I knew Ash had cheated on me before he even walked through the door that night. When he confirmed it, it felt as though he’d wrenched my stomach out of me through my throat. Suddenly, breathing felt like a luxury—coping with the emotions seemed more important to my survival. With that, a seven-year relationship and a 20-something’s belief that true love always stays vaporised simultaneously.
I wanted to know every tiny detail of what had happened that night. I thought that hearing a blow-by-blow account of the sex would make the blackest parts of my imagination evaporate. Who was she? When did it start? Was the sex hotter than ours?
In her home?
None of what he told me was soothing. It felt more as if he had finished pulling my insides out of my mouth and was now pulling the rest of my viscera out of my chest. I played his hours with her over and over in my head for months. It hurt every time, but I did it obsessively anyway.
When that didn’t change history, I looked for other ways to make it unhappen. If he could just make me believe he really loved me, wouldn’t it all just go away? Then the questions began to churn around in my head. Did he get bored? Or did I mess up? Would he ever want me again? The answer to that last question was yes, but by the time he’d realised that, my last box had already been unpacked in a new city. My last care for our relationship had upped and left.
It takes a lot to make me rue the day I met you. To do that, the lessons I’ve learned from the relationship need to be less significant than the pain it caused. That’s a difficult ask because I’m absurdly good at finding lessons, but my relationship with Ash is one of only two that I regret.
Cheating on me was the best thing he ever did for me. I don’t think I would have left any other way, and I’d hate to know what my life would be like today if I’d stayed. I made a decision that year: no man would ever get the opportunity to cheat on me more than once. Infidelity is too painful for second chances, at least for me.
There are people in the world who are capable of putting trust back together again after it’s been demolished to that extent. I’m not one of them. I’m glad I’m not.
Ash received the first years of my adulthood. Back then I was so painfully shy that I could barely greet a stranger in the streets. It was only after he cheated that I learned how to flourish. What infidelity did to launch my rebirth as the woman I am today is one of my life’s greatest mysteries, but I’ve never rued the day I met her.