the hell he was talking about.

He called me.“Remember how, in the aftermath of our divorce you said that the only way you could be friends with me is if I ended all communication with her?” I did. I’d told him, quite calmly, quite rationally I wasn't able to entertain the idea of a relationship with him if she was still in his life. It was up to him, I said. His choice, I said. I’d understand either way, but I knew her betrayal lived so deep inside me that I wouldn’t be able to have a friendship with him knowing he was in contact with her. He agreed. A relationship with me was more important than one with her. I’ll cut all ties, he said.

I stood in the subway station at Times Square. I leaned against a vibrantly tiled wall and listened to a reggae band play for a crowd of enthusiastic tourists five feet away. I held the  phone to my ear and listened to my ex-husband tell me that in the months following our divorce, the months in which he created a new life for himself in Los Angeles, that she called him and asked if she could crash on his couch while she visited LA for a few days.  A few days turned into a few months, and they dated—they dated for months, all the while he nurtured a friendship with me: a relationship I stupidly thought to be the one we were always meant to have and wholeheartedly embraced, while he lied to me the entire time.

This revelation, this realization that the woman who’d called herself my best friend, my surrogate sister, the person I cried to as my marriage fell apart, was once again woven into the thread of our story was what hurt the most. I expected it from HIM. He was a cheater. A liar. I knew that. I’d come to accept that as part of who he was. But the betrayal I felt from her—again, was shattering.  I sobbed. Openly, freely, unabashedly in the most public of all subway stations in New York.  I sobbed. And I didn’t care. A tourist walked past me and without reservation, held up his phone to capture my pain. I didn’t care. I cried while the reggae band play and the tourists walked by staring. I cried the train ride home.

I cried more when I got home. I cried more than I had in four years and I wondered why the fuck this story continued to chase me even though I had written the ending long ago. He called and texted and reasoned and finally, finally after six years of me hoping he’d fight for me—he fought. Three years post- divorce, three years too late, I was getting the fight I’d wanted so badly when my heart was still in the marriage. And now it just felt sad. And pathetic. And done. Suddenly I didn’t care anymore. I wasn’t invested. There was nothing left except a pile of dirty laundry that I’d willingly, cathartically aired while I processed the end of my marriage.  Suddenly I wanted nothing more to do with him, or with our story. I was just—done.

In that finality an anger towards her bubbled back up to the surface. It was always there, sure, but I’d shoved it far away—talked myself out of it—listened to enough people blame him with no thought to the role she’d played in our disastrous end, but I knew—he knew—she knew—she did. And I was pissed. I’d heard through a little bird that she’d moved to New York City. MY city. The place I’d happily called home for three years. And suddenly the person most able to invoke in me a murderous rage was within Uber distance of my home—the sanctuary I’d created after the most miserable six years of my life—and that stoked a rage I didn’t know I had.

I have “om shanti” tattooed on my wrist. I consider myself a peaceful, non-violent, loving person. And yet there was a part of my hurt heart and raging, irrational brain that envisioned meeting her on the streets of New York and slapping her so hard across the face that she spun. My sudden capacity towards violence terrified me and no amount of deep-breathing could calm my frantic, obsessive thoughts. There was no resolution with her. No confrontation, no acknowledgement, no apology—nothing. In the revelation of the affair she’d gone from sister to stranger and I craved closure I’d never have.

I don’t know what I needed in that moment, but it came crashing down on me while talking to him that I wasn’t going to get it—she was here, in my city and much like her intrusion into my marriage I had no choice but to accept it and decide my next move. My angry head and my hurt heart screamed that it’d feel so good to smack her hard and deliver the monologue I’d been rehearsing in my brain since finding out but mostly I just wanted to move on.

In those moments of processing another betrayal in this never-ending story of love and loss and lessons, I realized I was the only one with the power to write the sentence that would end this chapter of my story. I was the only one with the power to fight against every angry, violent inclination I had and decide neither of them were important enough to occupy space in my head and my heart. I was the only one who could choose to forgive, to forgive and move the fuck on. So I did.

I opened iTunes on my computer and typed, “The Weepies” in the search box. Songs flooded my screen and I scrolled until I found what I was looking for. I clicked on “World Spins Madly On.” I took a deep breath.  I thought of where I’ve been and where I am and where I want to go. I sent forgiveness off into the night, to him and to her and maybe most importantly, to me.  And then I did the thing I never thought I’d be able to do.  I clicked play.