I was talking to a friend recently who, through a stream of tears and snot, asked me why I thought their significant other cheated on them. I won’t lie, I panicked. We know the right thing to say — it has nothing to do with you — and I’m sure many of us know the wrong things to say too because I’ve heard them all. Were you loving? Were you patient and kind? Were you attentive to their needs? Did you wash, dry and fold all their underwear and have a seven course gourmet meal on the table by the time they got home from work? (Fuck your life schedule, I guess.)
I didn’t panic because I couldn’t find the words. I found them and my friend is doing fine. I panicked because I remembered the times I’ve been cheated on. The way that those little affirmations and tips people recited at me didn’t do a whole lot to change how I felt and, ultimately, how I reacted.
Sometimes you think you’re helping yourself when you’re not. I ran a poll on Twitter this week, inspired by the news that Cardi B dragged herself to a club to beat up a woman that her husband is supposedly having an affair with, which resulted in her being charged with assault. This is a woman who recently became a mother, currently has a #1 song and, in general, is doing very well, and she let herself do all of this… over some dude? I asked the question, “If your significant other cheats on you, should you take it out on _____________________” and the options were: (a) them, (b) the other person, (c) no one (move on or leave).
One hundred and twelve votes and several debates later, I realized that we’re all doomed. The final results show that 44% of people believe it should be taken out on the significant other, and 1% believe it should be taken out on the other person. While the last option received the higher percentage of votes in the end, it didn’t look that way during the 24 hours that I ran the poll. A lot of people chose option (a) and the reasons they gave were understandable, heart wrenching, and also horrifying. We had our run of the mill revenge fantasies (“I want them to feel what I feel”) with a sprinkle of actual punishment. I promise, beating people up doesn’t actually solve anything. Somebody abused your trust so you have to abuse them to a higher degree? I’m not trying to sound condescending but it’s really just a waste of time and energy.
The thing is that someone in that position, by the time they get caught or turn themselves in, has already done the mental gymnastics they are now leaving you to do. They’ve already considered the ways you’ll be hurt, angry, or seeking revenge. They may not even care at all. Either way they’ve begun the process of making peace with their actions. You need to make peace with your feelings. If you know that there’s no chance of getting past it together, don’t try. Don’t stick around to yell every day or beat people up in the club. Do you really want to develop wrinkles and become a felon? Put the baseball bat down, Beyoncé. You’re worth far more than what was done to you.
You have the right to feel how you feel. You also have been given the perfect opportunity to reevaluate what you want for yourself. Don’t ask yourself (or them) what you could’ve done. Nothing you do or don’t do merits such a cowardly reaction. There’s always the option to have honest conversations or break up, so there isn’t a concrete reason for betrayal. You can’t and shouldn’t ponder something that can’t be explained. Redirect your focus back to yourself every time this impulse strikes and you will find that healing, while not linear, will come soon.
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