real life

'The big lesson I took away from my partner cheating on me had nothing to do with love.'

It all started so well, with the man who brought a smile to my heart again, who enveloped me in bear hugs and told me that he believed in my abilities.

But sadly the relationship with Mr Red Sports Car is now little more than a car wreck, a part of my life that I wish to forget. I am writing about it here partly to vent but also, in part, as a cautionary tale. One to remind you, especially if you are a woman, to value yourself and your financial future.

So I met Mr Red Sports Car on Tinder. Yes, Tinder. He told me that he had strong family values and that he was big on integrity. He was working in IT, and later I found out that he had worked closely with my father on a work project. My dad thought highly of him. He met my friends and everyone seemed to like him. He took me out to some amazing dinners, listened to me and was a real gentleman. He told me on our first date that I gave him butterflies in his stomach and that no-one had ever done that before. I thought, I really did, that it was the real thing and that it was mutual.

And yes, he told me he loved me. Often. Including on a fabulous trip to Taiwan over Christmas and the New Year that included seeing in the year on a rooftop watching fireworks.

So, what went wrong?

Cracks started to appear later that January. Hard to say really, but he became busy with work, so very busy. And busy and distracted with finalising his divorce. He never had time – he said he wouldn’t be able to take a day or two of leave to go away together until August. He still hadn’t told his family he was ‘dating someone’, let alone dating me. He rarely said he loved me, and he became quite self-absorbed. It was always me cooking for him, giving him massages, listening to his troubles, caring for him, soothing his pain. He had once promised to treat me like a queen, but I was feeling like Cinderella.

Things really were noticeable in early March when he asked me to attend a wedding with him. He was cold and distant, with his back turned to me during the ceremony. He made comments about other woman’s cleavage. He didn’t introduce me to people, or offer to get something to drink for me after I trudged off in search of the table for bridal gifts (yep, Cinderella doing the duty for this one). When I went and sat next to him at one point, he got up and left me alone while he spent 15 minutes talking to an attractive blonde woman. Yes, she was a friend. But yes, I noticed.

I should have left. I should have got up and walked home. But I stayed. I smiled. “I do love you, you know,” he said to me later that night. That was the last time I heard that.

I called it. I realised that for whatever reason he was no longer into me. All those promises, all those words, they meant nothing without action. When we broke up after 14 months of dating I didn’t so much as have a toothbrush at his house. When I went to collect a few things he didn’t even make proper time to speak to me to say goodbye. He was so cold and distant. “I’m sorry you are really wonderful, but I just can’t say those word to you at the moment,” he texted as we were breaking up. “I never wanted to hurt you.”

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I was, understandably, gutted. We had become so close, spoke together every day, I shared so much of my soul with that man. From the whirlwind trip at to Taiwan, where we were so close, to this distance was awful.

We didn’t talk for a while – I needed some space. I had a new job, a new apartment, my kids were in a new school, and I got some new writing mojo. I took myself out for a memorable date after I got my hair cut. I threw myself into new projects.

Somehow, against the odds, something happened. I broke out of my cocoon. I emerged as a new being, more independent, stronger, more loving, more confident. I pitched a business idea that was successful (and then knocked it back). I formed a Mastermind group with friends. I channelled love everywhere. I discovered a hidden beauty within that I never knew I had. I went out on dates and flirted outrageously and met some amazing, and I mean, amazing men. Some I liked and they didn’t like me back, but more often than not I recognised that while they were indeed special, we weren’t right for each other.

The key thing I guess I learnt was to recognise my worth. No way was I going to put up with some guy who didn’t even treat me like a girl friend, much less someone with whom he was in a valued relationship with. My time, my energy, is so much better than that! I’m now only willing to accept a gold standard in conduct and ethics, and attitude towards me.

"I broke out of my cocoon. I emerged as a new being, more independent, stronger, more loving, more confident."
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So far so good.

But then, you see, I still liked Mr Red Sports Car a lot. He had also promised me, begged me, that we would always be friends. We still kept in contact. We caught up a few times. I invited him to some functions. I flirted. He flirted. We looked like a couple when together, even if nothing romantic was going on. We spoke occasionally. We texted, exchanged emails. He sent me photos of a family gathering.

What he neglected to tell me was that as he was writing those emails he was shacked up in a luxury hotel in southern Taiwan with a woman who was probably younger than his daughter. Taiwan! The place where we had spent a romantic trip together not six months before. And that they had clearly been seeing each other for several months, having had multiple overseas holidays together. Once I realised what was happening on social media it was all there.

He had lied. Over and over and over.

I feel so stupid, so dumb. And kind of violated and a bit sick. Like, oh my God, I dated someone so shallow, so sleazy, and someone who is such a liar. What else has he lied about? I had introduced this man to my kids. I tried to keep in contact with him as a friend, thought I was doing the right thing, genuinely hoped we could have a meaningful friendship. I am incredibly glad he is no longer in my life. I never want to see him again.

I hardly slept last night. I am personally so big on integrity, and this just doesn’t cut it for me, whatever he or others might say about being technically okay. But it is also my fault for one big glaring reason – he had cheated before. Specifically, he had cheated on his wife before I met him. And he probably made promises to his ex-girlfriend as well. I met him over a year after separation, and I reasoned that he had been lonely, that he didn’t mean it, that he had been pursued, he had admitted it etc etc etc. I struggled with how this fit into my personal values, and early on broke up with him because I felt he was still behaving as if he was married. I encouraged him to try to be on the best possible terms with his wife, to tell her how much he appreciated the past, to act with integrity in the divorce, to be amicable and fair. I even said I would understand if he got back together with his wife for the sake of the family.

What I should have done was to walk away. I should have respected the global sisterhood. Yes, no-one is perfect but infidelity is never, ever right. Nor is lying. And karma came to bite me because he just cheated on me back.

Which brings me to my main lesson. A lesson on frugality.

Why is any of this relevant to frugality? Because so many people enter into relationships putting themselves last. This is especially the case for women, who often give up many years of their careers to care for their families either full or part-time. Their career may progress slower because of it (or not at all), or they might contribute much less superannuation. Or they might not earn any money at all and later on not be able to get back into the workforce. In my marriage, I was the main income earner but I didn’t have full control over my own money. I do now.

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Do you want to know the fastest growing demographic of homelessness is in Australia? Teens? Old men.

Women who are in their 50s and 60s.

Often these women are cast aside as a result of infidelity or violence. Many women leave financial decisions to their husbands and partners, so even if there is money there they don’t know where the money trail is or how to get it.

Love your husband and think he could never be a cheater? I am not at all suggesting that because I have had a bad experience that your loving spouse is about to run off overseas for a tryst with a woman half his age. And post bikini pictures of her butt cheeks on Instagram. But over one million Australians joined the cheating online website Ashley Madison – apparently they lied too and there were many more men on that website than non robotic women. You get the drift.

And of course women cheat, too, and in some cases can be violent, or are just not very nice in relationships. It happens both ways. The point is to realise that you can’t just subcontract out your finances in the hope that love will find a way. Maybe it will, but statistically you need to know that one in three marriages in Australia ends in divorce. With this in mind, you need to always think about the best financial decisions for you and to have the courage to speak up for this.

As to that new little love in Taiwan, she sure looks cute. And I do honestly wish them happiness because love is a fleeting yet beautiful thing.

Does she know that he is currently going through a protracted divorce and that he is spending tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees? Does she know that he has a huge interest only mortgage on his house? Or that the remaining part of his corporate income is going to pay for his sexy red sports car, bought new of course and declining rapidly in value? Or that he has two adult children that are heavily economically dependent on him? Or that his work will be reducing jobs because of automation and changes to the future of work?

(Yes in retrospect I dodged a bullet there.)

I am guessing he won’t be able to pay for romantic rendezvous in luxury Asian hotels forever. If she wants to have a family with him (and given her age I am guessing she will), then the hard realities of dollars and cents will start to bite.

For now, back to loving life and being grateful for those around me. I know that several friends will give me hugs today, and several already have.

This post originally appeared on Ms Frugal Ears, and has been republished with full permission. You can also follow her on Instagram and Facebook.

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