real life

"I discovered my boyfriend was paying for regular 'rub and tugs'. And it made me sick."

I vividly remember the moment I found out.

I’d come over late on a Friday night. He’d been out drinking. I was plagued by a really bad feeling.

Every time I’d had this sensation with former partners in the past, I’d been right. And every time they made me feel crazy, jealous and paranoid.

Luke* had always been flirtatious, and he was extremely charismatic. I learned over the course of our relationship that he’d cheated on girls in the past, but he assured me that was all behind him. He’d been young and immature.

He drank too much, not just on the weekend. Sometimes he’d forget things he said or did.

I knew that some of his friends cheated on their girlfriends – it seemed normal in their social circle. I didn’t like the way they spoke about girls or how quickly they seemed to come and go.

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But I was with him because he was, well, extremely likable. He was funny and made me feel like I was the luckiest girl in the world – which, in hindsight, isn’t necessarily a good thing. I overlooked the red flags thinking that maybe I’d be able to fix them.

So there I was, lying in bed next to him. He smelled like someone who had been in a club for hours, a mixture of cigarette smoke, stale cologne and bourbon.

I reached over to his phone that was on the charger. As guilty as I felt, I just needed answers. And I knew he wasn’t going to give them to me.

I’d hazard a guess that there are few women (or men) who’ve gone through their partner’s phone and not found something incriminating. Once you’re at the point of looking, you already know what you’re going to find.

But to be honest, I didn’t find exactly what I was expecting.

I opened a conversation between him and three of his friends. I kept reading an acronym I’d never seen before: “Hey, up for a r&t this arvo?”

"I had absolutely no idea what a r&t was." Image via iStock.

I had absolutely no idea what a r&t was. I wondered if it was some sort of alcoholic beverage. So I decided to Google it.

It stands for 'rub and tug', a revolting expression for a massage that ends with an orgasm. He was paying - once a week - for a hand job off a stranger.

I was horrified. Disgusted. But I also felt heartbroken.

Over our relationship, I'd been completely faithful. The prospect of being with anyone else didn't interest me in the slightest. But every week he was having a sexual experience with an anonymous woman. I just couldn't work out why. 

I was so overwhelmingly angry.

I woke him up and confronted him about the messages. He was angry that I'd gone through his phone, which I'm not going to argue is ever the right thing to do. But it was too late now; all my suspicions and "paranoia" had turned out to be justified.

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He said they'd always done it. A group of them would go on a Wednesday afternoon, and had done so for a while, well before we'd started dating. He didn't even think of giving it up because he was in a relationship. To him, it was no different to a regular massage. It was exclusively about pleasure and he had no emotional attachment at all to the woman performing it.

But to me it was absolutely cheating. The definition of cheating is to be "sexually unfaithful" and to "act dishonestly". I felt like I'd been lied to.

On top of that, I felt... unattractive. Rejected. I was right here. We had what I thought was a pretty healthy sex life - was there something I wasn't giving him?

He said it wasn't about me at all. Which was true - and precisely the problem.

I knew after that, I couldn't see him in the same way. He wasn't the person I thought he was. I'd always been uncomfortable with the idea of someone paying for sex, and I certainly wasn't okay with my partner doing it.

There were a million reasons why we broke up, but that was definitely a deciding factor for me.