I’ve recently discovered podcasts. Because I’m a 90-year-old woman on the inside, I listen to progressive talk radio when I get tired of listening to music.
You’d think that since I have a seven-year-old who talks non-stop, maybe I’d prefer some music or some silence… but no. I really enjoy listening to other people talk. The only other option after sports talk radio (meh) and conservative talk radio (no) were podcasts. So, I got myself an app (Pocket Casts) and started asking around for recommendations.
I started with Serial, and of course season one hooked me immediately. When season two didn’t hold my interest, I started poking around for others. Welcome to Night Vale is a gem I wish I had discovered years ago. What a joy that is to listen to. I’ve already listened to every episode twice. Limetown is fun, but too short. Also great: This American Life (obvs) and Dead Things Podcast co-hosted by my friend Genevieve Mueller. I like Dead Things because I feel like I’m part of the conversation. Anyway… my most recent favourite is Death, Sex, and Money by the folks at WNYC Studios. The two episodes I’ve listened to fully are “When I Almost Died,” with stories from people who had either witnessed death or lived through a near-death experience, and “Falling in love… with heroin,” a story about a couple struggling with a love affair with each other and heroin that ends in a not-so-pleasant twist.
Today, I listened to “Cheating happens”.
I’ve cheated on everyone I’ve ever been with… except my ex-husband. I thought, “Hey… I’m married now. No more of that bullsh*t. I found the guy I actually want to be with.”
Then… my ex-husband cheated on me.
I’m not sure if that story is worth getting into. He believed our relationship was over at that point. He even told me later he was hoping I would catch him so I would divorce him and he could be the bad guy and be done with our marriage without much effort. He broke it off with her, then didn’t, then lied about it, justified it, made excuses for it… all the while dragging his feet through our divorce. It made me feel insane. It made me feel like maybe it was karma paying me back for when I cheated in the past. And I hated him for it.
So, yeah… cheating f**king happens.
The host of the podcast, Anna Sale, interviewed Dan Savage in a previous episode… one I didn’t listen to because I actually have to mentally and emotionally prepare myself to listen to Dan Savage. Apparently Dan Savage believes that 50 per cent of women and 50 per cent of men cheat. I’m still astonished by those numbers.
The first time I cheated was summer after my final year in high school. My first love broke up with me the previous year, then wrote me an email (on AOL!) on New Year’s Day asking to see me. We started dating again soon after that. Once I graduated, I got a job at a little restaurant near my house as a hostess. The restaurant had been there for a while, so I knew the owners and some of the staff pretty well already. They made the best effing food in the world. The son of one of the waitresses also worked there, and he and I became fast friends. My first love went out of town to see family, I think, and that’s when it happened.
I am not here to bitch about cheaters. I’m not here to say cheating is wrong. I’m not here to chastise cheaters and say they are horrible people with horrible intentions and they all deserve unhappiness. I’m a cheater… do I deserve unhappiness? Does my ex? We’re all human, and humans make weird choices for weird reasons.
I started writing this with the intent on sharing the emotional upheaval that comes when cheating is discovered — the tears, the screaming, the anger, the self-doubt, the self-pity, the self-hatred — but I just can’t. It’s too exhausting. I know I hurt my first love a lot, because he told me so, and continued to tell me for months afterwards, usually by including some choice words like whore and slut. I started dating the other guy, and we were together for quite a while, but I cheated on him, too… several times, including with my first love.
I could go on and on about my dating and relationship experiences throughout college, and maybe someday I will, but not today. Just know that there was a lot of experience in a short amount of time, and for most of that time, I had no idea what the f**k I was doing. I was running on pure emotion, doing what made me feel good for as long as it made me feel good.
I am fairly sure about one thing: I cheated because I was afraid of missing out.
GROUP THERAPY: Should I warn this women about her cheating partner?
I grew up assuming I would find my Prince Charming and he would love me and I would love him and he would be all romantic and stuff and take me places and buy me things and I could hold him when he needed and he could let me cry when I needed and we would travel and love each other and it would be the two of us against the world. From experience, I can definitely say it’s probably impossible to find someone to live up to these perfect expectations of what a relationship “should” be.
My relationship cycle pre-marriage was like this:
See guy → goggle at guy → guy gives me attention → flirt with guy → guy flirts back → like guy → date guy → make wild assumptions about guy → discover assumptions about guy are probably wrong → in too deep with guy → now I’m stuck → ooooh, look at THAT guy! → but, I’m still with THIS guy → but what about THAT GUY?!? he could be your SOULMATE!!!! → okay, let’s try that guy → no, that didn’t work, and now you’ve lost that guy AND this guy.
I married someone who was decidedly not a romantic… because it seemed my desires were too fantastical, so I should probably just take what I can get. Who, beyond the god-forsaken characters in bullsh*t Nicholas Sparks novels, is romantic like that anymore? My therapist told me that’s one of my myths. She told me if I am a hopeless romantic, then drop the hopeless part and continue to be a romantic and I’ll eventually find someone who fulfills that part of me. I’m still not sure I believe her.
Having not dated in 11 years, I still don’t know what the f**k I’m doing. I still feel that urge to glom onto someone, anyone who shows me the slightest bit of positive attention. But I don’t want that. I want love, real love. The kind of love that can last a lifetime. The kind of love that I’m not even sure I know how to return. But first…
I have to learn to love myself.
Want to know more about Natalie? Tweet her @leiashotfirst, check out her Instagram, or visit her design portfolio on Behance. Sometimes she writes things on Medium, sometimes she writes about science for her job. She holds a degree in Math and currently lives with her daughter and two dogs in Albuquerque, NM.
This post originally appeared on Medium and has been republished here with full permission.