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I've Been Cheated On By Three Boyfriends; This Is What I Learned

‘My exes may have been the ones to commit the crime, but I may have been the one to hand them the gun.’
PHOTO: istockphoto

Getting cheated on is a bitch.

At 21, you get a rude awakening that people can hurt you terribly—even people you thought would guard your heart. And while you’re not the one who did this terrible thing, between you two, you’re the one who feels worse because not only has your heart taken a beating; your ego is bruised, too.

Getting cheated on a second time is a major bitch.

At 27, you realize that having been cheated on before doesn’t exempt you from experiencing it again—LOL, no ma’am. This is a different situation entirely, involving a different person with different actions and motivations and capabilities to hurt you anew. The rejection crushes you harder this time because hey, here’s the second guy in a row to think you’re not good enough!

Getting cheated on a third time, when you thought you were too old to still be going through these things and had already basked in the unfounded comfort that surely the universe wouldn’t be so cruel to you again, is an absolute nightmare.

But yes, it could still happen. It happened to me at age 30, and out of all of them, it was the worst.

When you get cheated on, it becomes so easy, so tempting to blame the other person for putting you through pain. I gave in to that temptation those first two times. They were the ones who cheated; to an outsider, they were the bad ones. And boy, did I soak up other people’s sympathy. Their words were like tiny shots of drugs; all the lines they echoed saying “he doesn’t deserve you” and “maka-karma din ‘yan” hastened the healing of my hurting heart. It was easier to look at things in black and white—he’s bad, I’m good—than to really figure out why the relationship went wrong.

But when my third breakup caused again by infidelity happened, I was too shocked to even be running to people for comfort. Here was a man I actually found myself marrying and having kids with and building a future with, and yet, he turned out to be no better than the men who came before him! I sank into a long spell of darkness—which I would later find out was depression—and instead of looking to be helped by friends rallying behind me, I kept the pain all to myself. For two years, I wondered what was wrong with me, why was I unworthy, why couldn’t this one guy just stay?

That last experience with infidelity was so soul-crushing, it made me really look inside the other person who was to blame: me.

It was simplistic to think that every guy I ended up dating was a cheater and I was just the helpless girl who happened to fall into their evil clutches. But when you’ve gotten the wind knocked out of you by infidelity’s devastating blow, you will do anything to feel better—even if it means repressing truths about you that need to be known.

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After that third time, which set off a bout of depression and a period of therapy, I realized this: that I had been looking for love to save me, and so had been looking for it the wrong way, all this time. I had sought love out to feel better about myself and to escape the drudgeries and disappointments of my own life. I had read hundreds of articles and seen millions of memes that reminded me to love myself before I could love somebody else, and I always thought I had that self-love thing down pat, but maybe I didn’t. And because my love for myself was lacking and I looked to these men to fill in the gaps, I let them step all over me just so I could keep their love in my life.

My exes may have been the ones to commit the crime, but I may have been the one to hand them the gun. If I had seen with clearer eyes from the start, I wouldn’t have ignored the red flags that waved at me from time to time: the shouting matches, the disappearing for days, the flirty exchanges with other women. I would’ve known before they even cheated on me that they were not the man for me.

Now, I no longer blame my exes for how those relationships turned out; in fact, I’m thankful that my time with them has left me with lessons that I’ll hopefully never forget. There is no bitterness in my heart when I remember them, but there is no fondness, either—that’s stretching it. I have accepted that I needed to go through those experiences to get where I am now, and that’s a hell of a lot better place to be in than to be constantly blaming another person for doing me wrong. If I never recognize my own faults and continue to point fingers at the cheating ex, I might as well give up my power to determine my own romantic life forever. My exes would continue to have a hold on me long after they’ve left me, long after they’ve even stopped caring about me. And come on—that’s a terrible way to live.

I have a friend whose boyfriend of seven years hit her, cheated on her, and went off with the new girl. Three years since their breakup, she was still crying over him, still wondering how he could’ve hurt her so cruelly. I remember feeling sorry for her whenever she’d tearfully launch into one of her stories of abuse, but as the days passed and she still would not shut up about him, I grew frustrated at how pathetic she was being. Couldn’t she see how much better off she was without him?

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Years later, I would eat my words when I found myself in the same position. For two years after that third infidelity, I nearly let my grief pull me down to the same depths my friend had sunk to. I’m glad I decided to just grit my teeth and hoist myself back up, because the incredible brightness and lightness I feel now after having suffered and eventually learned is worth all the dark stretches I’ve had to endure.

Getting cheated on is always a bitch—whether it happens to you once, or twice, or three times. But I’m glad it happened to me, or else I wouldn’t be writing this to you from a place of clarity now.